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Lunchbreak: Vikings Ranked 10th in ESPN's Preseason Poll

In the six seasons Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has been in charge in Minnesota, the Vikings have made three playoff appearances and have finished below .500 just once.

Now, as Zimmer enters his seventh season at the helm, experts believe his team will contend for the playoffs once again.

ESPN recently leased its preseason power rankings and slotted the Vikings at No. 10 among all NFL teams.

The Vikings were the seventh-highest-ranked team in the NFC, behind the 49ers, Saints, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Packers and Cowboys.

As part of the poll, each ESPN team reporter was asked to identify a player who needs a big season in 2020, and why that is the case.

ESPN Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin went with right guard Pat Elflein, who is undergoing his second position switch in as many seasons along the offensive line.

Cronin wrote:

Elflein is entering a contract year, so the way he performs in his move to right guard will be critical to his future in Minnesota. The fourth-year lineman struggled in his move from center to left guard in 2019, surrendering a team-high 32 pressures and six sacks while being flagged six times for holding.

This offseason, it was decided that moving Elflein back to the position where he started 25 games at Ohio State would be better. Now it's up to him to perform at a level where he can hang on to his job and not be replaced by someone like rookie Ezra Cleveland or second-year guard Dru Samia.

Elflein was a 2017 third-round pick who was the starting center for his first two seasons in Minnesota. He moved to left guard for the 2019 season, and has switched to right guard in 2020. posted this breakdown of where the Vikings offensive line stood after the first week of padded practice.

PFF projects Vikings Week 1 lineup

The season opener between the Vikings and Packers is just 19 days away.

And while the focus now is still on training camp and improving each and every practice, the focus will soon turn to getting ready for Green Bay.

Analytics site Pro Football Focus recently took a look at how they project Minnesota's starting lineup to look on Sept. 13, along with a key position to keep an eye on.

The full lineup can be found here, but there aren't too many surprises on the offensive side of the ball. PFF did list Dakota Dozier as the starting left guard.

PFF has the Vikings offense in "12 personnel," which means a running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers. PFF lists Dalvin Cook, Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith, Jr., Adam Thielen and Bisi Johnson in those spots.

PFF noted that rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson could be the team's No. 2 wide receiver down the road, but that Johnson has been impressive so far in camp.

View photos of the Vikings 2020 schedule in photos including all opponents for the regular season.

PFF wrote:

Jefferson may very well still show he is the man for that WR2 role when the Vikings go with 12 or 21 personnel (which should be often compared to most NFL teams). He flashed strong hands and after-the-catch ability with the Tigers this past season, and from a production standpoint, it's hard to get better than Jefferson's 2019 season. Johnson, meanwhile, played better than expected as a seventh-round rookie for the Vikings in 2019, but his 62.0 receiving grade still ranked just 90th among 122 qualifying wide receivers this past season.

As for Minnesota's defense, PFF actually listed 12 starters, accounting for the three linebackers in the base package, as well as the extra defensive back in nickel situations.

PFF went with Armon Watts next to Shamar Stephen at defensive tackle, with Eric Wilson as the third linebacker.

The combination of Mike Hughes, Holton Hill and Cameron Dantzler were the cornerbacks.