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Lunchbreak: Randy Moss Ranked 38th in The Athletic's All-Time Top 100 NFL Players


There is no doubt Randy Moss changed the league, especially for defenses trying to cover the Pro Football Hall of Famer.

The former Vikings wide receiver's status in the game was recently noted with him ranking 38th overall on The Athletic's list of their top 100 NFL players of all time.

Mike Sando of The Athletic profiled "The SuperFreak" for the story, and gleaned some incredible reactions for the defensive backs that had to worry about him on Sundays.

View the best photos of Vikings legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss.

Sando wrote:

Moss, 38th on The Athletic's NFL Top 100 list, dominated from the moment he stepped on the practice field, reducing the game's elite to awe while immediately tipping the balance of power from Green Bay to Minnesota in the old NFC Central Division. Defensive backs remain reverent to this day.

LeRoy Butler relished competing against the NFL's great offensive players as an acclaimed safety for the 1990s Packers. With one exception.

"When I played Jerry Rice, I was excited — 'Oh, man, I'm playing the GOAT,' " Butler said. "Cris Carter, OK, we have to be smart about how we are going to double. Herman Moore, he is going to catch a lot of passes' we've gotta get him on the ground because he is so big."

Moss triggered a more visceral reaction.

"Randy Moss, your heart is on an EKG machine and it explodes," Butler said. "Your heart is thinking, 'I'm going to be on SportsCenter. He is going to jump over me and catch it, and I just got Mossed.' "

Sando noted the Packers had good reason to fear Moss based on his impact in the early years of his career.

View the Vikings rookie records for most receptions during a season.

Moss totaled 30 catches for 753 yards and seven touchdowns in his first six games against the Packers. That projects to 80 catches for 2,008 yards and 19 touchdowns over a 16-game season.

Green Bay spent its first three draft picks in 1999 on defensive backs.

Moss ranks second all-time with 156 touchdown catches and is fourth with 15,292 receiving yards. His 982 receptions rank 15th in league history.

Sando chatted with former Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson about Moss' incredible athleticism and the pressure he put on opposing defenses.

Johnson, a Vikings quarterback from 1994-98, offered some insights. According to Johnson, a two-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champ with Tampa Bay, Moss told him he would run full speed on deep routes against Darrell Green, Deion Sanders and Dale Carter, but rarely against lesser corners.

"The rest of them, he said, 'If you will just throw it as far as you can, I'll go get it,' " Johnson said. "That is unique for someone to say that. Usually, they are full tilt all the way. What is really cool about it was, if it was a jump ball, the defender was running at 100 percent at the tail end of the catch, and Randy would be at 80 percent and more under control for the jump ball."

Johnson was the first of 13 quarterbacks to throw Moss a touchdown in the NFL.

Moss, who went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018, is the third former Vikings player on the list, joining Adrian Peterson (No. 72) and Fran Tarkenton (No. 95).

Zylstra details position switch to TE

Shane Zylstra re-wrote the record books at Minnesota State, Mankato, where he set program bests in receptions (227), receiving yards (4,297) and touchdown catches (54).

He also holds single-season records with 81 receptions for 1,676 yards and 18 touchdown receptions.

Yet the 24-year-old isn't focused on wide receiver — the position he played in college — during training camp. Instead, Zylstra is getting acclimated to a new spot at tight end.

Chad Courrier of The Free Press in Mankato recently caught up with Zylstra to get some details on how the position switch is going.

Courrier wrote the following in a story picked up by Yahoo!:

But the NFL doesn't see him as a receiver. At 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, he was deemed a better fit at tight end, for which he has gained about 20 pounds.

He comes from a strong running program at Minnesota State so he has done plenty of blocking, albeit on smaller players. His role is much different now.

"It's a team game," he said. "I'm happy to block and watch those guys score touchdowns."

Zylstra told Courrier that while he has learned a ton in practice, he is ready to apply the skills of his new position in preseason games. The Vikings host the Broncos in the preseason opener at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Zylstra is looking forward to preseason games, hoping to get plenty of time. He is working on special teams, using that as a way to secure an NFL job. His short-term future might be as a practice squad player, given his lack of experience at tight end.

"I just need to make plays when I get a chance," he said. "That's all I can do."