The Vikings 2020 draft class has earned yet another accolade.
A few weeks ago, ESPN tabbed Minnesota's crop of rookies as the No. 7 draft class based on how the group performed on the field in their first season.
NFL.com has been ranking each rookie class by division, and recently assigned letter grades to the NFC North teams.
The Vikings led the way there, as NFL.com's Gennaro Filice gave Minnesota an ‘A-’ grade, which was the highest among all four teams.
Filice, who noted the group was headlined by Justin Jefferson, wrote:
How impressive was Jefferson's rookie campaign? Impressive enough to make the Vikings feel just fine about trading away Stefon Diggs and watching him immediately lead the league in catches and receiving yards. Yes, this was the elusive win-win trade. Diggs wasn't happy in Minneapolis — the city where he produced a miracle — so Minnesota flipped him for a pick package that included No. 22 in last April's draft.
In that slot, the Vikes took the fifth receiver in Round 1, Jefferson, who broke Anquan Boldin's rookie record with 1,400 receiving yards on the dot. And just last week, the tireless tape munchers over at Pro Football Focus — who apparently have a mischievous troll streak that this writer can't help but appreciate — slapped Jefferson at No. 15 on their ranking of the top 101 players from 2020, exactly one spot ahead of Diggs. Mwah!
View the best photos of Vikings rookie WR Justin Jefferson from the 2020 season.
Filice also highlighted the play of rookie cornerbacks Jeff Gladney (first-rounder) and Cameron Dantzler (third-rounder).
Minnesota's second first-round pick didn't work out nearly as well as the first. Gladney started 15 of 16 games for the Vikings, and while he flashed proficiency as a physical cover man in certain matchups, consistency was a major issue, as evidenced by his 124.7 passer rating against, per PFF.
Fortunately, Minnesota doubled down on this position of extreme need and found a quality corner in the back half of the third round, as Dantzler proved that a bad 40-yard dash in Indy doesn't define a man. Though injuries limited him to 11 games, Dantzler earned a spot alongside Jefferson on the PFWA All-Rookie Team.
Filice also noted strong performances from the likes of Ezra Cleveland and D.J. Wonnum in the trenches.
The Vikings also got some quality production from this class in the trenches, with Cleveland capably starting nine games at right guard and Wonnum notching three sacks and nine QB hits as a rotational pass rusher. Rick Spielman had the most bites at the 2020 draft apple with an NFL-high 15 picks, though the vast majority of them occurred on Day 3. Still, he was able to net quality contributors in multiple areas of need.
Filice have the Bears a 'B-' grade, while the Lions got a 'C-' and the Packers got a 'D+.'
As of Wednesday morning, NFL.com has assigned grades to all but one division (the NFC West).
But of the 28 teams included, the Vikings earned the second-highest grade along with the Bengals, Browns and Buccaneers.
Indianapolis had the top overall grade with an 'A.'
Trapasso gives lowdown on top opt-out prospects
The 2020 NFL season was unlike anything we've ever seen.
And while players, coaches and league personnel adapted on the fly, COVID-19 also impacted the college football season, too.
Similar to Vikings defensive tackle Michael Pierce, numerous college football players opted out and are now preparing to enter the NFL.
Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports recently looked at the top prospects who didn't play in 2020, but are expected to still go high in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Trapasso listed 19 players, including Miami edge rusher Gregory Rousseau, who has been projected to the Vikings in numerous mock drafts.
I'm more down on Rousseau than the masses because he's very far from being a finished product. The vast majority of his production in 2019 was schemed or due to outstanding back-end coverage by Miami's secondary. A high rusher without much power or pass-rushing moves, the alluring part of Rousseau's profile is in his long, angular frame at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds.
Northwestern offensive lineman Rashawn Slater was also included on Trapasso's list.
Slater glides in pass protection and plays with phenomenal balance. He's ready for any pass-rushing move sent his way, and his lower center of gravity allows him to anchor well against bull rushes. Is he long enough to thrive on the edge in the NFL? I think so.
Trapasso's full list of players to watch can be found here.