Vikings.com has been using Gregg Rosenthal's list of 101 best available players for the "2021 Free Agency Outlook" series, but it's worth noting that Rosenthal's ranking isn't the only one out there.
ESPN's Kevin Seifert recently rolled out his top 100 free agents for the 2021 season. He wrote:
After seven consecutive years of $10 million increases, teams will have less space to re-sign their own players – and those on the open market will find less interest in precedent-setting new contracts.
What won't change, however, is the level to which teams can remake their short-term fortunes with prudent and targeted decisions. So as the deadline for applying the franchise and transition tags passes, now is the time to rank the NFL's 100 best free agents.
Vikings fans will see a few familiar names in Seifert's top 10, including Yannick Ngakoue, who played five games for Minnesota in 2020, at No. 3; and division rivals, Lions receiver Kenny Golladay (No. 5) and Packers running back Aaron Jones (No. 8).
Seifert ranked Vikings safety Anthony Harris, whom Minnesota franchise-tagged last season but not this year, at No. 26. In 2019, Harris tied for the league lead in interceptions with six.
Like the rest of the Vikings defense, Harris did not match his previous year's performance, and he finished without a single interception. But he remains a smart and savvy defensive back with experience in a successful defense.
Meanwhile, Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson landed at No. 40 on Seifert's list.
Wilson went from being a valuable backup to a 15-game starter in 2020, filling in for the injured Anthony Barr. He has enough good tape, with 122 tackles and three interceptions, to tempt the Vikings to re-sign him as a starter or generate under-the-radar interest on the free-agent market.
Also highlighted was tight end Kyle Rudolph, whom the Vikings recently released after 10 seasons in Purple. The 31-year-old came in 45th on the list.
A uniquely skilled pass receiver for much of his career in Minnesota, Rudolph shifted to more of a blocking role in 2020. The good news is that he proved he can block well in a zone-based scheme. But he'll likely find a team that is more interested in using him as a big red-zone target.
PFF grades 2021 free agency class by position
Which position has the best talent in this year's free agency class?
Analytics site Pro Football Focus tackled that question by grading each position of free agents individually. PFF's Sam Monson ranked safeties (A) and wide receivers (A-) as the top options this offseason. He wrote:
Safety is without doubt the best position of the free-agent class this year, to the point that it may suppress the market for all of them, at least in terms of how much money they can bank.
Justin Simmons is going to be taken off the market as Denver slaps him with the franchise tag, but that still leaves Anthony Harris, Marcus Maye, Marcus Williams and John Johnson III just among Pro Bowl-caliber players, and there are several quality starters below them, as well.
(NOTE: The Saints franchise-tagged Williams, and the Jets did so with Maye this week.)
Even if we split safety into the several different styles that all get throw into the position bucket that is "safety," there is still plenty of quality. Safety hasn't been a hugely coveted position in the league in recent years, but any team needing one has hit the jackpot this offseason if they are willing to part with some cash.
Monson gave B grades to edge defender, tackle and interior offensive line. Cornerback received a B-; linebacker, running back and tight end all received a C+; interior defensive line got a C.
The lowest-graded position group by Monson was quarterbacks, with a C-.
View the best cornerback photos of the 2020 season from Vikings photographers.
NFL.com Lists Vikings 'Key' Needs
NFL.com's Michael Baca recently took a look at key roster needs for every NFC squad.
For Minnesota, Baca opined that offensive line, defensive line and cornerback are the Vikings biggest needs. He wrote:
Upgrading the trenches should take precedence in Minnesota; this would smartly play to the team's strengths. The Vikings ranked fifth in the NFL with 142.7 rushing yards per game, and augmenting the O-line would make trying to stop running back Dalvin Cook (1,557 rushing yards in 2020) an even scarier proposition than it already is. Left guard Dakota Dozier is the only starter on offense facing free agency, and upgrading that spot or reshuffling the interior line would require securing some cap relief or restructuring contracts (this started with the release of longtime tight end Kyle Rudolph).
As for the defensive line, the returns of Danielle Hunter (who missed 2020 with a neck injury) and Michael Pierce (a COVID opt-out) could be seen as pseudo-additions after their season-long absences. Their presence can also reignite [linebacker] Anthony Barr.
Baca said the Vikings defense was "decimated by opposing rushers" in 2020, and that there's a "handful of veteran free agents who could make the D-line an even bigger strength."
The porous run defense and inconsistent pass rush may've set up the young secondary for failure last season; still, adding a defensive back wouldn't hurt, if it can be managed.