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Lunchbreak: 5 Vikings Land in PFF's Top 101 Players of 2020

The Vikings didn't meet their team goals in 2020, but that doesn't negate individual performances of note.

Analytics site Pro Football Focus rolled out its annual “Top 101 Players” from the recently concluded season, and five Vikings made the list assembled by PFF's Sam Monson. The highest-rated Minnesota player on his list was rookie Justin Jefferson, whom he tabbed 15th overall. Monson wrote:

The Vikings struck gold with Justin Jefferson: He wasn't just the best rookie receiver in 2020, but he also set rookie records and was one of the best first-year receivers in NFL history. Making that all the more improbable is that Jefferson was the fifth receiver off the board in the draft, and the Vikings barely played him during the first two games before seemingly stumbling upon what they had. Jefferson finished the year trailing only Davante Adams in yards per route run (2.66) and did as much damage as he did despite ranking just 15th in targets.

Jefferson came in one spot above Stefon Diggs, who led the league in receiving yards in his first season in Buffalo.

Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen was 35th on the list, and running back Dalvin Cook came in at No. 40.

A healthy Dalvin Cook is one of the best players in football, and despite missing a couple of games, he was able to rack up 1,557 total rushing yards and 3.3 yards after contact per carry. Cook broke 68 tackles on the ground and generated a 90.0-plus PFF rushing grade. Minnesota's offensive line is far from great, and few runners are able to generate as much rushing production over what is being created for them by their blocking as Cook over the past few seasons. The 2020 campaign was Dalvin Cook at his best, with the possibility of even more to come if he can stay on the field for a full 16-game slate.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins, who was unranked on PFF's 2019 list, came in at No. 65. Monson pointed out that Cousins put up "another impressive season" with 24 "big-time throws and an adjusted completion rate of 78.6 percent."

View the best photos of Vikings QB Kirk Cousins from the 2020 season.

Only one Vikings defender made this year's Top 101: linebacker Eric Kendricks, at No. 70.

Another player who shined brightly but lost a portion of his season to injury, Eric Kendricks played fewer than 800 snaps but was one of only two linebackers to finish the season with a PFF coverage grade above 90 (the other was All-Pro Fred Warner). Kendricks had three interceptions and four pass breakups and allowed a passer rating of just 60.5 when targeted, more than 40 points lower than the typical linebacker target.

View the best photos of Vikings rookie WR Justin Jefferson from the 2020 season.

ESPN tabs 'best team fits' for top 50 NFL free agents

The 2020 season is now fully in the rear-view mirror, and the new league year is set to kick off five weeks from now on March 17.

Which players set to become free agents will re-sign with their current teams, and which will test the waters and find new homes?

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler recently opined best team fits for each of the outlet's top 50 free agents in 2021.

Two of the free agents listed are currently on the Vikings roster: safety Anthony Harris (No. 36) and linebacker Eric Wilson (No. 50), both of whom originally joined Minnesota as undrafted free agents in 2015 and 2017, respectively.

Harris, whom the Vikings used a franchise tag on last season, has been a full-time starter alongside Harrison Smith for the past two seasons. Fowler suggested that Harris would be a good fit for the Browns. He wrote:

[Head Coach] Kevin Stefanski knows Harris' game well from his Minnesota days, and Harris has played strong or free safety in his career, providing Cleveland with much-needed flexibility as Grant Delpit works his way back from a torn Achilles. Cleveland can run it back with Karl Joseph, who played on a one-year deal, but needs reinforcements regardless. A few more pieces and the Browns are firmly contending in the AFC.

Meanwhile, Fowler said that Wilson's best situation would be to stay right where he is.

Minnesota generally likes to re-sign players it developed, and Wilson went from undrafted free agent to splash playmaker with [121] tackles, 3.0 sacks and three interceptions in 2020. The Vikings would be smart to make this work, especially with several key defensive players either coming off injury or aging. Minnesota has a $12.1 million cap deficit to assuage first.

Fowler also said the Vikings are the best fit for another name on his list: Bengals defensive end Carl Lawson, who landed at No. 46 on his list.

Originally a fourth-round draft pick by Cincinnati in 2017, Lawson played all 16 games (11 starts) in 2020. He totaled 36 tackles (league stats), 5.5 sacks, four tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.

The Vikings must address a pass rush that struggled as Danielle Hunter missed all of last season. It's uncharacteristic to see Minnesota rank 28thin team sacks. Lawson fits [Head Coach] Mike Zimmer's style as a heavy-handed 263-pounder who can win with physicality and power. Plus, he's from the Bengals defensive tree Zimmer knows well.

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