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Lunchbreak: NFC North Bunched Together in ESPN’s ‘Future Power Rankings’

It appears the competition in the NFC North will be fierce for years to come.

ESPN recently released its future power rankings, which looked at a three-year projection of how teams across the league could fare until the end of the 2021 season. The panel of analysts evaluated each team based on its roster (not including quarterbacks), the quarterback room, draft ability, front office personnel and coaching using a 1-100 grading scale.

The overall roster was weighted at 30 percent, followed by quarterback (20) and coaching (20). Draft and front office were weighted at 15 percent each.

The Vikings ranked 12th overall in the NFL with a score of 80.4 and received the highest individual grade among the categories for their non-QB roster with an 84.0, which ranked eighth in the league.

View photos of former Vikings offensive lineman Ron Yary who was inducted into the Ring of Honor in 2000 and enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.

ESPN analysts Field Yates noted that the Vikings boast one of the NFL’s talented rosters, including a stacked unit on defense.

Yates wrote:

A year ago, Super Bowl hopes were legitimate in Minnesota. Some say they still should be. That being said, the player who was supposed to push Minnesota to the next level — quarterback Kirk Cousins — was solid but unspectacular in Year 1, and the offensive line was a mess. The hope for GM Rick Spielman is that the first-round selection of Garrett Bradbury, inking Josh Kline and improved play from incumbent starters will be enough to get the line in order. Defensively, Minnesota is without major weaknesses. The time for the Vikings to win is now, so missing the playoffs again would be a significant disappointment.

But what made ESPN’s ranking more interesting was the fact that they listed three NFC North teams all in a row just outside the top 10.

The Bears were a spot in front of Minnesota at No. 11, and the Packers checked in as the 13th team in the projections.

Chicago had an overall grade of 80.5, barely ahead of the Vikings. The Bears were listed as having the second-best roster minus the quarterback with a grade of 86.0.

Yates wrote that the Bears are boosted by the trade for Khalil Mack last September, plus the fact that quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is on a rookie contract.

Green Bay, meanwhile, had an overall grade of 79.6. The Packers were lifted in the rankings in the quarterback evaluations, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers helped Green Bay get the second-best mark in that area with a grade of 94.3.

The Lions ranked 21st overall in the projections with a score of 74.5. Detroit’s highest score was at quarterback, where Matthew Stafford ranked 14th with a mark of 80.7.

Indianapolis led the rankings with an overall score of 87.8, as the Colts ranked in the top eight in all five grading areas.

The full future power rankings can be found here.

Thielen, Smith & Hunter land on CBS list of 100 top players

In less than a week, NFL Network will begin unveiling the league’s Top 100 players, a list voted on by their peers.

But while the first show debuts Monday at 8 p.m. (CT), Jared Dubin of CBS Sports revealed his own list earlier this week … with three Vikings making the cut.

Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen led the way for Minnesota, as Dubin had him at No. 58 on his list. The Minnesota native has appeared in back-to-back Pro Bowls.

Thielen is practically unguardable, as he's shown the past two seasons. In 2017, it was a 91-1,276-4 line. In 2018, he went for 113-1,373-9, setting a record for consecutive 100-yard receiving games to open the season along the way.

Vikings safety Harrison Smith tied for 62nd with Colts linebacker Darius Leonard. Smith has made four consecutive Pro Bowls.

Every year plays out the same way, with Smith as arguably the best player on one of the NFL's best defenses. He brings the best of both worlds as a safety, excelling against both the run and the pass year in and year out.

Danielle Hunter came in at No. 71 on Dubin’s list, as the Vikings defensive end is off to a fast start in his career with 40 sacks in four seasons.

Hunter just keeps getting better. He racked up 14.5 more sacks last season — a career-best figure — and showed improvement against the run by notching 21 tackles for loss. Oh, and he doesn't turn 25 until late October. The best is likely yet to come.

The Vikings had seven players on last year’s version of the NFL’s Top 100 list: defensive end Everson Griffen (No. 19), Thielen (No. 36), Smith (No. 46), cornerback Xavier Rhodes (No. 55), wide receiver Stefon Diggs (No. 55), defensive tackle Linval Joseph (No. 83) and quarterback Kirk Cousins (No. 94).

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