Only One Member of The Minnesota Secondary Made PFF’s Lists
Well, the title makes an attempt at suspense, but there really shouldn’t be too much uncertainty about this one. Harrison Smith is very rightly recognized as one of the top safeties in the NFL. In fact, there’s a pretty reasonable case that he’s been the best safety of the past decade. I’d also disagree with anyone who argues that he isn’t a Hall of Famer. When you’re elite for a decade +, you’re a Hall of Fame player. Now, the bigger surprise rests in the fact that no one else from the Minnesota secondary made it into PFF‘s prestigious top-32 lists.
Let’s begin with the corners. We know the Vikings aren’t completely content at corner; if they were, they wouldn’t have brought in Breeland for a visit. That said, we also know they aren’t completely without talent; if they were, they wouldn’t have traded Mike Hughes. As with many things in life, the truth rests somewhere in the middle.
The corner group is solid but not exactly top-tier. However, there are three solid starters: Patrick Peterson, Cameron Dantzler, and Mack Alexander. Peterson and Dantzler should have at least gotten some consideration for the top-32 list. After all, Peterson is one of the best of the past ten years, and Dantzler finished as PFF‘s 22nd-best corner last year. He was really good toward the end of the season.
An important detail to keep in mind, though, is that two of their top-15 corners are still free agents: Richard Sherman and Steven Nelson. In case you haven’t, Minnesota has some money to spend. Personally, I don’t think Sherman is a good fit, but Nelson is a name to remember.
Onto the safeties. Smith is coming in at 2nd overall. I won’t quibble about this, though I would say that Smith ought to remembered as the best safety of his generation. Here is what PFF has to say: “Smith’s rookie season was in 2012, and he has never had a poor healthy season since that point — the kind of consistent excellence that Smith has been able to maintain for the Vikings is freakish at the safety position. The former Notre Dame star had a relative down year in 2020, but he still recorded five picks, five pass breakups and better-than-average grades in every facet of play.”
Otherwise, I was somewhat surprised to see that Xavier Woods wasn’t also representing the Minnesota secondary. Unlike Smith, Woods doesn’t have years of elite play to support his case. What he does have, though, is years of rock-solid play and some great versatility. He really helps to complete Minnesota’s defense.
Collectively, Minnesota’s secondary is better than what these rankings suggest. Zim is going to need to get a lot out of these guys in order to find success in 2021.