The Minnesota Vikings haven’t been great this year, as you may have heard. They are struggling on both sides of the ball, resulting in a 1-5 start. But while the team is shrouded in misery and darkness as they enter their bye, there are a few glimmers of light.
Here’s a list of a few bright spots everyone can cling to as they go into the bye week:
Jefferson is a star
Some were left wondering what the Vikings were thinking when they traded wide receiver Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills for a haul that included a first round pick. Diggs was a bona fide star in the league and beloved in the hearts of purple fans everywhere for his heroic Minneapolis Miracle catch. There was further concern when Minnesota used that pick to grab another receiver, and many loyal fans had visions of the Troy Williamson debacle dancing in their minds.
After six games one thing is clear: The Vikings made the right choice, and their shiny new receiver is going to be a star in the NFL for years to come. This kid is electric in so many ways. He can make tough grabs when he appears to be blanketed. He is already a dangerous route runner who is extremely quick in and out of his breaks, and he has the speed to burn past defenders. Jefferson also plays with an infectious enthusiasm that makes it extremely tough to not root for him.
The Vikings nailed this choice, and so far the offense hasn’t missed Diggs one bit because this kid is on pace for a Randy Moss-like rookie season.
Their rookie corners are gaining experience
Jefferson isn’t the only Vikings’ rookie who has looked good this season. The two young cornerbacks have also had their moments, and appear to be improving every single game. Jeff Gladney overcame a slow start to the season and has come on as of late. He is quite sticky in coverage, and also isn’t afraid to come up and hit. He looks to have the makings of being a complete corner.
Cameron Dantzler has also looked good. The third-round rookie was thrust into a starting role and has had to learn on the fly. While he has momentary lapses in coverage, this young corner is an even better tackler than Gladney. He excels at flying in and making tough open field tackles using good technique to wrap up a ball carrier or take him out at the legs.
While these young corners are full of promise and potential, their inexperience has killed the Vikings at times. Dantzler was a major problem Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers and again in the brutal loss against the Seattle Seahawks. He struggled against the Atlanta Falcons and couldn’t slow down Julio Jones.
While their play has definitely accounted for some of the Vikings’ five losses, the experienced they’ve gained being thrown into the fire this season is huge, and it will pay off in Year 2 and beyond.
They get hunter and pierce back next season
One thing that Vikings fans could be forgetting during this disappointing start to the 2020 season is that they are missing two key components on their defensive line. Danielle Hunter is by far their pass rusher, and he’s been out all season with a neck injury. His absence has been felt every single game because Ifeadi Odenigbo hasn’t been able to provide an ounce of the impact that Hunter does on a game by game basis. He’s an All-Pro type of talent, one that opposing teams constantly have to worry about.
The Vikings also didn’t get to have their big free agent signing Michael Pierce, who opted out to start the season as he has asthma and was at risk if infected with COVID. His decision, while absolutely the right one, left the Vikings without their primary run stuffer. His loss has been felt: The Vikings’ run defense currently sits at 24th in the NFL, giving up an embarrassing 127 yards per game.
Vikings fans can take a little bit of comfort knowing that while these two positions are major issues right now, they have the fixes currently on the roster and under contract. They just won’t get to see any improvement until the two take the field in 2021.
They appear to be heading for a high draft pick
The upside to sucking through the first six games of the season is that the Vikings appear to be out of the playoff hunt. Sure, they can still technically make it in if they go on some unexpected winning streak, but that isn’t going to happen. With all of their injuries and inexperience on defense, this team will struggle to win five games this season.
There is some silver lining in all of that losing, however. They get a higher 2021 draft pick.
By all accounts they should end up with a top-10 pick. Landing somewhere in that range could finally give this team something they haven’t had in years: an exciting young quarterback who is full of potential.
Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), Justin Fields (Ohio State) and Trey Lance (North Dakota State) are seen as can’t-miss prospects. They could elevate the Vikings offense and bring it into the 21st century, putting them on par with the creative offenses of today like the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams.
This isn’t saying the Vikings should intentionally tank the rest of the season, they just need to keep playing the way they are now and let fate decide where they’ll be choosing. Chances are it’ll be early.