In 2017, the Minnesota Vikings made it all the way to the NFC championship game before losing 38-7 to the Philadelphia Eagles. Feeling this offseason that they were really just a QB upgrade away from earning a Super Bowl berth, the Vikings gave ex-Washington signal caller Kirk Cousins a three-year, totally guaranteed $84 million contract with the belief that he addressed their most important need. Looking at the Vikings' roster, was that enough?
On paper, Minnesota's depth chart is very impressive. The Vikings used a second-rounder last year on Florida State’s Dalvin Cook in the hopes on improving their run game. That looked to be the case for four games before Cook went down with an injury. Cook is back and healthy, and the run game looks to be potentially strong.
Last season, Minnesota rebuilt its offensive line with the additions of LT Riley Reiff and RT Mike Remmers. The Vikings also drafted Ohio State’s Pat Elflein to play center. Eflein, now in his second season, will quickly become one of the better centers in the NFL. If there is a question on the Vikings' offensive line, it’s at guard. The potential starters are Nick Easton and Danny Isidora, but the Vikings signed ex-Bear Tom Compton, who could figure into one of the starting positions. Second-round rookie, Pitt product Brian O’Neill, figures to be the top tackle reserve, and he will eventually challenge for a starting spot.
The two starting outside receivers are as good as any in the league in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Who mans the slot remains to be seen. I foresee free-agent acquisition Kendall Wright as the player who will win the job. Former first-round pick Laquon Treadwell has been a disappointment to date, and if he doesn’t produce, he could be gone. The depth at wide receiver is a question. Tight end is in good shape with Kyle Rudolph.
What will be interesting to see is whether new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo will run a Philadelphia/Kansas City type offense, or his own version of the same. DeFilippo was the QB coach in Philly last year, and that offense was one of the most explosive in the NFL.
On defense, the Vikings return one of the best units in all of football. All the important pieces along the defensive line are back, and they added defensive Sheldon Richardson in free agency. Richardson adds more explosiveness to an already-explosive group. The Vikings' line is two deep at every position, allowing them to play an eight-man rotation. The starters figure to be ends Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter, with Richardson and Linval Joseph inside. Jaleel Johnson is the main backup inside, and rookie Jalyn Homes and vet Brian Robison will be the top reserves outside.
Linebacker is a similarly deep group, with Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Ben Gedeon as the starters. The secondary could be the best in the entire league, with CBs Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes and safeties Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo. The backup corners are a first- and second-rounder — Central Florida's Mike Hughes was this year’s top draft pick and is capable of starting just about anywhere in the league, and 2016 second-round pick Mackensie Alexander has similar traits.
Needless to say, the Minnesota Vikings' roster is as strong and deep as there is in the NFL. If this group plays up to its talent level, it has a strong chance of representing the NFC in the Super Bowl. How the offense evolves under DeFilippo and Cousins will have a lot to do with that.