Now is the point in the NFL calendar where everyone can talk tough. Hey, if a Big 4 sports title can come back to Cleveland for the first time in more than a lifetime for most sports fans, this is the time of year when hope springs eternal.
The Lions are convinced they have the right mix to get the job done in the NFC North, according to those drinking the Honolulu blue Kool Aid in Motown. Chicago fans are quietly talking in between bites of spicy sausage that Foxy’s second year is going to be magical. Packers fans are ready to regain the division. It’s what they do – along with making a documentary series “Making a Face-Painting Packer Fan” brought home to rest of America and, thanks to the reach of Netflix, the globe.
The difference between first and worst in a division is often determined by players who weren’t expected to make the impact they did. They were the guys who get medals in the field of battle. Last year, it could be argued that, if given a list of players on the 2015 Minnesota Vikings that would exceed current expectations as of June 20, that list would include Eric Kendricks, Joe Berger, Danielle Hunter, Stefon Diggs and Zach Line, it wouldn’t have been a who’s-who; it would be a who’s-that?
If you look to find a similar list for 2016 – Laquon Treadwell is exempt – it may not seem like much now. But, on New Year’s Eve, bets are being cashed.
Here we go.
Trae Waynes – A first-round pick on Mike Zimmer’s watch? Really? Isn’t he called the Cornerback Whisperer by media wonks? We’ve reached our three-question limit. He showed good signs in offseason work and now just needs to build on that and apply that when preseason starts.
John Sullivan – New offensive line coach Tony Sparano has few previous ties to any lineman on the Vikings roster except for Joe Berger and Alex Boone. Berger graded out incredibly in relief of Sullivan, a veteran leader who suffered a low back injury. Sully has to earn his spot for the first in his career. That’s big.
Alex Boone – If you have NFL Game Pass, watch Boone. On a ratty team, he earned every dollar he was paid.
[FOR RECENT VIDEOS, CLICK HERE]
Kentrell Brothers – The only people capable of keeping him off the field wear the same colors as he does. The talent in front of him is impressive, but Brothers could carve out a special teams role and be ready to roll in the coming years. He ain’t heavy, but he’s Kentrell Brothers.
Of all the players viewed as the faceplate types, none of them are in the Iron Five list that has lofty examples to live up to from the 2015 list.