If complete parity ruled the NFL, top-100 lists of players rankings would have three to four players per team represented on them. Actually, in the case of the Vikings, that's exactly what happened when Peter Shrager of FoxSports.com ranked his top 100 players in the NFL.
The Vikings had four players on the list, but they were ranked further toward the top rather than distributed equally across the top 100. Two were in the top eight and all four were in the top 57 last month.
Shrager wrote that he didn't use deep statistical analysis to rank the players. Rather, he pondered three questions for his rankings: 1) Which player would I rather have on my team? 2) Which player would make the most impact on my team? 3) Which player will be the best in 2009, specifically?
The Vikings' most decorated Pro Bowl player was actually the lowest ranked among the team's representatives. Guard Steve Hutchinson checked in at No. 57.
Here is Shrager's take: "Still the top interior offensive lineman in the NFL, Hutchinson's the centerpiece to an offensive line creating holes for Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor in Minnesota. How will the departure of longtime Vikings center Matt Birk impact Hutchinson's work at guard?"
The VU view: Hutchinson is the top interior lineman in the NFL and we wonder if he would also be considered the top overall offensive lineman if he were to move to left tackle. His body structure screams guard, but we're reluctant to doubt he could play any position along the offensive line if asked. Wouldn't he be a wonder as a lead blocking back in a goal-line jumbo offensive package? If you attend training camp, do yourself a favor and peel your eyes away from the quarterbacks and receivers for a minute and watch Hutchinson stonewall defenders during one-on-one drills. Then imagine going against him a game when he probably cares a little more.
Defensive tackle Kevin Williams is listed 40th on Shrager's list.
Shrager's take: "Still one of the best DTs in the entire league, Williams is the biggest reason the Vikings will have one of the top rushing defenses in the league year in and year out."
The VU view: Pat Williams tends to get more credit for stopping the run, but Kevin told Viking Update earlier this year that Pat instilled in him a stronger desire to stop the run once the two of them started working side by side when Pat signed a free-agent deal in 2005. Kevin's ability to do both at an extremely high level has him on the field for 91 percent of the defensive plays, far more than Pat Williams.
The final two Vikings on the list cracked the top 10. Defensive end Jared Allen checked in at No. 8.
Shrager's take: "An absolute beast and arguably the NFL's best pass-rushing defensive end since Michael Strahan, Allen made an already-strong Minnesota defense even stronger in '08. A nightmare for offensive tackles and an inspired leader in the locker room, he's emerged from a career riddled with off-the-field mishaps to become one of the league's very best players."
The VU view: Allen came to Minnesota as the league's defending sacks champion in his final year of discontent in Kansas City. He finished fifth in the league last year with 14½ sacks, and Allen earned major tough-man points for playing through a separated shoulder and sprained knee. Not only did he start every game, but incredibly he still managed to play in 96 percent of the team's defensive plays. Only CB Antoine Winfield played more on defense. And Allen showed he is a relentless pursuer of quarterbacks and running backs alike from the back side. You would probably have to go back to the 1970s to find a Vikings defensive line as good as Allen and the Williams Wall.
Running back Adrian Peterson checked in at No. 5 overall on Shrager's rankings. Only Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Larry Fitzgerald (from first to fourth) were ranked higher than Peterson. That's three quarterbacks and a wide receiver.
Shrager's take: "A.D. had an incredible sophomore season, tossing the Vikings on his back down the stretch and carrying them to an NFC North title. There's no player in the league who has greater big-play potential, and he brings that big-play potential 25 times a game. Hands down the best running back in the league, he will be in the MVP conversation over the next decade of his career."
The VU view: As much as it pains us to say it (and probably Peterson to execute it), A.D. may not have a decade of dominance. He runs so violently and has such an extreme desire to succeed now that he could be one of those running backs that simply wears out in the next six or so years. Whatever the case, enjoy the highlight reel while it lasts. He's already the best running back in Vikings history and he has a chance to be the best player in franchise history. Comparisons to Jim Brown, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders are all warranted. He's just that good.
Shrager said Antoine Winfield just missed the list, but no mention was made by Shrager of the Vikings' other Pro Bowl player from last year, Pat Williams.
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