Injuries Have Robbed the Vikings of Several All Pro Seasons

Justin Jefferson was putting up otherwordly numbers, soaring to statistical heights that most receivers can only dream of. Meanwhile, Kirk Cousins was putting together his best season in the NFL and Jordan Hicks even had an outside shot at being recognized, as well.

The issue, of course, is that all three ended up on the IR list due to some relatively major injuries. Health, or a lack thereof, has robbed the Vikings of some All Pro recognition.

The QB will miss the rest of the year; there’s no word of an Aaron Rodgers-like return following a superhuman recovery. Jefferson will be back in time for Week 14, but he missed seven games. Hicks seems to have a good shot at returning after just the four games, but the time lost will be more than enough to dampen enthusiasm for him getting a season award.

Injuries Have Robbed the Vikings of All Pro Recognition

Danielle Hunter, T.J. Hockenson, and Christian Darrisaw. They are the three Vikings who actually have a shot at impressing the All Pro voters. Someone like Camryn Bynum or Josh Metellus may gather some attention, but it’s hard to envision the lesser-known Vikings picking up enough steam to overcome the NFL’s notable safeties.

At this point, anything less than an All Pro honor would be robbery for Hunter. True, there’s still plenty of time left in the season, so maybe the pass rusher goes cold and doesn’t pack on more stats. At 3rd in sacks (13.5) and 1st in TFLs (18), though, Hunter is an every Sunday menace who does an excellent job of both rushing the passer and defending the run. Pushing those totals higher should cement his status as being worthy of the All Pro team.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Nov 27, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) sacks Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) in the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, Christian Darrisaw has been having an excellent season at left tackle. Per PFF, Darrisaw is responsible for allowing a trio of sacks and he has committed a pair of penalties. Their grading system puts him at 4th overall among all offensive tackles. Not just the players at LT, but the combined effort of the LTs and RTs in the NFL.

T.J. Hockenson has had some ups and downs in 2023, but the numbers are impressive. He’s sitting on 80 catches for 786 yards and 5 TDs. Maybe the most concerning part of those stats is the 9.8 yards-per-reception average, but that’s not entirely his fault (he is commonly tasked with being the emergency outlet in pressure scenarios). Topping 100 catches and 1,000 yards would mean Hockenson is a strong contender for the honor.

One has to assume that Jefferson would have been a shoo-in for the award if his production continued on the pace he was on.

Putting up 36 catches, 571 yards (15.1 YPC average), and 3 TDs in less than five games is impressive stuff, especially since the offense as a whole wasn’t clicking at that stage in the year. Maybe someone like Tyreek Hill would have finished above him in the voting, but not being an AP1 would have been unfathomable had his pace continued.

Nov 21, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) and offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw (71) and wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) and guard Ezra Cleveland (72) in action against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

And then we think of Mr. Cousins. At 35, Cousins was putting together his best season yet. Football, though, is a cruel sport.

Tearing his Achilles in Week 8 ended his season and made the team’s playoff push considerably more challenging. Very few NFL teams can lose their QB1 — which is to say nothing of losing the QB2 and QB3 for stretches — and still hang around the playoff race. As a team, the Vikings deserve a pile of credit.

Cousins, for his part, has made himself available to Josh Dobbs and (presumably) anyone else on Minnesota’s roster to help in any way he can. He’s a true pro, someone who is a strong contender to stick around via extension in February or March.

Oct 8, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) passes against the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

And then there are more fringe cases. Jordan Hicks was experiencing a predictable resurgence under the tutelage of Brian Flores. What was less predictable was how excellent he would be. The veteran was playing fast and physical, proving to be an excellent off-ball linebacker for Flores.

One thinks of Andrew DePaola, last year’s first-team All Pro at long snapper. Will the voters decide that he deserves the honor in two-straight seasons? Thankfully, the specialist has been healthy and accurate with his snaps. Brian O’Neill has a puncher’s chance, but there are probably going to be too many notable names for the right tackle to get a serious look.

In Week 14, the Vikings will re-add Justin Jefferson, giving their offense a needed boost. Before long, Jordan Hicks will be eligible to return, offering even more hope for the playoff push. Vikings fans will be hoping these players return to playing football at an elite level.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and PFF helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.