NFL.com Analyst Has Surprising Choice for the 2023 Vikings Most Underappreciated Player
Every team in the NFL has a player that gets far less recognition than they should. Recently, yours truly attempted to identify a few of those as well within a ranking of all 32 NFL offenses.
Cynthia Frelund of NFL.com went about a similar project this week as well, identifying underappreciated players for each NFC team. For the 2023 Vikings, she has a rather surprising choice for their most underappreciated player: QB Kirk Cousins.
Cousins is entering his age-35 season in 2023, and from the very beginning of the article, Frelund suggests that she will not be using players with more than a pair of Pro Bowl appearances. Cousins has four of them following another selection in 2022. Here is how the analyst defends her choice:
Yes, I’m breaking one of the rules from the introduction, as Cousins, a former fourth-round pick, has four Pro Bowl nods. But given the constant narrative that surrounds this quarterback — and the fact that the Vikings are allowing him to play out the last year of his contract in 2023 — he just fits this “underappreciated” mold so well. According to Next Gen Stats, Cousins had the most attempts (210), completions (111) and the second-most yards (2,367, a total only eclipsed by league MVP Patrick Mahomes) on passes of 10-plus air yards last season.
Those are downfield throws, not ones that rely on YAC. He also ranked third in yards (3,197) and tied for third in touchdowns (22) on passes with a time to throw of at least 2.5 seconds. Another third-place ranking: Cousins’ 3.6 completion percentage over expected versus four or fewer pass rushers. Not to mention, he tied the single-season records for game-winning drives and fourth-quarter comebacks (eight apiece).
These are all impressive figures for a quarterback with many skeptics. Does it help to have a receiver of Justin Jefferson’s caliber? Absolutely. Can you expect Cousins to match those robust figures in game-winning drives and fourth-quarter comebacks? No. Those were legitimately historic marks. But give credit where credit is due. The No. 102 pick from the 2012 NFL Draft has put together quite a career.
Cousins certainly is a rather polarizing player in the NFL. Depending on who you talk to, Cousins could be anywhere from a top-10 QB in the league or a below-average player. However, this conflict largely comes from the team he plays for.
The Minnesota Vikings and their fans have been starved for championship football as 2023 marks Year 47 since Minnesota’s last Super Bowl appearance in 1976. Every year that goes by without a Super Bowl is considered a failure by many, and with the quarterback position being the most important in the sport, much of the blame for the recent failures falls on Cousins’ shoulders.
Criticism of the Vikings QB are valid at times. Cousins has had a few stinker performances during his tenure in Minnesota, and the checkdown throw to T.J. Hockenson at the end of the Wild Card loss last season certainly wasn’t a great look for the veteran after a regular season filled with comebacks and game-winning drives where he made a clear emphasis of pushing the ball downfield.
However, as Frelund suggests, saying that the Vikings could do much better than Cousins at the position right now is false. The QB is plenty capable of making plays in the NFL, and his durability throughout his career is severely underappreciated by many. No matter what, he is always able to suit up and play, which is something we cannot say about a few of the other star players in the league.
In all, the Vikings are probably entering the twilight years of Cousins tenure in Minnesota. The QB is in a contract year and handing out lucrative deals to quarterbacks heading into their late-30s typically has a massive risk attached.
Soon, Minnesota will enter the depths of the unknown that is a lack of security at the QB position. Before that happens, appreciate the fact that we can rely on Cousins on a week-to-week basis.
Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.