As I said yesterday my favorite time of year in the NFL schedule is the time before the Draft and free agency. I’ve dubbed that time “The Pretendies”, and this season’s pretendies are perhaps the most impactful of any since I started covering the team for a living in 2015-16.
As we’ve seen today from the Green Bay Packers, the Kubiak style of offense can create a championship level offense. The Vikings and Packers had similar numbers in 2020, save for points-per-game, so that means that these pretendies are incredibly important.
The Vikings have one of the best skill-position rosters in the NFL, and with the right free agent or draft pick, could have the best roster period.
That brings up Pro Football Focus’ recently released list of top 2021 free agents. A topic first covered by Jack White of Vikings Wire.
The Vikings are in desperate need of a left guard, and depending on what happens with left tackle Riley Reiff/Ezra Cleveland, could need either a left tackle and/or two guards.
The good news is that there is an amazing option for both. First on their list is 32 year old 49ers tackle Trent Williams:
“After not playing a snap in 2019, Williams is back in his rightful place as one of the league’s best offensive tackles. He can play in any scheme, moving defenders at the point of attack or cutting them off on the backside of zone plays, while linebackers must keep their head on a swivel because he attacks the second level with a vengeance. Williams has basically never had a bad season in the NFL, with his rookie year being by far the lowest overall PFF grade he has posted (63.4). He hit at least a 75.6 mark in every other season and 2020 is now the third time he’s led all offensive tackles in PFF grade (91.9). He has shown elite-level play in multiple schemes and now multiple cities, and he looks capable of being the next great left tackle to play well into their 30s at a high level.”
Then there’s Washington’s stellar guard Brandon Scherff, 29:
“One of the most dependable guards in the league, Scherff has never posted a PFF grade below 72.5 in his six-year NFL career. Over the last three seasons, Scherff ranks among the league’s best guards in nearly every key metric, including a 97th percentile ranking on true pass sets and 90th percentile ranking in percentage of positively graded plays. Both numbers are among the most important when projecting interior offensive linemen from year to year. In the run game, Scherff can do it all, showing the power at the point of attack and the quickness to make any block in space. He’s also one of the most polished pass protectors in the league, and he stands out as the best interior offensive lineman in this free agent class.”
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Vikings won’t be able to afford either.
Speaking of not being able to afford things, a Vikings player made the Top 10! That player is the formerly franchise tagged safety Anthony Harris, who many Vikings fans presume will be gone in 2021 thanks to his price tag and ‘Meh’ 2020 season.
“He has been a perfect free safety within Mike Zimmer’s defense, which employs a lot of split-safety looks and has been particularly adept at making plays on the football, with coverage being by far his biggest asset. Harris has shown the ability to read route concepts and quarterbacks at the same time, putting himself in position to make plays. He should be primed for a big deal.”
The good news is that Zimmer has shown an uncanny ability to draft and develop players for his defense. The bad news is that one-half of the pretendies could drastically impact the other half, as Zimmer has shown zero interest in building a contender through the offensive line and with Harris gone (and the lack of depth at corner despite the myriad of first round picks at the position under his tenure)? It’s almost a guarantee they go DB in the first round.
Don’t believe me? Check out this Tweet that came through as I finished the last paragraph.
As I also said a couple articles ago.
Worst. Pretendies. Ever.
The Vikings instead will most likely shuffle around the same linemen they’ve had for years like Marge Simpson re-using the same dress over and over again in the country club episode.
Cause that’s how you learn from the lack of success from the 2017-2019 championship window!
Sure, they used a first-rounder on Garrett Bradbury and a second on Cleveland, but they’ve yet to show that they’re willing to draft guards to play guard. Cleveland very well could be the left tackle of the future, which would essentially put the Vikings in the same position since losing Nick Easton and Joe Berger after the 2017 (regular) season.
Since the 2017 playoffs, these Vikings have shuffled around players who have never played guard (Mike Remmers, Cleveland) and cut any semblance of depth once it’s developed (Josh Kline, Pat Elflein). Beyond the lack of actual guards, the Vikings also are one injury away from disaster as we saw when Cleveland went down late in the 2020 season.
So let’s hope that Riley Reiff sticks around, otherwise we could end up in the same position we were in in 2018/2019 and end up wasting another expensive and promising season by quarterback Kirk Cousins, running back Dalvin Cook, the best 1-2 punch at wide receiver (just ask PFF).