Major Additions: DT Harrison Phillips, G Jesse Davis, OLB Za’Darious Smith, ILB, Jordan Hicks
Key Losses: DL Michael Pierce, S Xavier Woods, TE Tyler Conklin
Top Draft Picks: S Lewis Cine (1), CB Andrew Booth Jr. (2), G Ed Ingram (2), LB Brian Asamoah (3)
After a disappointing 8-9 campaign, the Vikings finally pulled the trigger on the Mike Zimmer firing, after years of almost getting rid of him. For all the complaints from Vikings fans, Zimmer was 72-56-1 as Minnesota head coach, making the playoffs three times and never finishing worse than 9-7.
With Zimmer out, Minnesota decided to hire a coach thirty years younger, bringing in Rams OC Kevin O’Connell, another member of the seemingly endless Sean McVay coaching tree. O’Connell was considered a top head coach prospect but he did not call the plays for the Rams, and the one season he called the plays in Washington, the team had the worst offense in the league.
In addition to moving on from Zimmer, the team dismissed longtime GM Rick Spielman and hiring analytics minded Kwesi Adofo-Mensah away from the Browns. Adofo-Mensah, who has degrees from Stanford and Princeton, had been Cleveland’s vice president of football operations after starting his career in the 49ers front office.
For what it’s worth, the Vikings have the advantage of being the most stable team in the NFC North. Aaron Rodgers is permanently in his final season in Green Bay, while the Bears lack an identity, and the Lions are in Year 25 of a rebuild. While Minnesota’s window is open now, Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook are nearing the end of their primes, and the defense is positively ancient, so this might be the year if the Vikings are going to make a run.
QB: Kirk Cousins
RB: Dalvin Cook
WR: Justin Jefferson
WR: Adam Thielen
WR: K.J. Osborn
TE: Irv Smith Jr.
LT: Christian Darrisaw
LG: Ezra Cleveland
C: Garrett Bradbury
RG: Jesse Davis
RT: Brian O’Neill
While the coach and GM are brand new, the offense has a very familiar look… Kirk Cousins signed a one-year extension this off-season and will now make $70 million over the next two seasons.. Justin Jefferson followed up his historically good rookie season with an even better Year 2, catching 108 passes for 1,616 yards and 10 TD… Adam Thielen has not had a 1,000 yard season since 2018, but he has been dominant in the red zone, catching 24 TD passes over the past two seasons… Dalvin Cook has not shown any signs of slippage as he enters his age-27 season. Cook averaged over 106 yards per game from scrimmage in 2021… Minnesota has extremely high hopes for tied end Irv Smith Jr. who missed the 2021 season with a meniscus injury… Left tackle Christian Darrisaw missed the first month of his rookie season with an injury but was a solid starter by season’s end. The Vikings added Jesse Davis, a guard who had spent five years with the Dolphins. Every other starting offensive lineman on the team was drafted by the Vikings in the first two rounds.
DE: Harrison Phillips
NT: Dalvin Tomlinson
DT: Armon Watts
OLB: Za’Darious Smith
OLB: Danielle Hunter
ILB: Jordan Hicks
ILB: Eric Kendricks
FS: Lewis Cine
SS: Harrison Smith
CB: Patrick Peterson
CB: Cameron Dantzler
The Vikings spent their first two draft picks and used five overall to add some youth to one of the league’s oldest defenses… CB Patrick Peterson might be headed to the Hall of Fame but at this point of his career he’s just an ordinary corner… Cameron Dantzler and rookie Andrew Booth Jr. seem to be the team’s long term plans at corner… First round draft pick Lewis Cine comes to the Vikings a decade after they drafted Harrison Smith, who will team with Cine to form what the Vikings hope will be one of the league’s top safety tandems… Danielle Hunter only played seven games last season but when he’s healthy he is good for nearly a sack per game. Hunter will be joined by another veteran pass rusher, Za’Darius Smith, who had 26 sacks for the Packers in 2019 and 2020, but only played in part of one regular season game last year due to injury before returning for the playoffs… Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks, both 30, are two of the oldest starting LB’s in the league… Dalvin Tomlinson and Harrison Phillips will lead a defensive line that will be brutal to run against.
Head Coach: Kevin O’Connell (Record 0-0), First Year
OC: Wes Phillips
DC: Ed Donatell
Vikings Schedule (All times Eastern)
Schedule Strength: The Vikings have the 13th easiest schedule in the NFL.
Schedule Highlights: You will see a lot of the Vikings early on nationally. They open the season with the Packers, they’ll be in Philadelphia for Monday Night Football for Week 2, and they will play the Saints in London in Week 4. They also host the Patriots on Thanksgiving night, part of an unusual five home games in a six week stretch.
Week 1: 9/11 vs. Packers. 4:25 PM
Week 2: 9/19 at Eagles (Monday), 8:30 PM
Week 3: 9/25 vs. Lions, 1 PM
Week 4: 10/2 at Saints (London), 9:30 PM
Week 5: 10/9 vs. Bears, 1 PM
Week 6: 10/16 at Dolphins, 1 PM
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: 10/30 vs. Cardinals, 1 PM
Week 9: 11/6 at Commanders, 1 PM
Week 10: 11/13 at Bills, 1 PM
Week 11: 11/20 vs. Cowboys, 4:25 PM
Week 12: 11/24 vs. Patriots (Thanksgiving), 8:20 PM
Week 13:12/4 vs. Jets, 1 PM
Week 14: 12/11 at Lions, 1 PM
Week 15: 12/17 or 12/18 vs. Colts, TBD
Week 16: 12/24 vs. Giants (Saturday), 1 PM
Week 17: 1/1 at Packers, 4:25
Week 18: 1/7 or 1/8 at Bears, TBD
Odds and Predictions
Super Bowl Odds: +5000 (DraftKings)
Win Projections: The Vikings projected win total is 9.
Hot Take: Left tackle Christian Darrisaw will become a Pro Bowl guard in his second season.
Prediction: The Vikings finish 9-8 and claim the seven and final playoff spot in the NFC.