Danielle Hunter started the list at No. 50, while safeties Harrison Smith (No. 35) and Anthony Harris (No. 30) ranked higher.
PFF’s list is a product of evaluating every play from every player during the NFL season to produce its player grades, stats and information. The list was compiled not on how valuable players are, but instead on how good they are at their relative positions.
Here’s what PFF had to say on the Vikings defensive trio:
“Anthony Harris has graded well every time we have seen him on the field, dating back to his final college play, and he’s only gotten better with more opportunity. Last season, he was finally a full-time starter for the Vikings alongside Harrison Smith, and he responded with the best coverage grade (91.6) at the position and the second-best overall grade (90.5). Harris has been an All-Pro caliber player and a true ballhawk in Minnesota’s secondary.”
“Harrison Smith has been the player who makes Mike Zimmer’s defense go in Minnesota. Smith is the foundation stone around which every coverage shell the Vikings run can be built; he is the movable piece that allows everybody else to slot into the role to which they are best suited. His consistency at a position where play often fluctuates has been remarkable. He has never had a full season of play that earned an overall PFF grade lower than 75.0, and he has four seasons at 85.0 or above.”
“Somehow, Danielle Hunter is still just 25 years old. He had a career year for the Vikings last season, notching by far the best overall PFF grade (89.0) and pass-rushing grade (84.5) of his professional career. Hunter’s 97 total pressures (including the playoffs) also represents a massive jump in production, with 29 more than he’s ever had before despite the Vikings making it a game further in the playoffs the year that was his previous best. Hunter finally began to emerge into the player his sack totals suggested he had been for a while, and 2020 could put him even higher this time a year from now.”
Hunter was the youngest player to reach 50 sacks in NFL history and was recently named the Vikings most underrated player by PFF.
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Harris and Smith: Anchors to Third-Ranked Secondary
PFF ranked the Vikings defensive coverage group third in the NFL for its 2019 performance. The ranking among the NFL’s best comes even with inconsistencies from cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes, who were released this offseason with fellow cornerback Mackenzie Alexander.
The unit ranked first in forced incompletions (73) and fourth in passer rating (73.5) as the Vikings “relied heavily” on the disciplined play of Harris and Smith.
No Vikings cornerback ranked in PFF’s top 25 at the position, signaling that replacing the Vikings cornerbacks with young talents like rookies Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney may not be such a concern for the secondary as a whole and could even lead to improvements.
The Rest of the List
New York Jets safety Jamal Adams was the only safety ranked higher than Harris and Smith.
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