Vikings projected to have the NFL’s fifth-best defense next season

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Harrison Hand and Cameron Dantzler
(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Harrison Hand and Cameron Dantzler /

With some new additions and players returning from injury, the Minnesota Vikings should see their defense get back on track next season.

2020 was an odd year for the Minnesota Vikings and many other people for a variety of reasons. But last season was the first time the Vikings ranked worse than 11th in points allowed since Mike Zimmer became the team’s head coach in 2014.

Minnesota finished the year ranking 29th in the NFL in points allowed and thanks to injuries, inexperience, and COVID-19 opt-outs, there wasn’t much Zimmer could do to get the defense to perform even at an average level.

Unsurprisingly, the Vikings have placed the majority of their focus this offseason on improving their defense.

Minnesota Vikings defense projected to make a massive turnaround in 2021

Minnesota’s top moves in free agency this year saw them sign defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, cornerback Patrick Peterson, and safety Xavier Woods. The Vikings also brought back some familiar faces in defensive end Stephen Weatherly and cornerback Mackensie Alexander.

With these additions, plus the returns of Danielle Hunter, Anthony Barr, Michael Pierce, believing Minnesota will be much improved on the defensive side of the ball in 2021 doesn’t really seem like a bold opinion to have.

In fact, some think the Vikings defense will return to being one of the NFL’s top units during the 2021 season.

ESPN’s Mike Clay recently shared his current grades for the positional units of each team around the league and right now, he has Minnesota with the fifth-best defense in the NFL. Only the Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Cleveland Browns received a higher defensive grade from Clay than the Vikings.

Overall, he has Minnesota currently projected to be the ninth-best team in the league and the fifth-best team in the NFC next season. Clay also projects the Vikings’ offense to take a small step back in 2021 as he gave them a current ranking of 14th.

In terms of specific position groups, he has Minnesota with the top-ranked group of linebackers in the NFL, and to the surprise of absolutely no one, he currently has the Vikings with the league’s third-worst offensive line.

Obviously, these rankings can change after the upcoming NFL Draft. But there’s clearly plenty of optimism surrounding Minnesota’s defense heading into next season.