3 Minnesota Vikings who were a nice surprise in 2021

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) K.J. Osborn
(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) K.J. Osborn /
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Minnesota Vikings
(Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports) Armon Watts #96 /

Armon Watts – DT

Armon Watts entered camp in 2021 somewhat buried on the Vikings depth chart at defensive tackle. Almost immediately once the season started, though, he found himself playing consistent snaps due to unforeseen circumstances.

Whether it be injuries/illness to Michael Pierce, a positive COVID-19 test for Dalvin Tomlinson, or being moved to edge rusher for previous defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, the seas parted for Watts to get his opportunity on the inside of Minnesota’s defensive line.

Watts entered 2021 as a 2019 sixth-round pick for the Vikings, having only played 513 snaps in his first two seasons. After playing sparingly in the first three weeks for Minnesota, Watts saw the field for at least 30 snaps in every game after, registering 669 total.

Pass-rushing is where Watts saw his biggest improvements, registering 33 total pressures and five sacks on the year. Those 33 pressures would have ranked as the second most on the putrid 2020 Vikings’ defensive line, a season that saw Watts only get 12 pressures.

His 71.5 PFF pass-rushing grade ranked 21st among qualifying defensive tackles in 2021, up from a 62.8 grade in 2020.

Minnesota has seemingly run through defensive tackle after defensive tackle lately without finding much success at all.

Players such as Shamar Stephen, Jaleel Johnson, and Jalyn Holmes had been getting snaps in years past without any relative productivity. Seeing some juice from Watts this season was a pleasant surprise for the Vikings moving forward.

(All snaps and stats for Watts from PFF)