Top 10 Minnesota Vikings of 2022: Where does Justin Jefferson rank?
No. 4: Eric Kendricks – ILB
Last offseason, I believed Eric Kendricks had a case to be the best linebacker in football. Although undersized for a typical linebacker, his athleticism and instincts make him a weapon on defense.
2021 saw Kendricks’ play fall off a bit, however. While he still made plenty of impressive plays in pass coverage, which is his strong suit, he was getting blown back in the run game more often and had his highest missed tackle rate in years, per PFF.
One would think an improved defensive line in front of Kendricks would make life easier for him compared to 2020, but that was not the case. Yet with his stellar career thus far, Kendricks has earned the benefit of the doubt.
If you divide the 2021 season in half, Kendricks was the second-highest graded linebacker in football behind Fred Warner over the first nine weeks. His elite 90.2 PFF coverage grade over that span was the highest by nearly 10 points. That is insane.
Over the final nine weeks, Kendricks’ overall grade was 35th and his coverage grade was only 32nd out of 47 qualifying linebackers. He did miss one game against Detroit with a biceps injury, and he also missed some practices with a back injury before missing the final contest of the season due to illness.
The fall-off in Kendricks’ play could have been due to those injuries, just getting a bit older, or even just a complete fluke. He did showcase he still has all of his elite skills, which puts him in the top five of this list. Minnesota will be banking on him returning to form in 2022.