Vikings on Low End of NFL for ESPN’s ‘Future Power Rankings’

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Buoyancy on the outlook for the 2021 Minnesota Vikings, for the most part, is a local phenomenon.

When the season capped in January, head coach Mike Zimmer explained that he was “down in the dumps” about his depth chart and underwhelming 2020 output. But that was erased for Zimmer as the months proceeded when general manager Rick Spielman added players like Patrick Peterson, Dalvin Tomlinson, Sheldon Richardson, Xavier Woods, Christian Darrisaw, Wyatt Davis, and Kellen Mond to the roster. Just like Zimmer, fans of the Vikings were rejuvenated, setting up all-in stakes once again for a team that annually renews its subscription.

Zimmer’s excited; so are Minnesotans. Fans of the team that live outside of Minnesota are, too. Yet, that does not translate to a national enthusiasm – at least not in wholesale fashion.

Spend any amount of time on “Vikings Twitter,” and the sentiment in that digital space states that the team is “slept on.” Somehow, Spielman executed several astute roster moves while national media brains either don’t care or didn’t recognize the stockpiling of personnel.

Perhaps they simply don’t have faith in Kirk Cousins – that’s a popular sentiment inside and outside of the Vikings echo chamber.

ESPN was the latest entity to undervalue the Vikings 2021 prognosis, plopping Minnesota at #19 on its power rankings that peek at the next three years. The list was supposed to adjudicate which teams are “in the best shape” for the next three seasons.

For the Vikings, that’s the backside of the NFL. Teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, and Cleveland Browns are set through 2023, but not the Vikings. Field Yates of ESPN elaborated on the Vikings at #19:

“For years, we could count on the Minnesota defense to be reason enough to bet on the Vikings’ short-term future. This past year was one to forget, but offseason moves give confidence that it can once again find its way under coach Mike Zimmer. Kirk Cousins is under contract for two more years, but he’s yet to guide Minnesota to playoff success. If that doesn’t happen this season, it’s only natural to wonder whether speculation will start about when Kellen Mond takes over.”

So, Yates is unconvinced that Cousins will find success this season, insinuating that he’ll be jettisoned elsewhere in favor of Kellen Mond – who will probably need time to blossom. Most young-and-raw passers don’t effectuate that inflorescence right away, sending the Vikings to the rear of the leaguewide forecast for NFL supremacy.

Nothing outside of Zimmer, Cousins, or Mond is mentioned, so this truly feels like a Cousins-only projection. Should Cousins lead the Vikings to the playoffs and win games in January, then the immediate need for Mond subsides. Hell, Cousins will likely be extended in that scenario, trimming his colossal $45 million cap hit that is scheduled for 2022 to a more reasonable long-term figure.

But that’s predicated on a commitment to Cousins beyond 2021 or 2022. That is nonexistent right now. In fact, the inverse strategy was enacted. The selection of Mond in the 2021 NFL Draft is a warning sign that Cousins must perform – or the team will waltz into the Mond era.

On the whole for the low Vikings ranking via ESPN, Yates probably examined the roster, outwardly seeing that Zimmer and Cousins are still in charge. Last year that same team was 7-9, why will they be different this season – feels like the #19 motivation.