This week, the last week of the roster breakdown of the 2015 season, I will be covering the safeties and kickers.
By Jordan Wright
There were 89 safeties in the NFL who played enough to be ranked by Pro Football Focus, and the Vikings basically bookended the list.
Harrison Smith was ranked by PFF as the best safety in the NFL with a player grade of 92.8, despite missing all but 11 snaps during a four week stretch from week 12 through 15. Smith is entering the last year of his contract and is scheduled to make just under $5.3 million this season. However, the Vikings have a habit of extending their promising young players before their final season, so it wouldn’t surprise me to hear about a contract extension between now and the beginning of the season.
Andrew Sendejo ended the season with a player grade of 52.0, placing him at number 85 out of the 89 qualified safeties. For some unknown reason, the Vikings decided to re-sign Sendejo to a four year, $16 million dollar contract this offseason. Luckily, there is no dead money if the Vikings cut him after this season. While Sendejo is a fine special teamer, he has done nothing to prove he deserves to see the field as a starter.
Anthony (Ant) Harris only played 148 snaps last season, but he earned a player grade of 87.0, which would have placed him at number seven in the league had he played enough to qualify for the ranking. Harris is still under a rookie contract for two more seasons, so hopefully with enough time he can earn Zimmer’s trust and see the field more.
Antone Exum is another young safety with lots of potential. Even though he only earned a player grade of 53.7, Exum was given chances to show the coaching staff what he can do on the field. Exum is pretty good against the run, but is lacking in the coverage department.
Michael Griffin was brought in this offseason after spending his first nine seasons in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans. Griffin is a multiple time Pro Bowler, but his play has declined over the past few seasons. Last season, Griffin was given a player grade of 67.0, ranking him 60th. He signed a one year contract, allowing him to compete for the starting spot across from Harrison.
Blair Walsh is now a name synonymous with “wide left” after the missed field goal that would have sent the Vikings to the second round of the playoffs. Blair led the league in field goals made in 2015 and was 13th in field goal percentage. Unfortunately, Walsh seemed to get worse as the attempts got easier, as he was 29 out of 32 in extra points percentage. One thing that often gets overlooked when it comes to Walsh is his ability to boot the ball out of the back of the end zone on kickoffs. Blair is one of the best in the NFL when it comes to that, and it’s a good ability to have.
Jeff Locke is one of the worst punters in the NFL, coming in dead last in terms of average length of kick. Luckily for Locke, punting is more than just kicking it deep, as consistency and accuracy are also important. Unfortunately for Locke, he is sub-par in those categories as well. On a team that relies on their running game and a strong defense, having a strong punter is essential. Hopefully the Vikings bring in competition for Locke this offseason.
With the roster breakdown now complete, it’s time to turn our attention to the draft. If you have any players or positions you would like me to study, please let me know!
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