When handing out awards to an eight-win-team, one has to carefully weigh every possible reason the player may or may not be awarded said hardware. Is the player one that made his teammates better? Is he one that carried the team in its darkest hour? Is he one that had overall stats that stand-out amongst his team and the league?
All aspects were carefully weighed and measured to make sure all deserved players get their due consideration for each and every award handed out. Last year an offensive and defensive Rookie of the Year was awarded; this year very few rookies made an impact worthy of an award. Supplanting the rookie awards will be a Surprise Standout award and a Special Team’s Player of the Year award.
Below will be this writer’s Second Annual Vikings’ Awards consisting of: a Surprise Standout, Special Teamer of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year.
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Surprise Standout: Adam Thielen
When labelling someone a “surprise,” does that mean no one thought said player was going to be great? Absolutely not; however, did anyone predict nearly 1,000 yards and five touchdowns out of Thielen in 2016? I’m sure plenty thought Thielen was going to have a decent year but more than 900 yards out of a Division II, local walk-on from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, was a pleasant surprise.
Special Teamer of the Year: Cordarrelle Patterson
No surprise here as Patterson had himself another fantastic year as a returner; earning himself his second All-Pro nod from the Associated Press. Not only did Patterson return a kickoff for a 104-yard touchdown, he led the league with 31.7 yards per return. Patterson also contributed as a gunner on special teams and recorded 52 receptions on offense as a wide receiver. Not too bad for a guy who most called for the Vikings to cut ties with before the 2016 season started.
Defensive Player of the Year: Xavier Rhodes
Until this season, Rhodes had been known as a decent corner with terrible hands. This season, however, Rhodes turned into a shutdown corner with five interceptions — one resulting in a 99-yard return for a touchdown. Aside from their gaff against the Packers, in which they were said to have gone “rogue” from Mike Zimmer’s game plan, the defensive backs had a decent year.
Offensive Player of the Year: Sam Bradford
If stability was the biggest question among Bradford doubters in Minnesota, he answered that by taking lick after salty lick from opposing defenders and bounced back up every time. Bradford’s numbers may not wow everyone but he did throw for 3,877 yards and added 20 touchdowns to only five interceptions. The aspect of Bradford’s game that stands out the most was his accuracy as he completed an NFL record 71.6 percent of his passes this season.
On the Cusp-Honorable Mentions
With a defense that started out as hot as they did, many could have been given the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Harrison Smith, Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks and Everson Griffen were all given second looks as Rhodes’ play elevated everyone else around just a bit more.
Had Marcus Sherels been healthy all season, he may have been named an All-Pro himself and taken the special teamers award from Patterson. His two punt-returns for a touchdown still tied him for the NFL lead with almost half as many attempts.
Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph had respectable offensive seasons, but just not quite as great as Bradford’s. Thielen also could have been given a nod for Offensive Player of the Year but one cannot overlook Bradford’s stats, given how much he was under duress this season.
Needless to say, 8-8 is not where this team or any of these players thought they would end at this season. If the Vikings want to return to the playoffs after the 2017 season, these players will have to continue to contribute and shine. The team will also need more support from players not listed in order to make the jump from a mediocre team to a great one.