The 5 scariest players the Vikings will face in 2020

A tougher schedule means more challengers for next season.
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Derrick Henry

The Minnesota Vikings will look to get over the hump after falling in the divisional round last season, but their upcoming schedule says that is far from a given.

With the added bonus of playing a majority of their big games on the road, the Vikings will face a slew of top players in 2020. As the Vikings have seemingly revamped their roster ahead of next season, we took a look at some of the scariest players they'll run into.

Za'Darius Smith

The Vikings have to worry about Aaron Rodgers when playing the Packers, but Green Bay looking to rely on their ground game shifts the major concern to a player that almost single-handedly destroyed Minnesota's NFC North title hopes last season.

According to Pro Football Focus, Smith led the NFL last season in total pressures with 93. Smith was especially devastating against the Vikings, collecting five pressures in a Week 2 victory and adding nine more with four sacks in the Packers' Week 16 win last December.

The Vikings made an upgrade to their offensive line by drafting Ezra Cleveland, but they didn't do much to upgrade their interior. With the added problem of facing Smith twice, the Vikings will have to figure out a way to slow him down.

Derrick Henry

Few running backs in the NFL deliver the punishing style that Henry brings to the table. After finally breaking out at the end of the 2018 season, the 6-foot-3, 247-pound bruiser has averaged 116 yards per game and collected 21 touchdowns over his last 22 games.

New Viking Michael Pierce knows the kind of damage Henry can do firsthand, as he ran over a Ravens defense to the tune of 195 yards in the playoffs last season. 

Against a player that PlayerProfiler compared to Street Fighter's Zangief, the Vikings will have to bring it to slow down Henry in Week 3.

CeeDee Lamb

As one of the top proponents of Lamb's stock heading into the NFL Draft, my jaw nearly hit the floor as he fell closer toward the Vikings in the first round. Alas, no trade up was made and the Cowboys scooped him up with the 17th overall pick.

This is bad news for the Vikings because Lamb is one of the best wide receiver prospects to come into the game in a long time. Lamb started making grabs the second he set foot on Oklahoma's campus and with 26 forced missed tackles, he can turn shorter plays into big gains.

It's a big problem for the Vikings who will have 2-3 starters at cornerback next season. Maybe by Week 11, Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler, both rookies, will have settled in, but as part of Dallas' loaded offense, Lamb could be having Rick Spielman kicking himself for not trading up.

Chris Godwin

There's a major consideration to almost everyone else on the loaded Tampa Bay offense, but Godwin might be the scariest because he plays an absurd amount of snaps in the slot.

Last season, Godwin was in the slot for 63.4 percent of his total snaps and racked up the second-most yards in the NFL from that position at 838. While Godwin still had room for 495 yards outside of the slot, that's a problem for a team that has no idea who's going to replace Mackensie Alexander.

While Gladney is a prototypical slot corner because of his size, he might need time to learn the position. Mike Hughes is also a candidate but is recovering from a broken vertebra. With the other corners on the roster projecting better on the outside, Godwin and Rob Gronkowski could have a field day in what should be a big Week 14 matchup.

Michael Thomas

We go back to the receiver well because honestly, that's the scariest part of the Vikings defense right now. Even more terrifying is that the Vikings will probably have a major game on Christmas Day in the Superdome, which means that Michael Thomas will have another chance to haunt the Vikings.

As you may have heard, the Vikings decided to take Laquon Treadwell over Thomas in the 2016 NFL Draft and all Thomas has done since then is catch footballs. With an NFL-record 149 catches last year, Thomas is the Saints' passing game and will likely be angry after being bounced from the playoffs by the Vikings two of the past three seasons.

There's a good chance that the Vikings will need to win this game in the loaded NFC race that should go down to the wire. If the Saints have the chance to knock them out, it could be Thomas who drives the final nail in the coffin. 

Honorable mentions: 

  • Tom Brady, Bucs QB
  • DeShaun Watson, Texans QB
  • Aaron Rodgers, Packers QB
  • Drew Brees, Saints QB
  • J.J. Watt, Texans DE
  • Russell Wilson, Seahawks QB
  • Julio Jones, Falcons WR
  • Mike Evans, Bucs WR
  • Christian McCaffrey, Panthers RB

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