Minnesota Vikings

Yes, it's weird how much our projections love this team in 2022.

Philosophical shifts tend to go hand-in-hand with rebuilds. Bad teams turn over their power structure and look for something fresh, but do not have the talent or resources to flip the switch immediately. It’s as standard a formula as there is in a league where job security is fickle and talent acquisition can be difficult to speedrun thanks to the salary cap.

This year’s Vikings are a little different. Rookie general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and first-year head coach Kevin O’Connell do not have to rebuild this thing right now. It’s not a perfect roster by any means, but the Vikings were competitive last season and they retained almost all of their critical pieces on both sides of the ball. They’re too good to tear it down right now; they’re too good to rebuild.

Right off the top, the Vikings chose to keep quarterback Kirk Cousins. Moving his contract would have been a burden, but it could have been done and it wasn’t, and now Cousins will remain in Minnesota for at least another year. Cousins isn’t a quarterback who elevates a roster beyond its limits, but he’s a quality starter who consistently produces like an above-average player. He has now finished in the top 10 for passing DVOA in three straight seasons. Cousins may not get the Vikings where they want to be a few years down the road, but he allows them to field a competitive team right now and evaluate the offense with eyes wide open. There’s value in that because this year’s Vikings do not want to tank. It’s difficult to be a legitimately bad team with an above-average passer—though last year’s Falcons team did manage to thread that needle.

The rest of the squad is largely intact too. Star wide receiver Justin Jefferson is entering Year 3 and primed to take on an even bigger role in the new offense. Adam Thielen is still in town as one of the best No. 2 pass-catchers in recent history. Running back Dalvin Cook also returns as one of the league’s best, health permitting. Both young offensive tackles will...