The Vikings might be off to a 1-3 start, but you can’t place the blame on running back Dalvin Cook or rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson. The two were named to Pro Football Focus’ All-Pro team for the first quarter of the regular season.
Wide receiver Adam Thielen and safety Harrison Smith both made the second team. Smith being recognized is notable considering how much the Vikings’ defense has struggled.
Cook leads the NFL with 424 yards rushing in four games — 50 yards more than second-leading rusher Aaron Jones of Green Bay — and is coming off back-to-back games in which he rushed for a career-high 181 yards against Tennessee and 130 yards last Sunday against Houston. He tied his career-high with 27 carries in the win over the Texans and finished with 29 touches. Cook has six rushing touchdowns in four games and is averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He is averaging 3.6 yards after contact per carry and has broken an NFL-leading 21 tackles, according to PFF.
Jefferson’s presence on PFF’s All-Pro team is even more impressive considering how little of a role he played in the Vikings’ first two games. Jefferson, the 22nd pick in the first round of the draft last April, has caught 11 passes for 278 yards with a touchdown in the past two games and is now eighth in the NFL with 348 yards on 16 receptions with one touchdown. He is tied for the NFL lead with former Viking Stefon Diggs, the man he replaced, with eight receiving plays of more than 20 yards. Jefferson is the only rookie to make PFF’s first team and leads all wide receivers in yards per route run at 3.7.
Perhaps the biggest surprise selection by PFF was that former Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes is the flex pick on defense. Rhodes, now with the Colts, had a miserable season in 2019 after having turned into one of the best cornerbacks in the game for a time on Mike Zimmer’s defense. The Vikings released Rhodes last March and he ended up signing a one-year, $3 million deal with Indianapolis.
PFF wrote of Rhodes: How much does a change of scenery or simply getting healthy make a difference? Xavier Rhodes went from allowing a catch on over 80% of targets last season with the Vikings to picking off passes, breaking three more up and allowing just a 47.0 passer rating over his first month of play with the Colts. More than that, Rhodes looks visibly more fluid in his movements and far more like the player that was once one of the better shutdown corners in the game before his deterioration