The Minnesota Vikings’ secondary has undergone some changes in recent seasons. However, one player has remained reliable, productive and highly respected since entering the league in 2012. That player is Harrison Smith, and he will lead a solid group of safeties into 2019.
Hyperbole aside, Smith is one of the best defensive players from this decade. He seems to always be around the ball and makes plays at every level. Pro Football Focus (PFF) loves him too; he has received an overall grade below 74.9 in just one season (2013) since his debut. He doesn’t shy away from contact, and is a pivotal leader on defense.
Smith has also stood out at the position for years because he has been leaps and bounds ahead of almost every other safety that has been a Viking during that stretch. That may be starting to change with the emergence of Anthony Harris. The former undrafted free agent didn’t make much noise in his first three seasons, but he was outstanding last season, giving the Vikings a daunting duo on the back end. In a contract year, Harris could be in for an even better performance in 2019.
The Vikings said goodbye to veterans George Iloka and Andrew Sendejo in the offseason, and will look to a trio of young players to fill the void. Sendejo was a fixture on the Vikings, alongside Smith, starting 58 games for Minnesota since 2011. His play never rose too far north of mediocre though; he averaged less than one interception per season over that span.
The Vikings were one team that turned to players who harvested talent from the short-lived Alliance of American Football. They signed Derron Smith, who played with the San Antonio Commanders, to compete at safety with rookie Marcus Epps and massive (6-4, 215), and second-year man Jayron Kearse. Smith last appeared in the NFL in 2017 with the Cleveland Browns.
If Harris continues his upward trajectory, and Smith just gets out of bed, the Vikings will be in excellent shape on the back end of their defense. Behind the starters, they have decided to give some young players a chance at earning playing time. Injuries do happen, and at least one of them will have to be ready to step in should that situation arise.