With the 2016 NFL season about to begin, FOX Sports North lists the five most indispensable players on the Minnesota Vikings' roster. Note: Players listed alphabetically.
Stefon Diggs, wide receiver
Adrian Peterson has proven over the years that loading the box with defenders isn't enough to stop him, but the Vikings' receiving corps' ability to soften things up could be the difference between a first-round loss and a deep playoff run. Diggs flashed early last season, racking up 419 receiving yards and two touchdowns while averaging 10.48 yards per target in his first four games, but slowed down as the season wore on. He averaged just 6.84 yards per target the rest of the way, combining for 301 receiving yards and two touchdowns through nine games. Diggs' presence gives the Vikings' passing game a much-needed go-to threat, but he'll need to take his production to another level in year two.
Ann Heisenfelt/Associated PressAnn Heisenfelt/Associated Press
Everson Griffen, defensive end
Pressuring the quarterback takes on even greater importance in a division that has been ruled by the game's best quarterback for much of the last decade, and Griffen has been the Vikings' leader in that department since the departure of pass-rushing savant Jared Allen. Griffen has 22.5 sacks since becoming a starter in 2014, and has led the team in sacks in each of the last two seasons. The Vikings aren't built for big comebacks, and keeping the score down starts with keeping opposing quarterbacks there too.
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Matt Kalil, left tackle
Kalil's struggles over the last four years have been well-documented, but while his continued improvement will be crucial to the Vikings' success in 2016, Kalil is our stand-in for the entire offensive line on this list. Minnesota has made some big changes to the group over the last few months, bringing in veterans Alex Boone and Andre Smith to supplement a unit that was porous in pass protection last season, while cutting veteran center John Sullivan in favor of former backup Joe Berger. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was sacked 44 times in 2015. Protecting quarterback Sam Bradford -- who has twice suffered season-ending ACL injuries -- will be just as important.
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Adrian Peterson, running back
Peterson has eclipsed the 300-carry mark four times over the course of his nine seasons in the NFL, but it's a testament to his efficiency that the 31-year-old has yet to approach Larry Johnson's record of 416 carries in a single season. With Bradford still learning the playbook and an ascendant defense on the other side of the ball the Vikings are expected to lean heavily on one of the league's last true feature backs this season. He carried Minnesota to the playoffs with a whopping 2,097 rushing yards in 2012 on 348 carries. Whether Bradford is the answer or not, the Vikings' title hopes could hinge on Peterson's ability to shoulder a similar load in 2016.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports
Harrison Smith, safety
Whether he shows up on the scoresheet or not, "Harry the Hitman" seems to be involved on nearly every defensive play for the Vikings, whether by getting in on the initial tackle or streaking across the field to mop up after. He registered 66 tackles, two interceptions, 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble last season, locking down the secondary while giving Zimmer and the Vikings' defensive front the confidence to blitz with impunity. The pass rush may end with Griffen, but it starts with Smith.