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NFL Minnesota Vikings

5 Irreplaceable Players For The Minnesota Vikings During The 2013 NFL Season

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2013 Minnesota Vikings: Five Irreplaceable Players

Five Irreplaceable Players For The Vikings
Bruce Kluckhohn - USA TODAY Sports

In 2012, the Minnesota Vikings exceeded most people’s expectations on their way to a 10-6 record and a Wild Card berth in the NFC playoffs. Even though their playoff hopes were quickly dashed by the Green Bay Packers, the team appears to be on the upswing heading into the 2013 NFL season.

Part of that hope is obviously based around the excellent class the Vikings were able to secure in the NFL Draft. With three first-round picks, the Norsemen added defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. In nearly every post-draft analysis, the Vikings graded out better than most of the other 31 teams. To me, this isn't a fluke. After several years questioning the future of the purple, the plans that head coach Leslie Frazier and general manager Rick Spielman have been working on seem to be coming to fruition.

Of course, as is the nature of the NFL, the Vikings aren’t without their own losses coming into 2013. Notably, the team had to let go of Antoine Winfield in March, in order to free up $7.25 million in cap space. Percy Harvin, the team’s leading receiver and kick returner, was also traded to the Seattle Seahawks in March to avoid potentially difficult (if not impossible) contract extension negotiations.

Prior to the Harvin trade, Spielman had said that the team had no intentions to deal the “dynamic playmaker”. When it came down to it, though, the team felt it could get better by moving Harvin despite his obvious upside in the short term. While the NFL is known for its “next man up” mentality, there are others who would be simply irreplaceable for the Vikings, both in 2013 and beyond. Continue to the next page to see who I think fits that bill. And of course, feel free to let me know what you think in the comments!

Brandon Raper is a golf writer and NFL contributor for RantSports.com. "Like" him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @Brandon__Raper, or add him to your Google+ network.

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5) Jared Allen

Jared Allen
Brace Hemmelgarn - USA TODAY Sports

Jared Allen is a tough one to place when it comes to being "irreplaceable". On the business side, it’s a contract year, and Allen carries the league’s highest salary cap number for any non-quarterback. Coming off of a huge 2011 season in which he racked up 22 sacks, Allen fell back to 12 sacks in 2012. That total still led the team, but the Vikings also have some capable ends in Brian Robison, starting opposite Allen, and Everson Griffen, who may see some increased playing time.

Since this column is just about the 2013 season, though, there's no reason to get caught up in what might happen with Allen's contract at this time next year. With Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers in the division, Allen’s ability to level quarterbacks is a talent that is hard to replace. I have no reason to believe Allen won't bring it at breakneck speed this year. The Vikings are going to need everything he's got to make their playoff dreams a reality.

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4) Kyle Rudolph

Kyle Rudolph
Brace Hemmelgarn - USA TODAY Sports

Christian Ponder’s second favorite target in 2012, Kyle Rudolph reeled in 53 passes for 493 yards and nine touchdowns. With Percy Harvin getting shipped off to the Seattle Seahawks and newcomer Greg Jennings likely to have a learning curve in a new system, Rudolph will be key to the Vikings’ passing game in 2013. Defenses will continue to send everything they have after Peterson, and having Rudolph as a sure-handed safety valve will be a huge benefit.

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3) Phil Loadholt

Loadholt
Bruce Kluckhohn - USA TODAY Sports

All the talent in the world doesn't mean a thing if the ball-carrier has no where to go. While an offensive tackle is never a “sexy” pick in these types of columns, Phil Loadholt brings tons of value to the Vikings' offensive line. Anchoring the strong side of the line opposite rookie Matt Kalil, Loadholt was an integral part of the Vikings’ blocking that helped Adrian Peterson nearly run into the record books. Signing Loadholt to a four-year, $25 million extension this offseason keeps the Vikings impressive young line together to open holes for Peterson and, hopefully, keep Ponder alive.

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2) Chad Greenway

Greenway
Brace Hemmelgarn - USA TODAY Sports

Entering his eighth season in the NFL, Chad Greenway has led the Vikings in tackles for five consecutive seasons, including 148 in 2012. He can play sideline to sideline and will always find a way to make the play. At 30 years old, Greenway has made two consecutive Pro Bowls and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. In the third year of a five-year, $41 million deal, Greenway’s not only good for the team on the field, but he isn’t breaking their payroll, either. There's really just not a player on the team that can do it all for the Vikings on defense the way Greenway does.

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1) Adrian Peterson

Peterson
Bruce Kluckhohn - USA TODAY Sports

This one goes without saying. Adrian Peterson is arguably the most irreplaceable player in the entire league, not just on the Vikings roster. How many other players could have not only come back from a torn ACL in the time that Peterson did, but also come within nine yards of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record the following season? None. When you watch Peterson play, it’s almost like a video game come to life. It almost doesn’t matter if Christian Ponder struggles in any given week, because “All Day” will just put the entire team on his back. Peterson is the type of once-in-a-generation talent that makes him the definition of "irreplaceable".