During the Mike Zimmer era, the Vikings defense has been a strength of the team, but last year, the unit often cost Minnesota games.
Michael Pierce is expected to play in 2021, which should be a boost. The team also made some big splashes in free agency to be more competitive on the defensive side of the ball next season.
Just a note: I added nickel corner and a third linebacker to this list, because Minnesota will likely utilize both of those positions at times in 2021.
Here is a projection of the starting defense:
DE Danielle Hunter
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter. Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
DT Michael Pierce
Former Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce. Photo: Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports
Former New York Giants defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (94). Photo: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports
DE D.J. Wonnum (or a rookie)
Minnesota Vikings defensive end D.J. Wonnum. Photo: Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports
Analysis: I think Wonnum is the most likely candidate to take this spot among players on the roster right now. However, I think the Vikings should try and focus on landing a defensive end early in the draft. Stephen Weatherly could also start here, but I think a rookie or Wonnum would be my guess right now.
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks. Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports
LB Anthony Barr
Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Anthony Barr. Photo: AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King
LB Nick Vigil
Former Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Nick Vigil. Photo: AP Photo/Brett Carlsen
Analysis: Ryan Connelly, Troy Dye, Cameron Smith, a draftee or a free agent could all be options here. The Vikings agreed to terms with Vigil this offseason. He played in 15 games for the Chargers and started two. He had a PFF grade of 60.6 in 2020. Minnesota's third linebacker spot isn't as important as the role is for other teams, because the Vikings use the nickel defense quite often. Vigil would probably be fine in this spot.
Former Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson Photo: Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler. Photo: AP Photo/Jim Mone
Nickel CB Mackensie Alexander
Minnesota Vikings CB Mackensie Alexander Photo: Adam Bettcher/Getty Images
Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith. Photo: AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn
S Xavier Woods
Dallas Cowboys' Xavier Woods. Photo: AP Photo/Frank Franklin II