The Vikings passed on these non-QB players. Now they're in the playoffs.

The Star Tribune has learned the NFL will stage four division playoff games using 168 starters who do not play quarterback.

Let's meet some of them …

Lions offensive line

In Detroit, there aren't five more important Lions than Taylor Decker, Jonah Jackson, second-team All-Pro Frank Ragnow of Chanhassen, Graham Glasgow and first-team All-Pro Penei Sewell of another planet. The best offensive line in football keeps cement-shoed Jared Goff from being a sitting mallard on the front stoop of Bud Grant's home in heaven.

The Lions have a league-high 29 rushing touchdowns in 18 games and are the only team to rank top five in — deep breath — total offense, rushing, passing, average per rush, average per pass, fewest sacks allowed, time of possession, red-zone efficiency and scoring. Until the Vikings can match Detroit's kneecap-biting toughness up front, across the board, it doesn't matter which fancy trick play Kevin O'Connell chooses.

Antoine Winfield Jr., Bucs

In Tampa, the best and on-field orneriest player on a Bucs defense hitting its stride is safety Antoine Winfield Jr., a former Gopher who should be a current Viking.

Winfield earned first-team All-Pro honors for matching something Rodney Harrison — speaking of old-school ornery safeties — did 24 years ago. Winfield was the first player since Harrison in 2000 to post at least 120 tackles (122), 10 passes defended (12) and five sacks (6) in a single season.

Four years ago, Rick Spielman traded from 25 to 31 in the first round. The 49ers took receiver Brandon Aiyuk 25th. The Packers took Jordan Love 26th. The Ravens took second-team All-Pro linebacker Patrick Queen 28th. The Vikings took cornerback Jeff Gladney 31st. The Bucs took Winfield 45th.


Speaking of which …

Trent McDuffie and George Karlaftis, Chiefs

In Kansas City, the Chiefs are trying to reach their sixth straight AFC title game with the most vulnerable offense of the Patrick Mahomes era. Fortunately for Andy Reid, he also has the best Chiefs defense he's ever had.

Two of his key defenders are cornerback Trent McDuffie and edge rusher George Karlaftis. Both were selected after Kwesi Adofo-Mensah traded the 12th overall pick of the 2022 draft and before he selected Lewis Cine 32nd overall.

McDuffie made first-team All-Pro this season. Karlaftis has 19 sacks in two seasons, including 1½ in a wild-card win that saw Kansas City limit Miami's top-ranked offense to one third-down conversion in 12 tries.

Wait, we're not done with that draft …

Kyle Hamilton and Tyler Linderbaum, Ravens

On to Baltimore, where the AFC's top-seeded Ravens rank first in scoring defense (16.5) and fourth in scoring (28.4). Two of their second-year cornerstones are first-team All-Pro safety Kyle Hamilton, selected two spots after Adofo-Mensah traded his pick, and first-time Pro Bowl selection Tyler Linderbaum, a rugged center selected 25th and now smack-dab in the middle of Baltimore's top-ranked run game.

Quay Walker, Packers

In Green Bay, inside linebacker Quay Walker — chosen 22nd overall in that 2022 draft — is coming off a game-high 11 tackles in the seventh-seeded Packers' humiliating upset of the Cowboys. Walker had a team-high 118 tackles during the regular season and is one of only three Packers since 1970 to post two consecutive 100-tackle seasons to start a career. And, by the way, defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt — selected 28th in that 2022 draft — had 5½ sacks this season.

Christian McCaffrey, 49ers

In San Francisco, running back Christian McCaffrey is the likely successor to Justin Jefferson as NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Heck, as good as quarterback Brock Purdy was with a league-high 113.0 passer rating, McCaffrey, with league bests in combined yards (2,023) and touchdowns (21), is the engine that makes the physical 49ers go.

Will Anderson Jr., Texans

In Houston, No. 2 overall pick C.J. Stroud is perhaps the most polished rookie quarterback in league history. But what about No. 3 overall pick Will Anderson Jr.? An elite edge rusher, he has eight sacks in 18 games for a defense that went from 30th to 14th in yards allowed and 27th to 11th in points allowed en route to the Texans raising their win total by eight heading to Baltimore.

Kaiir Elam, Bills

In Buffalo, under-the-radar cornerback Kaiir Elam — the 23rd overall pick of the 2022 draft, by the way — returned last week from a foot injury that cost him all but three regular-season games. All he did was post an interception in the end zone to keep the Steelers from turning a goal-to-go situation into a one-score game.

Believe it or not, the NFL isn't just about big-name quarterbacks. Or genius coaches playing chess with one another.

For proof, look no further than Detroit, where the Lions are riding three straight home-run drafts and those five grunts who've been guarding Goff.