The Minnesota Vikings' success this year has been attributed almost exclusively to star running back Adrian Peterson, but it has been a resurgent defense—particularly the secondary led by rookie free safety Harrison Smith—that has the Vikings in playoff contention.
The Vikings secondary has long been the laughing stock of the division and suffered a terrible season in 2011. Because of new faces in the secondary, specifically Smith on the back-end, the Vikings DBs are no longer a liability, but a strength.
Smith has shown that he was well worth trading up in the 2012 NFL Draft to obtain, and his contributions to a team that no one thought would be a contender should have him in consideration for a Defensive Rookie of the Year Award.
His three interceptions—two for touchdowns—and one fumble recovery would be impressive for any rookie safety, but for Smith it doesn't stop there.
Not only is he tied for first on the team in interceptions and passes defensed, Smith is fourth on the team in tackles—as a free safety. And if that is not enough, Smith has more touchdowns than all of the Vikings wide receivers who are not named Percy Harvin.
The rookie has completely changed the culture of this Vikings secondary.
In two games against the league's most dominant receiver, Calvin Johnson, the defense held him to a total of 17 receptions for 261 yards and one touchdown. After a big hit from Smith in the end zone at Ford Field early in the year, Megatron showed what is commonly known as, "alligator arms" and could barely haul in a reception for the rest of the day.
Smith's great hands and field vision give him the makings of a star "center fielder" that the Vikings haven't seen since Darren Sharper or hall of famer Paul Krause. His aggression and great tackeling form give this team an enforcer the Vikings have never had in recent memory.
Simply put, Harrison Smith is largely responsible for the revolution of this secondary—and really a defense—that has the Vikings in playoff contention.
Along with MVP candidate Adrian Peterson, Smith is surely a player that will be considered for the Pro Bowl, and he most definitely should be called the league's Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Nick McAndrews is a former Minnesota Vikings Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and currently interns for the PowerTrip Morning Show at KFAN100.3 in Minneapolis/St.Paul.
His work has also been featured on TheVikingAge.com and QBIndex.com
Follow him on Twitter @NickMcAndrews