2014 Team Outlook: Minnesota Vikings
QB Matt Cassel, TEN - Bye Week Fill-in
Cassel was signed to a two-year, $10 million contract this offseason. Over nine games in 2013, the 31-year-old had a 60-percent completion percentage and mediocre TD:INT ratio of 11:9 while averaging 201 YPG in Minnesota's run heavy offense. With Cassel's knowledge of the offense, all signs point to him as the likely starter for the first month of the season. However, Bridgewater could be given a shot sooner than many expect based on his experience in a a pro-style system. Minnesota will look to diversify their offense to keep AP fresh and whichever QB is under center will benefit from playing behind a solid O-line ranked sixth overall by Pro Football Focus.
QB Teddy Bridgewater, MIN - Sleeper (undervalued)
DYNASTY STAR: For the second straight year, the Vikings traded back into Round 1 to upgrade the offense around the best RB in the league. Last year they nabbed WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson at No. 29 and this season they traded two picks (40th and 108th overall) to secure their QB of the future-- Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater-- with the last pick of the first round. His slight frame is concerning (6-foot-2, 214), but he never missed a game at Louisville despite multiple injuries. Most label him as the most pro-ready prospect in this class. The three-year starter went 27-8, completing 68-percent of his passes for 9,817 yards (8 YPA) and a 3:1 TD-to-INT ratio (72 to 24). His speed is adequate (4.8 forty), but Bridgewater prefers to stay in the pocket and pick defenses apart with his precision and ability to go through progressions. His deep arm needs some work, but with AP in the backfield, Minnesota will be looking to concentrate on an intermediate passing game that keeps defenses honest. The Florida native will need to adjust to Arctic conditions as the Vikings will be playing the next two home seasons outside at the University of Minnesota while a new dome is constructed (opens in 2016). Bridgewater is an underrated QB2 in redraft leagues and should be considered after the top half of the QBs are selected. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner has worked wonders in the past; and with defenses focused on stopping AP, Bridgewater should face favorable 1-on-1 coverage where Patterson, Greg Jennings and Rudolph can excel.
Editor's note: Bridgewater is a second round pick in dynasty rookie drafts and arguably has the safest potential of any QB in his class. In a recent Fantasy Football World Championship Draft-N-Go, he was selected in Round 13 as the 28th QB off the board. By 2015, the former Louisville Cardinal should be in cruise control as the Vikings' starter with Cassel either long gone or drawing doodles on a clipboard.
QB Christian Ponder, --- - Not Draft Worthy
GM Rick Spielman will be hoping the Bridgewater selection works out better than 2011 first round bust Christian Ponder. Since Ponder was drafted 12th overall, the Vikings' passing offense has ranked 28th, 31st, and 23rd. Minnesota will look to trade Ponder before Week 1, but worst case he'll remain on the roster as their No. 3 quarterback at a manageable salary ($1.8 million salary guaranteed). ESPN sideline reporter Samantha Ponder's husband has failed to average more than 185 yards per game during any of his first three seasons and holds a disappointing 38 TD to 34 INT ratio over his first 36 NFL contests.
RB Adrian Peterson, NO - Stud (low risk)
ALL DAY, EVERY DAY: The Vikings led the league with 23 rushing touchdowns in 2013 – led by Adrian Peterson's 10 rushing scores. Purple Jesus averaged 90 yards per game and posted his seventh straight season of double digit touchdowns. The seventh overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft wasn't able to approach 2,000 yards like he did in 2012 (finished with 1,266 yards in 14 games). The soon-to-be 29-year-old can hear the clock ticking on his career and rumors have surfaced that he could ask out if the Vikings don't right the ship at quarterback. Peterson is owed $13 million in 2015, but it would be unthinkable for the Vikings to entertain trade offers unless they decide to go into major rebuilding mode (unlikely as they look to build momentum for the opening of their new stadium in 2016).
Editor's note: Peterson is still a Top 3 pick in redraft (check out this FFToolbox article detailing your options in that range). All those same concerns are there, such as a lack of other proven weapons and a weak passing attack. The former Oklahoma Sooner should not fall far in any draft in any format.
RB Jerick McKinnon, MIN - Fantasy Handcuff
DYNASTY SLEEPER: Toby Gerhart had another pedestrian season in 2013 (283 yards and 2 touchdowns) and as a free agent, he signed with Jacksonville. This has opened the door for McKinnon to emerge as AP's handcuff. The Vikings used the 96th overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft on the Georgia Southern alumnus. McKinnon (5-foot-9, 209) impressed at the combine with a 4.41 in the forty, an insane 40.5" vertical and 11-foot broad jump . He alternated between quarterback and tailback in college, finishing his career with 55 all-purpose TDs (42 rushing, 12 passing, one receiving). The dual-threat QB had 619 rushing attempts and finished with an impressive 6.3 YPC. McKinnon is an explosive runner, but will be a work in progress as some question his potential in the passing game (just 10 career catches) and next-to-no pass-blocking experience. Peterson has missed just nine games during his first seven seasons, so McKinnon is more of a dynasty target or late round flier for AP owners.
RB Matt Asiata, DET - Low Potential
The 234-pound bulldozer had two weeks of fantasy relevance filling in for Peterson in 2013. In a Week 15 win over Philadelphia, the Utah alum reached pay-dirt three times, but finished with a laughable 51 yards on 30 carries (1.7 YPC). In the season finale, he had 14 carries for 115 yards (8.2 YPC) against Detroit. Asiata is running with the second team in OTAs. He is more of a fullback with very limited fantasy appeal (even if AP were to be sidelined). Rookie Jerick McKinnon is the one to target if you are looking for a handcuff.