|By Rob Warner, Friday, September 12, 2014|
QB Teddy Bridgewater - 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 Matt Cassel - 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 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 - 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 - 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 - 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.
WR Cordarrelle Patterson - Solid/Safe Pick
POTENTIAL SUPER STAR: The Vikings traded back into the 1st round of the 2013 draft and selected the Tennessee alum at pick #29. The rookie did more than justify GM Rick Spielman's move as he came on strong in the 2nd half of the season (amassed 375 total yards and six touchdowns over his final five games). The Vikings used CP sparingly in the first half of his rookie season (averaged just 15 snaps per game over first seven contests) but they came to their senses in the second half of the season using the dynamic play maker for an average of 38 snaps per game over the final nine match ups. He finished his rookie season with 45 catches for 469 yards (10.4 YPC) and 12 carries for 158 yards. CP had a total of seven offensive touchdowns (four receiving and three rushing). Patterson earned a Pro Bowl trip as the NFC kick returner (led league with 32.4 yards per kick return and two return touchdowns) and should emerge as the #1 target in the passing game in 2014 placing him on the WR2 radar heading into his sophomore season. Many receivers (such as Vincent Jackson and Josh Gordon) have enjoyed elite production under Norv Turner-led offenses, which should vault Patterson onto many breakout lists for 2014. The Vikings are rumored to be moving Jennings inside more often this season which will allow Patterson to man the outside WR slot where he can fully utilize his game breaking speed (4.42 forty time at the combine). His current ADP has him coming off the board in rounds 3/4 as a solid WR2. The Vikings will remain one of the more run focused offenses in the league but with an expanded role as the go to weapon in the passing game, CP has a very real chance at 70-80 catches, 800-900 yards and 7-10 touchdowns -- especially if the Vikings receive better QB play from Matt Cassel or rookie Teddy Bridgewater.
WR Jarius Wright - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
The 2012 fourth-round pick out of Arkansas is worth watching this offseason as Vikings beat reporter Ben Goessling thinks he could see 40 to 50 catches in Norv Turner's offense as a deep threat. The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder has recorded 48 catches for 744 yards with five touchdowns over his first two seasons (23 games). Wright is not "draftable." He'll likely be the fourth option behind Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Rudolph on a Minnesota offense ranked 20th in pass attempts last season. He does have some deep sleeper appeal as he could see an uptick in targets over the first month of the season depending on whether Jerome Simpson is suspended.
WR Greg Jennings - Bye Week Fill-in
Jennings chose to join the division rival Vikings last offseason, signing a five-year, $47.5 million contract (including $18 million guaranteed). His first season in Minneapolis was mediocre (partly due to struggles under center) as he finished with 68 catches for 804 yards and four touchdowns over 15 games. Jennings will turn 31 this September and missed 11 games over 2011 to 2012 (eight games in 2012) due to knee and groin injuries. From 2008-2010, he averaged 75 catches for 1,223 yards per season and totaled 53 touchdown catches (7.5 per season) -- but those days are long gone (especially in Minnesota's run heavy attack). Despite the injury risk, the Western Michigan alum will have a lot to prove and could be worth a late round flier as an WR4 (especially in Norv Turner's more aggressive passing game). He'll likely man the slot, making him a better target in PPR formats. His current ADP has him being selected around pick No. 155 as the 65th WR off the board.
TE Kyle Rudolph - Solid/Safe Pick
BOUNCE-BACK CANDIDATE: Fantasy owners would be wise not to sleep on Kyle Rudolph as he should rebound from an injury-plagued season that saw the Notre Dame alum miss eight games due to a broken left foot. Rudolph had nine touchdowns in 2012 and should become a focal point of the passing game under newly-hired offensive coordinator Norv Turner (who worked wonders with Jordan Cameron and Antonio Gates). Rudolph, at just 24 years of age, is a great target in dynasty leagues and his ability to excel in the red zone gives him a chance to flirt with Top 5 production -- decent value at his current 97.27 ADP (TE10). In 2013, Turner utilized "12" personnel (a two tight-end formation) on 37-percent of the offensive snaps in Cleveland – second most in the NFL.
TE Rhett Ellison - Not Draft Worthy
John Carlson signed with Arizona, which opened the door for little used third-year TE Rhett Ellison to serve as Kyle Rudolph's backup. In two seasons, the USC alum has just 12 catches for 126 yards with one touchdown. Minnesota is in major trouble if Rudolph can't return to form after an injury-plagued 2013.
PK Blair Walsh - Solid/Safe Pick
As a rookie in 2012, Walsh hit 35-of-38 field goals (including 10 from from 50-plus yards), which helped him finish as the top fantasy scorer at his position. The Vikings offense didn't produce as many chances in 2013, so Walsh hit on 26-of-30 field goals for a respectable 87-percent. Only converting two out of five from 50-plus yards caused his finish as the No. 16 fantasy kicker. The Vikings will be playing outdoors for the next two seasons, so Walsh might struggle to hit from distance in December, but it is worth noting that he's 18-for-21 in outdoor games in his young career. Minnesota's offense has a legit chance to be more explosive in 2014 with Norv Turner calling the plays. This should open the door for Walsh to reclaim his spot as a Top 10 kicker.
Minnesota - Bye Week Fill-in
In 2013, the Vikings DST ranked 21st in fantasy scoring in standard leagues. They also ranked 17th vs. the run (110 YPG) and 31st against the pass (287 YPG) -- allowing a league-worst 37 passing touchdowns. The loss of sack-master Jared Allen (Chicago) and veteran Kevin Williams (Seattle) will usher in a youth movement under first-year defensive guru and head coach Mike Zimmer. The Vikings added DT Linval Joseph and CB Captain Munnerlyn via free agency, drafted pass rusher Anthony Barr in Round 1 and re-signed DE Everson Griffen. Safety Harrison Smith returns from an injury-marred campaign and will play alongside DE Brian Robison and LB Chad Greenway to form a fantasy defense worth consideration when the matchup is right (which is the case in Week 1 vs St Louis.) Cordarrelle Patterson made the 2013 Pro Bowl as a kick returner (led league with 32.4-yard average and two touchdowns) and Marcus Sherels has returned a punt for a touchdown in back-to-back seasons.