Sunday, June 30, 2013

Fantasy Football Outlook: Minnesota Vikings

With training camps approaching quickly, Daniel House provides a fantasy football outlook for those who conduct their drafts early.

Last season the Vikings surprised the football world and made a run to the NFC Wild Card round of the playoffs, reliant mostly upon the legs of Adrian Peterson. Everyone understands he is the #1 overall player on every draft board in the nation.

The main news surrounding the Vikings offseason was the decision to move Percy Harvin to the Seahawks, while signing former Packer wide-out Greg Jennings. Despite Harvin's injury issues last season, the swap is huge for the Vikings offense scheme.


Kyle Rudolph, TE: Last Season: (53 REC/493 YDS/9 TD) - Last season Kyle increased his numbers significantly from his rookie campaign. I attribute this to the hamstring tear he was recovering from his senior year at Notre Dame. In 2012, we noticed his ability to finish routes and be a physical presence in goal line situations. He is a huge matchup threat for teams, especially in the red-zone portion of the field. With Percy Harvin now in Seattle, Christian Ponder will be much more dependent on Rudolph as a target. In 2012, despite finishing as the 9th best TE in fantasy leagues, he was a tough player to insert in lineups. In fact, Rudolph only had one game all season in which he scored more than 2 fantasy points in weeks that he didn’t score. This year I expect him to make another stride, similar to the type he made between his rookie and sophomore campaigns. He may be a player to add, but may require monitoring before becoming a part of the "every week" lineup.

Adrian Peterson, RB: Last Season: (348 ATT/2097 YDS/12 TD's- Peterson is easily the top player on my fantasy board and brings consistency to a fantasy roster. The key factor is the touches he converts into touchdowns. He has reached double-digit touchdowns in every season in the league and scored a career high 18 touchdowns in 2009. He may not produce as much yardage in 2013, but we can almost guarantee he will score double digit touchdowns this season. The only concern is the Vikings schedule and the sheer difficulty it will add. With the 10th-toughest schedule, they will be battling teams who gave up the second-fewest fantasy points to RBs in 2012. Anyways, how can we doubt one of the greatest running backs to every play in the NFL? It's a risk almost worth taking.

Avoidable Items:

Christian Ponder, QB: Last Season: (2,935 YDS/18 TD/13 INT)- Ponder held an acceptable 62.1% completion percentage, but the statistic can be very deceiving. After digging deep into the numbers, Ponder's 6.08 yards per attempt was 31st among 32 quarterbacks, only marginally better than Blaine Gabbert. He didn't stretch the field vertically, but to his benefit he was missing key vertical threats to combat success. With Matt Cassel breathing down his neck and players like Cordarrelle Paterson, Jarius Wright, Greg Jennings, and Joe Webb looking for development, Ponder will need to be successful this season. There are no more excuses.

3 Hot Questions:

With Christian Ponder's uncertainty, are any receivers worth targeting as more than flex options?

My quick answer is no, but this could change as the season progresses. Greg Jennings (right) has had injury problems and is somewhat of a liability as a main fantasy wide-out. He’s missed 11 games in the past 2 seasons, which means he will need to show consistency. Even when in the lineup last year, Jennings posed low numbers, averaging only 10.2 yards per catch on 36 receptions; the fewest of his career. Now he moves from a stable quarterback position with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, to Christian Ponder, who has struggled to throw the ball vertically. Can his addition finally catapult Ponder to the next level? Only time will tell. Jerome Simpson is the number two receiver (for now) and has yet to prove himself in the league. Cordarelle Patterson (more below) brings a plentiful skill set, but needs time to develop. Jarius Wright (more below) played in 8 games last season and injected energy to the slot situation, but will need an evaluation period. Joe Webb is joining the position group for the first time, after a transition from quarterback. He will have a battle to make the roster, let alone being a legitimate fantasy option.

Can the Vikings D/ST be an asset to your team this season?

I don't foresee the Vikings defense being a valuable commodity this fantasy season. Despite being the 11th best fantasy team (123 points) last season, they lost a key leader in Antoine Winfield. Yes they did add Xavier Rhodes (left) and Sharrif Floyd to the defense, but they need development. While they certainly could be impact players sooner rather than later, the climb is steep from college to the NFL game. The defensive play calling is different and the excellent offensive talent will be an adjustment. The Vikings still have one of the best rushers in the league in Jared Allen and in addition have a defensive line with depth. However, their biggest issues will be stopping the pass. Last season, the Vikings were 24th in pass defense and now that veteran Antoine Winfield is gone, a huge hole is opened. Can Xavier Rhodes be as effective as Harrison Smith was during his rookie campaign? It is highly unlikely, but is something Vikings fans will be optimistic about. The special teams aspect is one reason I would consider the Vikings defense as an option. Rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson may actually be an upgrade to the dynamic Percy Harvin in the return game. Patterson was a very effective returner both at JUCO and the University of Tennessee. This could add potential fantasy points, but you must account the importance of defense into the equation. I still see the Vikings ranking in the middle of the 32 teams, between 16-18. With the Packers, Bears, and Lions all having excellent passing offenses, the Vikings could have a difficult time stopping the pass.

Who are the fantasy sleepers for the Vikings?

Cordarrelle Patterson- Patterson is a dynamic playmaker, making things happen in the receiving and return games. The main flaw in Patterson's game is his major raw talent. He lacks high level experience and only has one year of NCAA experience (2 years of JUCO). He is a poor route runner, but despite all of this, with WR coach George Stewart's instruction, this can be developed. If he can polish his game, he may end the year as the 2nd wide receiver, or even push an aging Jennings for that #1 spot. Just like Percy Harvin was utilized, expect them to take advantage of Cordarelle’s abilities by giving him the ball in a wide variety of situations and formations.

Jarius Wright: Last Season: (22 REC/310 YDS/2 TD's)- Wright only played in 8 games last season, but emerged in the absence of Percy Harvin last season. He proved he can be a deep threat, but also is quick enough to be lined in the slot. He is slightly small, but connected with Ponder on his longest pass of the season. He may not be a huge fantasy producer, but could be a "fill-in" wide-out in an emergency situation.

This year the Vikings have very few fantasy standouts. Adrian Peterson, of course, is going to be the consensus #1 pick, while Kyle Rudolph should be a stellar TE pickup in later rounds. Cordarelle Patterson could end up winning some fantasy leagues for those wise enough to draft him late.

More fantasy analysis coming soon....

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