2015 Fantasy Football Team Preview: Minnesota Vikings
Help is on the way and looks like it’s in the form of Teddy Bridgewater. Not only does Bridgewater have a face to go with the franchise, but he looks capable enough to pull-it-off. The Vikings also received good news that Adrian Peterson will be returning after a year of legal troubles. He signed a new contract and will be taking his skills and anger out on the field (hopefully).
The Vikings passing numbers will need to get better quickly. They finished 28th passing with just 202.8 yards per game, which killed their total offense. Minnesota’s offense as a whole finished 27th with 315.5 yards per game. The Vikings rushing game finished 14th as they rushed for an average of 112.8 yards per game. They will also have to put more points on the scoreboard and Peterson will help with that. Minnesota finished 20th in points with only 20.3 per contest. Two things need to improve: not allowing Teddy B to get sacked as the team allowed 51 of those (28th in NFL) and converting on third downs (39%), as they finished tied for 20th.
Bridgewater yo-yoed in rankings last season before the draft. There were some scouts that had him as the best quarterback, while others thought he may be the third or fourth best. By the end of season, he proved to be the best as he won the Rookie of the Year Award. As we fantasy owners know, there can be many differences between a player on the field and a player for your stat sheets; ask Troy Aikman. Bridgewater is not as skilled as Aikman, but both are game managers that won’t post up many touchdowns but have a low interception total as well as high completion rate. Bridge threw 14 touchdowns to 12 interceptions last year, but his completion percentage was the highest as any rookie ever in the history of the NFL, and he was a top 10 quarterback the last six weeks of the season. He also will be in Norv Turner’s offense for his second go around. If that wasn’t enough, Minnesota added malcontent, but talented, Mike Wallace to the fold.
Shaun Hill is the back-up quarterback, but he won’t see the light of day unless Bridgewater gets injured.
ADP is baaack! Yes, he turns 30 this season, but it’s more like 29 since he had a whole season off to rest his weary bones. Peterson most likely has lost a gear but still is plenty fast and strong. In 2011, he scored touchdowns of 78 and 60 yards, and in 2010, he scored four touchdowns of 60-yards or more. Even at an older age, Peterson seems indestructible. For instance, in 2013, the year after he tore his ACL, he rushed for 2,097 yards. The troubling aspect of Peterson is that he has shown a propensity for getting injured, and he seems to struggle a bit in the passing game. His biggest reception year came in 2009 when he had 43. Norv Turner, though, likes to use the backs as receivers as well as runners, so this could put Peterson in that realm again.
The Vikings also have two running backs that can back ADP up in a pinch. Both Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata filled in nicely when Peterson was suspended last season. McKinnon rushed for 538 yards on 113 carries (4.6) but did not score a touchdown. Asiata gobbled up the touchdowns and the receptions but did nothing on the ground. Asiata rushed for 570 yards on 164 carries (3.5) and scored nine touchdowns to go along with 44 receptions for 312 yards and one touchdown.
A nice surprise for the Vikings last season came in the form of Charles Johnson. He was basically bounced around by teams and their practice squads until he landed in 10,000 lakes territory. Once Johnson got into the lineup he never looked back and finished with 31 receptions for 475 yards and two touchdowns. He had Norv Turner calling him the best receiver on the Vikings.
Wallace will be the other starting receiver. Wallace is one of the fastest players in the NFL and thrives on beating corners and safeties deep. He may have lost a step, though, and Bridgewater’s arm isn’t powerful. This is an interesting position for Wallace to be in, as he complained so much in Miami because Ryan Tannehill couldn’t strong arm the ball. We shall see what happens when Minnesota starts losing and he doesn’t get the number of targets he expects.
Up next is probably one of the biggest busts for the Vikings in a long time. Cordarrelle Patterson has yet to learn the offense or run a route. He is gifted with speed and athleticism but just can’t figure out how to put it all together. In credit, though, it takes about two-years to learn the Norv Turner offense, so that’s a compounding factor when he has to learn route running and an offense.
One guy to target late in drafts is Jarius Wright. He is going to be in the slot and should fit the Turner offense very well. He should catch nearly 70 receptions, but don’t look for him to be used very much in the red zone; he only caught two touchdowns last season.
Kyle Rudolph is in a great position to do some magical things this season. Not only is he in an offense that skyrockets the stats for tight ends, but Bridgewater will probably look for him often as a security blanket. The drawback has been his health. Injuries have piled up for him each season, but each year is different. He is great in the red zone as he caught nine touchdowns in 2012 but has only played in 17 games in the last two seasons and has only caught five total in the end zone.
The Vikings are good in some areas but need work in others. For instance, their passing defense finished seventh by only allowing 223.2 yards against opposing quarterbacks, but they were gashed in the run department as they allowed 121.4 yards per game which put them 25th overall. They were a little bit better than average (11th) with teams scoring 21.4 points against them on an average game basis. Even though they did a solid job getting after the opposing quarterback as they finished tied for ninth in sacks (41), they were not aggressive enough in getting turnovers. They were tied for 18th in interceptions (13) and had a negative one in turnover differential (18th in the NFL).
It starts up front for the Vikings as Everson Griffen had a great year in replacing Jared Allen. Griffen finished with 12 sacks and 39 solo tackles with one forced fumble. At linebacker, the leader for the Vikings is Chad Greenway. He was disappointing last season and had to have his salary cut because of it, but don’t count him out yet. He finished with 53 tackles down from 83 the season prior and had one sack to go with one forced fumble. At safety, look no further than Harrison Smith, one of the better safeties in the league. He is tough and instinctive and has the talent to be a Pro-Bowler and/or All-Pro. His rookie contract is up at the end of the season, which should inspire him to improve on his gaudy 72 tackles and five interceptions from last year.
Player to Watch
Rudolph. Rudolph has a chance to do something special with the Vikings. He has the talent and offensive system to finish in the top five to seven tight ends, and with his ADP value sitting in the consensus ranking on FantasyPros at 19, he offers tremendous value. Last year Rudolph had minimal contribution as he finished with just 24 receptions on 34 targets for 231 yards and two touchdowns.
The quarterback was sacked 41 times last season. This has got to change or the Vikings are not going to be looking to improve much in the standings. The unit, however, was plagued by injuries on the right side of the line and just plain ineffectiveness was on the left side. Center John Sullivan was a rock. Left guard Charles Johnson was cut loose and Joe Berger will now be the starter there. Matt Kalil will hopefully bounce back, as he blamed his knee and not declining skills for his performance. Brandon Fusco will return to right guard after missing 13 games with a pectoral injury, and right tackle Phillip Loadholt was inconsistent and missed five games with a tear to his pectoral as well. Minnesota went out and drafted highly touted prospect T.J. Clemmings in the fourth round, and he could push to be in a starting tackle spot if any of the veterans start to stumble. In other words, this offensive unit has the ability to reduce that large sack total, but it also can falter and be even worse.