2018 Team Preview: Minnesota Vikings
Photo by David Berding/Icon Sportswire
2017 was a coming out party for a team that many around the league didn’t expect (ESPN had them at #17 in their preseason power rankings). The Minnesota Vikings finished a whopping 13-3 and in first place in the NFC North. The Purple & Gold then went on to break the New Orleans Saints hearts on a walk-off Stefon Diggs touchdown in the Divisional Round, only to get shellacked by the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Title Game. Last year had ups and downs for Mike Zimmer, but he has to be excited about the outlooks of this season, and you should feel the same if you are able to land any of the top contributors from this offensive unit. Let’s start at the tip of the spear – the quarterback position.
(QB1) Kirk Cousins
Last year there was a surprise for the Vikings at the quarterback position as journeyman Case Keenum who put in a performance worthy of QB15 in fantasy leagues in 15 games. There are two things that should excite you about this – one is that Keenum was able to do this after never throwing for more than 9 TDs in a season and the second thing is that he is gone. Enter Captain Kirk Cousins. Cousins has been spectacular throwing the football since he became the starter with the Washington Redskins, averaging 276.75 YPG and 27 TDs per year. Oh yeah, and his WRs? The rag-tag groupings of Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Terrelle Pryor, and Jordan Reed sprinkled in. For the Vikings, those guys would all be relegated to jumbotron watching duties, but we will dive into that later. Last year, Keenum put up 3,547 yards and 22 TDs. I fully expect Captain Kirk to pass up those numbers. I’m calling for 4,500 yards and 30 TDs for Cousins this year, and you should confidently draft him as a value pick after the top tier of QBs are off the board.
(RB1) Dalvin Cook
Dalvin Cook was off to a blazing start last year, averaging 4.8 YPC and over 110 total YPG, that many missed because of the other worldly start that Kareem Hunt was having, but all was lost in week 4 when Cook went down for the season. Reports out of camp are that Cook is healthy and that means good things for his fantasy owners. In PPR, his value is increased as Jerick McKinnon and his 51 catches are no longer in town, opening up more passes that will go Cook’s way. Cook is going in the early to mid second round in fantasy drafts and you should feel comfortable taking him as the number 8 RB off the board, after Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt. I will give a PSA, however, that if you draft Dalvin Cook you MUST handcuff Latavius Murray, as he played as a fringe RB1/2 in fantasy leagues last year after the Cook injury. Latavius also holds some standalone value, especially in standard leagues, where he is looking at short yardage work in what looks to be a high scoring team on paper.
(WR2) Stefon Diggs
This is where the fun begins. The Vikings boast one of the best WR duos in the league in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. These two animals were what led Case Keenum to be a household name amongst Vikings faithful. Stefon Diggs is simply spectacular when he is on the field, as seen by his heroics against the Saints in the playoffs here.
The sad thing is that Diggs has yet to play a full NFL season since entering the league. As a result, Diggs has never caught more than 84 balls and has never reached the 1,000 yard mark in receiving yards. Last year we saw a huge jump in TDs up to 8, but as we have seen with other WRs in the past, it is hard to plant your second or third round pick on a guy that is so often injured and needs a lot of touchdowns to finish inside the top 20 at the position (21st ranked WR in 2017 in PPR). If Diggs stays healthy this year and can develop chemistry with Cousins then we are looking at the upside of a WR1. However, second round picks are a valuable commodity and you should feel more comfortable with taking the next guy on this list who has checked the boxes for health and productivity and is going usually a couple of picks after Diggs in drafts.
(WR1) Adam Thielen
The Adam Thielen hype train that started picking up steam in 2016 when he posted career highs across the board went off the rails last year as he finished as the WR9 in PPR fantasy leagues in 2017, posting 91/1,276/4. Let me again remind you that this was all with Case Keenum at QB. Now that Cousins is in the picture, expect him to look Thielen’s way early and often as his most trusted WR. Another thing that Thielen has going for him is that he has yet to miss a game in his four year career. A native of Minnesota, Thielen is primed and ready to pass the 100 catch milestone with a handful of touchdowns. Both Diggs and Thielen are being drafted right at pick number 30, but you should feel much more comfortable investing your pick in Thielen over Diggs this year, especially since you can get him as your number 2 WR on your team to pair with a big name in the first round. Feel confident investing a late second round pick in Thielen, but if you can land him in the third, pat yourself on the back.
(TE1) Kyle Rudolph
Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph is now entering his age 29 season and has been a vital weapon to the Vikings offense. Just two years ago he caught a ridiculous 83 balls, but came back down to earth last year with the emergence of Adam Thielen. The great news for Rudolph is that he is still Mike Zimmer’s favorite red zone weapon. In Rudolph’s five 16 game seasons, he has caught 7 or more TDs in 3 of them. Now that Kirk Cousins is in the picture, there is no doubt that this trend should continue, as Thielen has never been a big touchdown guy and there is always a good chance that Diggs misses some time with injury. There should be plenty of offense to go around through the air in this offense. Rudolph is going in the 8th round of 10-teamers as the TE8. If you find yourself in the 7th or 8th round in drafts feel confident in drafting Rudolph as your starting TE.
There is a very realistic chance that you can build your offense in fantasy around the Vikings. Dalvin Cook in the 2nd round, Thielen in the 3rd, Cousins in the mid rounds, and Rudolph in the 8th. That would be a lot of purple and gold, but it just goes to show you that this offense is loaded on paper. The 13-3 Vikings from a year ago are only expected to get better this year from a production standpoint and their defense led by Xavier Rhodes, Danielle Hunter, and Harrison Smith should keep them in the ballgame week in and week out. The Vikings kick off their season on Sunday, September 9 at 1 PM EST at home against Jimmy Garappolo and the San Francisco 49ero