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2012 Team Report: Minnesota Vikings

Quarterbacks

Starter: Christian Ponder
Backup(s): Joe Webb, McLeod Bethel-Thompson

Starting QB: Compared to Cam Newton and Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder's rookie year could be considered a bust, but compared to most rookies in the history of the game Ponder met expectations with both high and low moments. Ponder has good mobility, arm strength, and down-field accuracy, and he should continue to grow into the starting role this year and get some assistance with an infusion of talent at wide receiver. Although the additions the roster should ultimately help the offense and Ponder should experience a few more highs than lows, expect another year of growing pains for the second-year quarterback. He's only worth drafting in large, two-quarterback fantasy leagues.

Backup QB: Although a raw passer and initially slated as a wide receiver-in-training as a rookie in 2010, the coaching staff recognized that Joe Webb, a quarterback at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, possessed more potential as a pro quarterback. During the past two seasons, Webb has done enough with limited opportunities to support that notion. He's still a raw passer, but his improvisational skills have been an asset.

Running Backs

Starter: Adrian Peterson
Backup(s): Toby Gerhart
Fullback(s): Jerome Felton, Matt Asiata

Starting RB: Adrian Peterson managed to place eighth in fantasy totals among running backs in 2011, despite missing three games an ankle sprain. Unfortunately the Vikings' marquee offensive player tore his ACL in Week 16 and the timetable for his rehabilitation places his ability to recover to start the 2012 season in doubt. Although he was already sprinting fast enough in April to beat teammates in practices, anticipating a complete recovery in 2012 is too much to ask of anyone. When healthy, Peterson has been one of the top-three fantasy runners in football from 2007-2010. We've been say not expect him to be healthy this year, but if there is anyone in football with the track record of exceeding expectations on any level, Peterson is that player. Peterson may compete in the final preseason game. Even if he rips off a patented run that fans are used to seeing from him, expect to see a heavy dose of a committee with third-year Stanford power back Toby Gerhart leading the way.

Backup RBs: Toby Gerhart posted an impressive 4.9 yards per carry last year, earning 531 yards on 109 attempts, and increasing his yards per reception from 8.0 to 8.3 from his rookie year. The 6-foot-0, 231-pound back from Stanford is preparing this offseason as if he's going to carry the load as the Vikings� starting running back while Adrian Peterson continues his ACL rehab. He's a solid bet as a low-end RB2 or productive flex-option in in 2012 fantasy leagues.

Fullback: Jerome Felton is a 'tweener who first got a chance with the Lions a few years ago. Matt Asiata is from Utah. He's a powerful runner.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Percy Harvin, Jerome Simpson
Backups: Greg Childs [R], Michael Jenkins, Devin Aromashodu, Jarius Wright [R], Stephen Burton

Starting WRs: Despite lackluster quarterback play from aging veteran Donovan McNabb and rookie Christian Ponder in 2011, Percy Harvin had his best year as a pro, posting nearly 1309 yards and 8 touchdowns from scrimmage and ranking seventh among fantasy receivers. More important, Harvin played the entire season and injuries did not limit him. The Vikings learned in 2011 what the Falcons needed a few years to discover: Michael Jenkins is solid roster depth, but not a quality starter. Minnesota hopes to alleviate this problem with the addition of free agent Jerome Simpson from Cincinnati. Simpson had 50 catches, 725 yards, and four touchdowns in his first season of extended time in the starting lineup. He's a deep threat with excellent athleticism to adjust to the football in the air. He will serve a three-game suspension to begin the year, but upon his return, Simpson will be counted on as a complement to Harvin on the outside.

Backup WRs: Michael Jenkins has more experience than any other Vikings receiver and will likely start while Simpson serves his suspension. Jenkins, however, is nothing special. He will merely hold down the fort for the more talented Simpson. Perhaps the most promising new addition this year will be rookie wide receiver Greg Childs. The fourth-round pick has first-round ability when he's healthy. Childs stock dropped when he returned too early from a patella tendon injury suffered in 2010. Childs was, at his own estimation, playing at 70 percent of his athletic ability for most of the 2011 season. If his pro day was any indication, he's rounding into his pre-injury form and looked like he was on his way to being a draft-day steal before he blew out both knee tendons in camp. His career is in jeopardy.. Devin Aromashodu is a good perimeter receiver that lacks an inside game. Childs� teammate Jarius Wright is more of a slot option. Jenkins might be the safest play of the reserves. He has occasional drops and he lacks dynamic skill with the ball in his hands. But he is a big target that knows how to get open.

Tight Ends

Starters: Kyle Rudolph
Backups: John Carlson, Rhett Ellison, Allen Reisner

Kyle Rudolph had a solid rookie season, catching three touchdowns on 26 receptions. This year will be a truer test of Rudolph's role in the offense and his rapport with Christian Ponder. The Vikings acquired veteran John Carlson from Seattle as depth. Carlson missed 2011 with a shoulder injury. If healthy, he'll earn opportunities depending on Rudolph's progress. Carlson's first two seasons in the NFL were good enough (ranked 7th and 11th in 2008 and 2009) that he was a fantasy starter to begin his career. That changed under Pete Carroll's regime in 2010. Don't expect starter production unless Rudolph struggles. Rhett Ellison is more of a fullback. Schuler is more of a blocker and short-range option. Allen Reisner is a second-year player from Iowa with good hands, but lacking top-notch speed and size.

Place Kicker

Blair Walsh [R] : The new-look Vikings are young and cheap. Long snapper Cullen Loeffler and punter/holder Chris Kluwe survived the overhaul. Kicker Ryan Longwell did not, having been cut two weeks after the draft. His replacement, rookie Blair Walsh (Georgia), was drafted in the sixth round. Although he had a down senior year, Walsh was drafted on the strength of his sophomore and junior seasons and a strong showing at the Scouting Combine. His leg strength (on kickoffs) also factored into his selection and the release of Longwell. After two consecutive top ten rankings, the Vikings plummeted to 32nd in kicker scoring opportunities in 2010. They rebounded slightly to 22nd last year.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Percy Harvin, Brian Walters, Lorenzo Booker, Josh Robinson [R], Jarius Wright [R]

With a wealth of quality return men, the Vikings may end up spreading the ball around. WR Percy Harvin is a Pro Bowl caliber kick returner, but the team may decide to lessen the risk of injury with so many other quality options.

Punt Returners: Marcus Sherels, Josh Robinson [R], Jarius Wright [R]

Marcus Sherels handled every punt in 2011, though he fared better returning kickoffs. The Vikings added a pair of potential returners when they drafted rookie CB Josh Robinson and WR Jarius Wright. Robinson had the fastest 40 yard dash at the combine and would be an option to fill in for Harvin.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Matt Kalil [R], LG Charlie Johnson, C John Sullivan, RG Brandon Fusco, RT Phil Loadholt
Key Backups: G Geoff Schwartz, T Joe Berger, G Mark Asper

UPDATE: Former small-school prospect Brandon Fusco has stepped in for injured vet Geoff Schwartz. Fusco has impressed the coaches with his professionalism and the Vikings line might be better for the change in the long term. Overall this line is trending upward, from terrible to average. PRESEASON OUTLOOK: In the most recent draft, the Vikings used a high draft pick on Southern California left tackle Matt Kalil. Kalil is a tall and athletic pass protector and a relatively safe bet due to his brother Ryan already dominating with the Panthers. Kalil was more highly regarded than his older brother coming out of school; if we do the math on that, it's really good news for Vikings fans. With the addition of Kalil, Charlie Johnson can move back to a left guard role, where he should be more comfortable then he was last year, playing out of position at left tackle. Center John Sullivan is a stalwart on the inside and does a consistently good job. Right guard Geoff Schwartz is a free agent addition and should start right away. Schwartz is recovered from hip surgery in 2011, but he is known as a capable run blocker. Right tackle Phil Loadholt is another mauling warrior on the right side and when healthy does a good job opening holes for the Vikings' running attack. Swing tackle Joe Berger has decent athleticism and some starting experience. Offensive line coach Jeff Davidson is a well-regarded former player who was also an offensive coordinator with the Panthers. In terms of depth, Demarcus Love is an athletic possibility at swing tackle. Chris DeGeare is a run blocking specialist who should backup several spots. Undrafted center Quinton Saulsberry will be in competition with Brandon Fusco for backup center. This offensive line hasn't been great but they could get a lot better in a hurry. Should Kalil play at an All-Pro level, and the cohesion score rise (less upheaval), this line could conceivably be a Top 10 unit in future seasons.

Team Defense

The Vikings Def/ST, once a stalwart in this category, took a big hit last year, dropping down among the bottom half in terms of fantasy production. Their pass rush totaled a league high 50 sacks, but surprisingly the defense behind the monstrous onslaught, allowed a league high 34 passing TDs. The team only scored 1 TD on a kickoff return and 0 defensive scores, which also aided in their less than stellar fantasy totals last year. The presence of DE Jared Allen (22 sacks, 1 INT, 4 FF, 4 FR and 47 solo tackles) is not to be ignored when projecting the success for the 2012 squad. His presence alone gives the Vikings a chance to rebound this year. The return of CB Antoine Winfield (clavicle) will fill a huge hole that was exploited last year when he was placed on IR after just five games. First round pick, Harrison Smith should come in an start right away at Safety and make an impact that will also help the secondary recover from a horrible 2011 season. Another reason for optimism is the return of LB Jasper Brinkley (hip) who missed the entire 2011 season. If he can come in and be an anchor for the team's fairly strong LB corps and CB Antoine Winfield returns to form, this defense could be much better than last year and could exceed expectations as a team that has the ability to crack the Top 10.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Jared Allen, DE Brian Robison, DT Kevin Williams, DT Christian Ballard
Backups: DE Everson Griffen, DT Letroy Guion, DT Fred Evans, DE Nick Reed, DE De'Aundre Reed

Starting DL: The Vikings defense is led by Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen, who is arguably the best two-way defensive end in the league. In his eight-year career, Allen has averaged 46 solos, 10 assists, and 13 sacks per year. Last season, Allen racked up 22 sacks, which was just a half-sack short of the record. Allen is also incredibly durable, having only missed four games in his career. Lining up opposite Allen is defensive end Brian Robison, who replaced the departed Ray Edwards in the starting lineup.. Last season, Robison, in his first year as a starter, racked up 27 solos, 17 assists, and 8 sacks. Veteran Kevin Williams returns to anchor the middle of the defensive line. Williams, who missed the first two games last year due to a suspension, had a solid season with 37 total tackles and five sacks. With the departure of Remi Ayodele, the other starting defensive tackle spot is up for grabs. Letroy Guion is likely to get first crack at the starting job. Guion started three games last year, including the first two when Williams was suspended.

Backup DL: The Vikings do not have much depth on their defensive line, but one player they would like to see more out of is Everson Griffen. Griffen, who split time between defensive end and linebacker last season, had 25 total tackles and four sacks in limited playing time last year. Griffen is the only legitimate pass rusher among the Vikings' backups. De'Aundre Reed, who did not play as a rookie last year, will compete for playing time at defensive end. The Vikings like Reed's potential, but he has to show more consistency. Rookie Trevor Guyton, a seventh-round pick in this year's draft, will compete for a roster spot. Guyton spent most of his time at defensive tackle, but also played end on occasion. Christian Ballard returns as the key reserve at defensive tackle and will also get a shot at earning a starting spot. Veteran tackle Fred Evans provides much needed experience and depth for the Vikings.

Linebackers

Starters: SOLB Chad Greenway, MLB Jasper Brinkley, WOLB Erin Henderson
Backups: MLB Marvin Mitchell, OLB Larry Dean, OLB Solomon Elimimian, MLB Audie Cole

Starting LBs: The Vikings have made several changes at linebacker in the last couple of years, but the one constant that remains is veteran strong-side linebacker Chard Greenway. Greenway is one of the best all-around linebackers in the league and is also capable of playing on the weak side. Greenway, who missed his entire rookie season in 2006, has played in all 80 games since and have averaged 88 solos and 35 assists during that span. Lining up at weak-side linebacker is Erin Henderson, the brother of former Vikings' linebacker E.J. Henderson. Henderson, in his first full year as a starter, racked up 70 total tackles last season. Henderson is expected to be a three-down linebacker this season. With the departure of last year's starting middle linebacker E.J. Henderson, third-year player Jasper Brinkley has been penciled in as the starter at middle linebacker. Brinkley, who missed the entire 2011 season with an injury, will likely be a two-down linebacker this year.

Backup LBs: Much like their situation at defensive line, the Vikings lack depth at linebacker. Reserve defensive lineman Everson Griffen was expected to play some snaps at outside linebacker as he did last season, but he is now expected to play exclusively at defensive end. The Vikings signed veteran free agent Marvin Mitchell in the offseason and he is expected to be the primary backup to starting middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley. Mitchell is also a very good special teams player. Rookie Audie Cole, a seventh-round draft pick out of Boise State, will compete for playing time at linebacker, but will likely get the bulk of his playing time on special teams. Tyrone McKenzie, a former third-round draft pick of the New England Patriots, will compete for a roster spot along with Larry Dean and former Canadian Football League linebacker Solomon Elimimian.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Antoine Winfield, CB Chris Cook, SS Jamarca Sanford, FS Harrison Smith
Backups: CB Chris Carr, S Mistral Raymond, S Eric Frampton, CB Josh Robinson, CB Zackary Bowman

Starting DBs: The Vikings are making several changes in their secondary, but veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield will return at one of the starting spots. Winfield missed 11 games last season and has been plagued by injuries in recent years, but when healthy he has been a great run defender and solid in coverage. Winfield has averaged more than five solos per game in his career, which are exceptional numbers for a cornerback. The other starting spot is up for grabs. Should Chris Cook put his off-the-field problems behind him, he would probably be considered the favorite to earn the starting spot. The Vikings traded into the first round and selected Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith with the 29th overall pick. Smith has good size and speed and is capable of playing either safety spot, but is likely ticketed to be the starter at free safety this season. The other starting spot will likely be filled by Jamarca Sanford. He will have to hold off Mistral Raymond to keep the job.

Backup DBs: With longtime starting cornerback Cedric Griffin departing, there will be a battle for the starting cornerback spot opposite Winfield. Asher Allen was expected to compete for the job, but he abruptly retired in May. rookie Josh Robinson, a third-round draft pick, will also compete for the starting cornerback spot. Robinson, who ran a 4.33 40-yard-dash at the combine, is also a candidate to return punts. Veteran Chris Carr will compete for subpackage snaps and is a very good special teams player with return experience. Former Bears' cornerback Zackary Bowman has experience in the cover-2 defense and will compete for playing time. Mistral Raymond will compete with Sanford for a starting spot at safety, with the loser expected to be the key backup. Rookie Robert Blanton, who played cornerback in college, will play safety for the Vikings. He will compete for a backup spot with veteran Eric Frampton.

Last modified: 2012-09-02 20:17:51

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