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2016 Team Report: Minnesota Vikings

Quarterbacks

Starter: Teddy Bridgewater (inj), Shaun Hill
Backup(s): Taylor Heinicke, Joel Stave (R)

Starting QB: Teddy Bridgewater led the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs last year playing in his second season in the NFL. He played all 16 games and passed for 3,231 yards with 14 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Bridgewater also contributed on the ground with 192 yards and three additional touchdowns. The numbers weren't the greatest for Bridgewater last season but with no true go to target in the receiving game he acted more as a game manager and spread the ball around as best he could. In Week 15 against the Bears Bridgewater showed a breakthrough in offensive production as he went 17 for 20 in passing for 231 passing yards and 4 passing touchdowns to go along with another rushing touchdown. it was only the third game of the season that he scored multiple touchdowns and if you take away that single game performance the other 15 games he had a total of 12 touchdowns. Unfortunately, he dislocated his knee and tore his ACL in practice on August 30, and he will be out for the season. Longtime backup and sometimes starter Shaun Hill will pilot the Vikings offense this year. The conservative attack will take a small hit without Bridgewater, but if the years have been kind to Hill, he has shown the ability to keep an offense viable in the past and should do it again this year.

Backup QB: The Vikings didn't have to use their backup quarterback much in 2015 as Shaun Hill attempted just 7 passes in the backup role on the season. He saw a combined 28 offensive snaps on the season completing just two passes for 15 yards. Just one year earlier while playing in St. Louis, Hill appeared in nine games and threw for 1,657 yards and 8 touchdowns. He has plenty of experience as a backup QB in the NFL as this will be his 11th season in this role and if Teddy Bridgewater was ever to go down for a game or two, Hill would be ready to fill the void. Taylor Heinicke was a star in his college days and now entering his second season in the NFL he looks to lock down the third string duties for the Vikings.

Running Backs

Starter: Adrian Peterson
Backup(s): Jerick McKinnon, Matt Asiata, Jhurell Pressley (R), Brandon Ross (R), C.J. Ham (R)
Fullback(s): Zach Line, Blake Renaud

Starting RB: Adrian Peterson is now entering his tenth season in the NFL and for some running backs that would not be the best of news, but for Peterson he continues to defy all logic at the position. Peterson finished 2015 as the second best running back in the league, rushing for 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns and picking up another 222 yards receiving on 30 receptions. Peterson answered all the questions after missing all but one game in 2014 as he took the Vikings on his back and into the playoffs. The 1,485 rushing yards were the third most in his nine season so far and heading into 2016 it looks like the Vikings are all in on Peterson once again for a heavy workload as he has showed no signs of slowing down.

Backup RBs: Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata are two very capable backup running backs in the NFL. McKinnon was a nice complement to Peterson in 2015, as he rushed for 271 yards and a pair of touchdowns while making the most of his carries with a 5.2 yards per carry average. McKinnon also caught 21 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown. Matt Asiata didn't see the same volume as McKinnon but still did rush the ball 29 times for 112 yards and caught 19 passes for 132 yards but failed to find the end zone in 2015. Back in 2014 when Peterson was serving his suspension, Asiata stepped up in a big way with 10 total touchdowns so finding the end zone is no big secret for Asiata. The Vikings also have three rookie running back on the roster with Jhurell Pressley, Brandon Ross, and C.J. Ham but it is Jhurell Pressley that would be the one to watch out of the bunch as he was a very productive running back in college for New Mexico as he averaged 6.9 yards per carry and 35 touchdowns in his four year college career.

Fullback: Zach Line was not only the lead blocker for Adrian Peterson in 2015, he also contributed here and there on offense. Line touched the ball on 12 times (6 rushes, 6 receptions) but out of those opportunities he happened to score 3 touchdowns (2 rushing, 1 receiving). The Full Back position is not one that is talked about much anymore in the NFL but Line happens to be one that holds some value at the position.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Stefon Diggs, Charles Johnson, Jarius Wright
Backups: Laquon Treadwell (R), Cordarrelle Patterson, Mortiz Boehringer (R), Adam Thielen, Isaac Freuchte, Terrell Sinkfield, Marken Michel (R), Troy Stoudermire (R)

Starting WRs: Stefon Diggs was a pleasant surprise for the Vikings in his rookie season as he stepped up as the leading receiver with 52 receptions, 720 yards and 4 touchdowns in 13 games. The 5th round draft pick showed promise early in the preseason and throughout training camp as he out played Charles Johnson who was suppose to be the rising star in the WR group. Last year it was suppose to be Mike Wallace, Charles Johnson and Cordarrelle Patterson as the starting WRs but it just didn't work out that way as all three were out played by Diggs. The Vikings will also have Jarius Wright back for his 5th season with the team and he is coming off a season were he couldn't find the end zone on his 34 receptions and 442 receiving yards. There was a lot of pressure on Charles Johnson to be a breakout player in 2015 and it just didn't work out for the 2nd year receiver. He appeared in 11 games and only caught 9 passes for 127 yards on the season for one of the bigger disappointments of 2015. He has been better this summer and should enter the year as the starter over Treadwell while the rookie develops.

Backup WRs: as a 4th or 5th WR in the offense and with his 6'2" frame he should be able to find a role in the offense.The Vikings added to their WR depth with taking 6'2" Laquon Treadwell out of Mississippi as their 1st round pick and 23rd overall selection in the draft. Treadwell adds a nice balance of size to the speedy Diggs and Wright and most likely will be able to contribute right away. Cordarrelle Patterson's career has been in a downward spiral ever since his fine rookie season 3 years ago. Patterson became a special teams player in 2015 as he only had 2 passes thrown to him on offense all season long. One of the feel good stories from the 2016 NFL Draft had to be the Vikings selecting WR Moritz Boehringer out of Germany. Boehringer has never played a down of College Football but has all the skills and tools that an NFL WR needs. The Vikings took him in the 6th round because of his breakaway speed, quickness, and catching ability. He will be an intriguing name to watch this offseason throughout Training Camp and Preseason.

Tight Ends

Starters: Kyle Rudolph
Backups: Mycole Pruitt, Rhett Ellison, Kyle Carter (R), David Morgan (R), Brian Leonhardt

Kyle Rudolph played a full 16 game season for only the second time in his 5 year career in 2015. He also had a personal best in receiving yards with 495 and added 49 receptions and 5 touchdowns. Although the Vikings have some nice depth at the Tight End position with Mycole Pruitt and Rhett Ellison, the starting role belongs to Rudolph and he has potential to continue to develop a strong relationship with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Rudolph is not a top ten TE fantasy option but he is a key player in the Vikings offense as a whole. MyCole Pruitt caught 10 passes for 89 yards as a rookie and Rhett Ellison had 11 receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown in his 4th season with the Vikings.

Place Kicker

Blair Walsh: Walsh had a rough preseason, and some wondered how strong his position was with the team. Mid-season that question was answered, when Walsh got a four-year extension, including over five million dollars guaranteed. Walsh had a solid season, with 34-of-39 field goals converted, but he did miss two kicks under 40 yards and made only 33-of-37 extra points. His inconsistency ended the Vikings season, with Walsh missing a 27-yard field goal that would have beaten the Seahawks. Still, the Vikings brought in no competition for him, and they are moving back indoors, so Walsh is a solid pick as one of the kickers in the 6-10 range, assuming he is having a good summer and not letting his playoff lowlight get the best of him.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Cordarrelle Patterson

A disappointment as a receiver, Cordarrelle Patterson remains one of the most dangerous kickoff returners in the NFL and a mainstay on Minnesota's special teams.

Punt Returners: Marcus Sherels

When most teams are rotating in a cast of undrafted free agents to handle return duties, the Vikings believe in the power of stability. Marcus Sherels has handled every single one of the club's punt returns... for the past five years. He's a good bet to make it six straight in 2016.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Matt Kalil, LG Alex Boone, C John Sullivan, RG Brandon Fusco, RT Andre Smith
Key Backups: T.J. Clemmings, Mike Harris, Willie Beavers, Joe Berger

The Vikings have invested a great amount of resources on improving their offensive line this season. At left guard, the team snagged former All-Pro Alex Boone from the 49ers. He can be an impact blocker in the run game and in fact, all of the Vikings' starters are proficient run blockers. Left tackle Matt Kalil experienced a bounce back season last year and could be living up to his lofty draft expectations. Center John Sullivan is among the better in the league, when healthy. If he goes down again, Joe Berger steps in, and that's a sizable drop off in talent. On the right side, Brandon Fusco is a good starter and the right tackle position is a competition between free agent addition Andre Smith, and last year's draft pick in T.J. Clemmings. Smith is a man mountain. The Vikings look to be a smash mouth running team in 2016 and the offensive line, if healthy, should be a big part of executing that plan. Tier Ranking: Top Tier.

Team Defense

Under defensive coordinator George Edwards, the Vikings were among the top 10 in scoring defense and sacks, but only middling in takeaways, which put them around the D/ST7-10 range, depending the scoring system. Minnesota also has Cordarrelle Patterson, who accounted for two more kickoff return touchdowns, and they scored three times on defense for the second straight season. They appear to be a team on the rise on both sides of the ball, with reinforcements on the offensive line and in the passing game arriving in the offseason, and depth at every level of the defense due to the strong drafting. They are often going around the D/ST6-8 range in early drafts, and with a season opener against the Titans, they are one of the D/ST's to target if you want to take one before the final round, but after the top five go off of the board. If they start hot on the road, they will be a good Week 2 start when they open their new stadium against the Packers.

Defensive Line

Starters: DT Linval Joseph, DT Sharrif Floyd, DE Everson Griffen, DE Brian Robison
Backups: DT Tom Johnson, DT Kendrick Ellis, DT Shamar Stephen, DE Danielle Hunter, DE Scott Crichton

Starting DL: The Vikings are a defense on the rise under third year head coach Mike Zimmer. In 2015 they were middle of the pack in many defensive categories while finishing number seven in sacks with 43. Defensive line was a strength for Minnesota in 2015 and they will return all four starters. Linval Joseph is a mountain at 6'4" 329 pounds. He is the anchor of the run defense and will usually contribute 3-4 sacks as well. Statistically Joseph was on the way to a big 2015 before a week twelve injury shortened his season. Even so he finished with a career best of 43 solo tackles. Sharrif Floyd starts next to Joseph on the inside. The 2013 first round pick is an athletic 311 pounds and has been solid over his three years in the league, but has not yet lived up to his draft status. The organization expects that Floyd's best football is in front of him. Everson Griffen has become one of the league's premier three down defensive ends. Since taking over as starter in 2014 he has recorded 22.5 sacks, batted 7 passes and forced a pair of fumbles. Griffen is a strong run defender as well and a player who rarely comes off the field for more than a breather here and there. Brian Robison is the starter opposite Griffen, at least for now. He is a good but not great pass rusher with a career best of 9 sacks and a career average (as a starter) of just under 6. At 259 pounds he will struggle against the run at times. Robison shared time with rookie Danielle Hunter last season and at age 33 may soon become the third man in the rotation.

Backup DL: The Vikings like to rotate a third player at both the tackle and end positions. For the past two seasons Tom Johnson has been the third man on the inside. At 288 pounds he is a bit smaller than the starters but Johnson has an extra gear in terms of pass rush that neither Joseph nor Floyd possess. Johnson sees much of his playing time in passing situations and has contributed 12 sacks over the past two seasons. Kendrick Ellis and Shamar Stephen are serviceable players who fill out the depth chart at tackle. Neither are likely to get on the field much unless there is a significant injury in front of them.

Linebackers

Starters: MLB Eric Kendricks, SLB Anthony Barr, WLB Chad Greenway
Backups: MLB/WLB Kentrell Brothers [R], SLB Travis Lewis, OLB Edmond Robinson, SLB Stephen Weatherly [R]

Starting LBs: Over the past two seasons Minnesota has transformed their linebacker position from a patchwork mess to a team strength. The process began in 2014 with the addition of strong side backer Anthony Barr and was followed last year when the team landed middle backer Eric Kendricks in round two. In these two young guns the Vikings have excellent three down players who will be at the core of their defense for the next several years. Barr is a playmaker who will contribute heavily in the big play departments. In his two seasons he has accumulated 7.5 sacks, 9 turnovers, 10 batted passes and a score. Barr's totals might be even better had he not missed six games with injury over his short career. Kendricks stepped right into the lineup as a rookie making a strong impression. The organization is counting on him to make more big plays in his second season but no one in Minnesota doubts he is the long term answer. Ten year veteran Chad Greenway fills out the starting lineup. For several years he was the Minnesota's best linebacker. He may not be that player at this point in his career but Greenway is still capable on the field and a leader in the locker room. He was relegated to two down duties much of last year and will likely have the same role in 2016.

Backup LBs: When the Vikings traded Gerald Hodges in the middle of last season it left them short on depth. The situation has been well addressed this offseason. Minnesota added five year veteran Travis Lewis via free agency. They then drafted Kentrell Brothers and Stephen Weatherly in the fifth and seventh rounds respectively. Brothers is a bit undersized at six feet even, but was a production machine at Missouri where he averaged almost 13 tackles a game in 2015. He is expected to contribute on special teams as a rookie but may be the eventual replacement for Greenway. Weatherly is a project but his ability as a pass rusher may get him on the field in some sub packages early on.

Defensive Backs

Starters: SS Michael Griffin, FS Harrison Smith, CB Xavier Rhodes, CB Captain Munnerlyn, CB Terence Newman
Backups: SS Andrew Sendejo, FS Antone Exum, CB Trae Waynes, CB Mackensie Alexander [R], CB Marcus Sherels

Starting DBs: The Minnesota pass defense finished in the middle of the pack last season in terms of both yards allowed and interceptions. The team continued to add talent at the third level this offseason. With the free agent addition of veteran Michael Griffin they hope to solidify the safety position. Griffin has worked at both free and strong safety over his nine years with the Titans. He will likely be inserted at strong with Harrison Smith entrenched at free. Griffin is not a particularly physical safety but is a dependable tackler with the ability to contribute in the big play department. Over his career he has accounted for 38 turnovers and 7 sacks. Much of his big play production however, came early in his career while working at free safety. When healthy Harrison Smith is one of the league's top playmakers at the safety position. His four year career has produced 17 turnovers (4 returned for scores), 5.5 sacks and 26 broken up passes. He has the size to match up with the leagues big physical receivers, the speed to run with the fast ones and the football IQ to be in the right place all the time. The only concern with Smith has been his penchant for being banged up. He has missed eleven games over the past three seasons including three last year. So long as both he and Griffin remain healthy the Vikings will have one of the leagues better safety tandems. The organization has collected plenty of talent at the corner position. In fact it is hard to say for sure how the starting lineup will look come opening day. Coach Zimmer brought Terence Newman from Dallas to Cincinnati with him and now the two are together in Minnesota. Even at age 37 Newman jumped right into the lineup last year. He will be 38 in September and the team has some good young talent waiting in the wings so Newman may see his role reduced. Xavier Rhodes has been somewhat of a disappointment since being drafted in the first round in 2013. He has been a starter for most of his three seasons with the team but has yet to fully live up to expectations, particularly in terms of making big plays. Rhodes career to date (45 games) have produced a total of 2 interceptions. The Vikings picked up the fifth year option on his rookie contract but this could be a make or break year for him in the Zimmer defense which is predicated on taking the ball away. Captain Munnerlyn is projected to hold one of the starting spots come opening day, though he may end up the team's nickel corner.

Backup DBs: The Vikings are not hurting for depth at corner. In 2015 first round pick Trae Waynes and rookie second round selection Mackensie Alexander they have a pair of talented young guns who will be pushing for playing time. Waynes saw action on a limited basis as a rookie. With the year of experience under his belt the coaching staff hopes he will step up big in 2016. The selection of Alexander was a bit puzzling. The team is looking to add more big play ability/production in the secondary but Alexander had no interceptions in his two years as a starter for Clemson. He has decent size, excellent speed, great work ethic and is highly intelligent. Some scouts excuse the lack of statistical production as a showing of respect by opponents who simply did not throw his way often. At some point in the not too distant future Waynes and Alexander could be among team's three starters. Andrew Sendejo started at strong safety last season and could put up a fight for the job this summer. He has plenty of game experience over his three seasons as a pro but has shown the ability to be little more than a solid veteran backup. Sendejo will likely compete with third year man Antone Exum to be the team's third safety.

Last modified: 2016-08-30 23:02:57