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2017 Team Report: Minnesota Vikings
Offensive PhilosophyThe Vikings already ran a high-percentage short passing game, but when an injury to Teddy Bridgewater forced them to acquire Sam Bradford right before the season, the 2016 Vikings took that to an extreme; Bradford set an NFL record for completion percentage, but the Vikings were one of three teams to average fewer than 10 yards per completion. With another year in the system, expect the passing game to open up a little bit more in 2017, though the acquisition of rookie Dalvin Cook shows a desire not to stray too far from the safe, run-first ball-control offense they've run in recent years.
QuarterbacksStarter: Sam Bradford
Backup(s): Teddy Bridgewater (inj), Case Keenum Starting QB: Teddy Bridgewater had everything lined up for him to have a great 2016 season and some were ever picking the Vikings as a dark horse Super Bowl contender and the worst case scenario happened for both Bridgewater and the Vikings as he suffered a gruesome torn ACL injury before the season even started. The Vikings knowing the teams situation went full tilt and went for it with trading away the teams future 1st Round pick for Eagles QB Sam Bradford. At the time many felt that the Vikings gave up too much for Bradford as he has also dealt with a history of injuries. Bradford stepped right in from day one with the Vikings and lead them to an 8-8 season with 3,877 passing yards and 20 touchdown passes and only 5 interceptions. Bradford will be the guy once again this season as Bridgewater is still recovering from his serious ACL tear. The most impressive part of Bradford's season last year was his passing rate of 71.6% as he completed 395 our of 552 passes. Backup QB: If Teddy Bridgewater starts the season on the PUP list for the first six weeks of the season, the Vikings retain his rights without using the fifth-year option. Add the fact that Sam Bradford is due $17 million in 2017 and there have been no talks of a contract extension the quarterback battle of Bradford and Bridgewater could be interesting near the end of the year. There is no time table for Bridgewater right now as he suffered a torn ACL and a dislocated knee and the Vikings have been rather quiet on his recovery. With Bridgewater's recovery being up in the air, the Vikings went ahead and signed Case Keenum from the LA Rams. Keenum's career has been underwhelming so far in his first four seasons in the league. He served as a backup in Houston for two seasons and again for Los Angeles for two more seasons. He does have NFL experience and if he is called upon to make a spot start here and there that is his best case scenario. Last year he threw for 2,201 yards and threw for 9 touchdowns in 11 games for the Rams. Bradford has a history of missing games so the opportunity might be there for Keenum to start a game or two.
Running BacksStarter: Dalvin Cook (R), Latavius Murray
Backup(s): Jerick McKinnon, C.J. Ham
Fullback(s): Starting RB: No rookie landed in a better spot than Dalvin Cook did this season. Cook goes to a well coached Vikings team that are strong on offense and defense and are accustomed to overcoming adversity. Cook cost the Vikings a 2nd Round pick but that was much cheaper than what the Jaguars paid for Fournette and both running backs have a similar skill set. Cook was projected to be a first round pick but fell to the Vikings and could have some extra motivation because of it. Cook has been dynamic for Florida State the last two years rushing for 1,691 and 1,765 yards respectfully with 19 rushing touchdowns each season. He also has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield as he caught 33 passes in 2016 for 488 yards and a touchdown. Cook will improve the Vikings running game with his fresh legs this season and it will be interesting if his 40 total touchdowns during his last two years in college influences what he can do in his rookie season in the NFL. He knows how to find the end zone and chasing double digit touchdowns in his rookie season could be in the mix. On top of the Vikings drafting Dalvin Cook they added Latavius Murray from the Raiders who is coming off a 788 rushing yards and 12 touchdown season. Murray has been dealing with an ankle injury but is hopeful to be ready by the time camp starts and should be in a battle with Cook for playing time. Murray signed a three-year contract with the Vikings this offseason and appeared to be their primary ball carrier but that got turned upside down when the Vikings invested in Cook. Backup RBs: To complicate things even more, there is Jerick McKinnon in the backfield as well and he will surely demand touches especially in third down situations. McKinnon is coming off a 539 rushing yard, 2 rushing touchdown, 43 reception, 255 receiving yards and 2 more receiving touchdown season. He has shown that he can do a little bit of everything and even behind both Cook and Murray he will find away to get the ball into his hands. Fullback:
Wide ReceiversStarters: Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen
Backups: Laquon Treadwell, Michael Floyd (susp), Jarius Wright, Rodney Adams [R], Stacy Coley [R] Starting WRs: The Vikings top two wide receivers last year were Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Not the biggest of names in the league but two guys that give it their all on every play. Thielen had a breakout year with 69/967/5 line on 92 targets. He finished the season as the 27th best ranked WR for fantasy purposes and showed some great hands as he rarely would drop a pass. On the other side you have Stefon Diggs who also had a solid season with an 84/903/3 statline on 112 targets (in 14 games). Diggs coming out party was in Week 2 against the Packers where he caught 9 of 11 targets for 182 yards and a touchdown. Look for the duo of Thielen and Diggs to pick up where they left off in 2016 and hopefully a third WR can step up this season with the departure of Cordarrelle Patterson. Backup WRs: The Vikings had high hopes for Laquon Treadwell as they used their 1st round pick on him a year ago but he struggled in camp and didn't have the trust of the Vikings coaching staff. He is the guy to look for this year for the WR3 spot on the roster but will have to show major improvements early in Training Camp. He will be competing with free agent signing Michael Floyd. Floyd's career bottomed out when he was released by Arizona after another alcohol-related arrest, but the Vikings brought him home to Minnesota and he has a real chance to be an outside wide receiver starter and earned some of the incentives built into his one year, 1.5 million dollar deal. The WR3, WR4, and WR5 spots are all up for grabs for the Vikings this season and leading the charge will be Treadwell along with Jarius Wright. Wright has been just a guy in the Vikings offense over his 5-year career and only played in 8 games last year catching just 11 passes for 67 yards and a touchdown. Just like Adam Thielen broke out last year out of almost nowhere, there is potential for the likes of Rodney Adams, Stacy Coley, Isaac Freuchte, Cayleb Jones, or Mitch Mathews to have a strong Training Camp and crack the 53-man roster.
Tight EndsStarters: Kyle Rudolph
Backups: David Morgan, Blake Bell Kyle Rudolph finished the 2016 season as the 3rd ranked fantasy tight end. He did so quietly and posted the best numbers of his career at 83/840/7. The chemistry between Bradford and Rudolph was real as he was targeted 132 times which is far and above more than any other year in Rudolph's 6 year career. Rudolph is a big time red zone target for Bradford and with Bradford having to dive into the Vikings offense with such a short learning curve he instantly had a connection with his TE and continued it through out the season.
Place KickerKai Forbath: After Blair Walsh lost the 2015 wild card matchup with the Seahawks by missing a chip shot field goal, the Vikings showed confidence by not bringing in any competition for him. He was shaky early in 2016 and eventually was let go by the team. Kai Forbath replaced Walsh and promptly made all 15 of his field goal attempts, but he did miss three of 14 extra point attempts. Forbath has no guaranteed money and the team signed Marshall Koehn in the offseason. It should be an open competition, and one we should monitor, as the Vikings routinely gave Walsh 35 or more field goal attempts before last season. Sam Bradford should keep this as an offense that bends but doesn't break the defense in the red zone, which means "Minnesota kicker" has fantasy value.
Kick and Punt ReturnersKick Returners: Marcus Sherels Since his rookie year in 2013, Cordarrelle Patterson has been one of the best and hardest-working kickoff returners in the NFL. The problem is that four years with one man handling all the work left the bullpen thin behind him after he left for Oakland this offseason. The last time Minnesota lost a top-notch do-everything kickoff returner was when Percy Harvin was injured in 2012, and Sherels was the man to pick up the slack over the last half of that season. Punt Returners: Marcus Sherels, Adam Thielen Heading into last season, Marcus Sherels was the only player to return a punt for Minnesota since Greg Camarillo in 2010. An injury in week 11 brought this remarkable streak to an end, but Sherels returns in 2017 ready to begin another.
Offensive LineProjected Starters: LT Riley Reiff, LG Nick Easton, C Pat Elflein [R] RG Joe Berger, RT Mike Remmers
Key Backups: Jeremiah Sirles, Danny Isidora [R], Rashod Hill, Aviante Collins The Vikings made big moves in free agency to shore up their offensive line by bringing in Riley Reiff to play left tackle and Mike Remmers to play right tackle. While neither are elite talents, both are established vets who should stabilize the line right away. Adding these players helps the whole line. The left guard and right guard situations are settled, with Joe Berger and Nick Easton competing at both spots. The team also drafted Pat Elflein and Danny Isidora and those two could factor into the mix early in their careers. Overall this Vikings' offensive line still has uncertainty along the interior but they can be a mid-tier unit if they sort out the starters (and the free agent tackles live up to billing).
Team DefenseFor a while in 2016, the Vikings D/ST was as valuable to fantasy teams as any offensive player. The trade for Sam Bradford kept the ship afloat after Teddy Bridgewater went down in practice, and a strong defense at all three levels created game-changing plays and fantasy stats. The D/ST slowed down in the second half of the season and gave up the #1 perch to the Chiefs, but they are still being drafted in the top five of 2017 drafts. In the offseason, they lost slot corner Captain Munnerlyn to the Panthers, but the team is four deep at corner thanks to a strong draft investment in the position. Some kick return punch is lost with the departure of Cordarrelle Patterson, but Marcus Sherels is one of the best punt returners in the league and he's back after breaking two for touchdowns last year. The defense did stay healthy and the ball bounced their way a lot last year, so while they showed the upside to be worth a top five pick, don't reach for them as the first or second D/ST off of the board based on last year's numbers.
Defensive LineStarters: DE Danielle Hunter, DE Everson Griffen, DT Tom Johnson, NT Linval Joseph
Backups: DE Brian Robison, DE/DT Datone Jones (inj), DT Jaleel Johnson [R], NT Shamar Stephen, DL Stephen Weatherly, DL Tashawn Bower Starting DL: Hunter exploded onto the scene last season, recording 12.5 sacks and 56 total tackles in part-time duty. He recently was promoted to the starting spot and figures to play eighty percent of the snaps. Tom Johnson is the projected defensive tackle starter at present because of a complication with Sharrif Floyd's meniscus surgery that left his quad nerve unable to fire. Floyd's career hangs in the balance, so the team must hope for the best but plan as if Johnson will be the starter. Johnson himself is coming off a torn hamstring and with their depth at the position razor thin, the Vikings hope to have him fully healthy by the beginning of the season. Linval Joseph remains one of the most disruptive interior forces in the game and is signed with the team through the 2018 season. Backup DL: The Vikings play a rotation at DE, so "backups" Brian Robison and Datone Jones should see significant snaps. Robison logged a solid 7.5 sacks in Mike Zimmer's prolific system last year. Robison announced his intent to retire at the end of the 2018 season, so there will be increased opportunity for the young defensive ends on the roster in the not-too-distant future. Jones comes over from the Green Bay Packers after signing a one year, $3,750,000 contract. He plans to put on some weight to play defensive tackle but has the versatility to play defensive end if needed. Jaleel Johnson is a welcome addition to a thinning backup corps. Though he was drafted in the fourth round, there are some scouts that felt he was more of a second-round talent. His high motor and athleticism in spades fit the mold of the type of three-technique linemen Zimmer likes to bring into the fold. Stephen Shamar ended up playing some snaps at other positions due to injuries last year, but nose tackle is clearly his best fit.
LinebackersStarters: SLB Anthony Barr, MLB Eric Kendricks, WLB Emmanuel Lamur
Backups: LB Eric Wilson, MLB Ben Gedeon [R], WLB Kentrell Brothers Starting LBs: The Vikings exercised Anthony Barr's fifth-year option, meaning he'll be with the team at least until the end of the 2018 season. Barr's 2016 season was largely considered disappointing after he managed just two sacks and generated only one turnover. Yet, he still managed to make the Pro Bowl. Kendricks continued to produce at a high level, logging over 100 combined tackles, 2.5 sacks, and a pair of turnovers. Longtime contributors Chad Greenway and Audie Cole have departed, leaving Emmanuel Lamur the unquestioned starter for the first time in his career. Backup LBs: This group is unproven, but there is potential. Zimmer said of Edmund Robinson last year, "He's powerful when he takes on a block. He's fast. He's quick-twitched. He's a young guy that continues to develop. ... He has come an awful long way, and he keeps getting better every day. I think he has a chance to be a really good linebacker someday. It may not be now, but he's a great worker and a good kid who studies hard.'' The Vikings took Ben Gedeon in the fourth round of this year's Draft. A strong showing at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, paired with a productive college career, bodes well for the young prospect. Brothers was relegated to special teams work in his rookie year, so it remains to be seen if he will get a chance to contribute in a meaningful way long-term.
Defensive BacksStarters: CB Terence Newman, CB Xavier Rhodes, SS Andrew Sendejo, FS Harrison Smith
Backups: CB Trae Waynes, CB Mackenzie Alexander, SS Jayron Kearse, FS Anthony Harris, DB Marcus Sherels, DB Antone Exum, CB Tramaine Brock Starting DBs: Newman turns 39 this year and will be the oldest starting defensive player in the NFL. He re-signed on a one year deal worth 3.25 million and provides a buffer for Trae Waynes, who has been slower to develop than the Vikings had hoped. Rhodes is presumably one season away from earning a big payday after getting a Pro Bowl nod and recording five interceptions, over 50 tackles, and 11 passes defended. Once a street free agent who turned to the UFL for playing time, Sendejo has taken the long road to NFL relevance. He competed with long-time Titan Michael Griffin for the starting spot last year and won the competition. He didn't disappoint, accounting for over 60 tackles, two interceptions, and two fumble recoveries. Harrison Smith remains a gold standard at the free safety position, but did struggle at times due to a nagging ankle injury that he played through last season. Backup DBs: Trae Waynes is in a make-or-break year of sorts, needing to develop quickly behind Newman and prove he was worth the high first-round capital the Vikings paid to acquire him in 2015. The aggressive Alexander Mackenzie should fill the nickel role for the Vikings this season after pushing for it last season. At this point in his career, Jayron Kearse is best known for being the nephew of Titans pass rushing great Javon Kearse. A seventh-round pick last year, the Vikings got surprising special teams contributions from Kearse, who appeared in all 16 regular season contests. Anthony Harris did get three starts last season due to the injuries of Harrison Smith, but his play did not especially stand out. Last modified: 2017-09-05 12:49:29