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2018 Team Report: Minnesota Vikings


Starter: Kirk Cousins
Backup(s): Trevor Siemian, Kyle Sloter

Starting QB: The Vikings made one of the biggest splashes in NFL free agency, landing Kirk Cousins on a 3-year, $84 million deal. The Vikings look fully committed to Cousins moving forward as they let both Sam Bradford and Case Keenum walk this offseason. Cousins is entering his 7th season in the league and is coming off three straight as the starter in Washington. In those three seasons he never missed a game and threw for over 4,000 yards and had at least 25 passing touchdowns in that span. Cousins also had 13 rushing touchdowns over those three years with never fewer than four in a season as a starter. Cousins has finished the last two seasons as a top 5 ranked fantasy quarterback and now in Minnesota he will look to maintain that ranking and even exceed it if possible as he is surrounded by talented players in Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Dalvin Cook, and Kyle Rudolph.

Backup QB: The Vikings look good on paper with Kirk Cousins locked in as the starter, but we continue to learn that you need to have a backup quarterback that has some experience and can manage a game if the starter goes down for a game or two and that is what you get with Trevor Siemian. Siemian and the Broncos had a down year in 2017 which led to the Broncos parting ways and the Vikings were able to aquire him in a trade. Siemian has appeared in 25 games over the past two years and last year threw for 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 11 games.

Running Backs

Starter: Dalvin Cook
Backup(s): Latavius Murray, C.J. Ham, Mack Brown, Bishop Sankey, Roc Thomas [R], Kamryn Pettway [R], David Boone [R]

Starting RB: The reports are coming in positive on Dalvin Cook's recovery from a torn ACL in his left knee. He only played in four games as a rookie but was explosive in that short sample size. He rushed for 354 yards and a pair of touchdowns to go along with 11 receptions for 90 yards receiving. Cook has passed the six-month mark in his rehab and looks to be on track for the start of Training Camp. He will likely be a limited participant in practices and in minicamp. The four game sample size is hard to gage just how good Cook can be but looking at his 4.78 yards per carry to start his career has to make you excited for the potential upside here. He will be playing behind a good offensive line and with Cousins under center now and receiving options lined up all over the field, the running game has potential to open up and Cook will be a big part of that balanced attack on offense.

Backup RBs: With Dalvin Cook coming back from the ACL injury it is important to have a solid backup in place and that is exactly what you get with Latavius Murray. Murray proved that he can handle a high volume of touches when given the opportunity. Despite Cook starting 2017 ahead of Murray for the teams first four games, he still managed to finish as the 21st ranked fantasy running back. Murray ran for 842 yards and scored 8 touchdowns. Even with Cook ahead of him on the depth chart, he will demand a handful of carries each game and could be in line for the goal line work. Over his last two seasons (30 games), he has totaled 20 touchdowns, so those numbers alone will earn him some valuable touches. Beyond Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray it will be a battle for the third string role with C.J. Ham, Mack Brown, Bishop Sankey and rookie Roc Thomas. C.J. Ham would probably have the best shot at winning that role, as he appeared in all 16 games last year and he also contributes on special teams.


Wide Receivers

Starters: Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen
Backups: Kendall Wright, Laquon Treadwell, Tavarres King, Stacy Coley, Brandon Zylstra, Korey Robertson [R], Jeff Badet, Jake Wieneke [R], Cayleb Jones

Starting WRs: Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen make up one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL. Diggs put up a 64/849/8 in 14 games last year while Thielen played in all 16 games and posted a 91/1277/4 stat line. Both receivers had breakout years and look to continue to improve on the numbers with the addition of Kirk Cousins and a healthy Dalvin Cook in the back field. Diggs never had a game with less than four targets last year and he closed out the year with three straight games with touchdowns. Thielen was even more of a target hog in this offense as he saw 143 passes come his way and only had 3 games with less than 5 catches. In 2017 Diggs and Thielen combined for 238 targets for 155 receptions, 2,125 yards and 12 touchdowns. Combine that with Kirk Cousins 4000-plus yards and at least 25 touchdowns in each of the past three seasons, and you are looking at a very potent Vikings passing attack.

Backup WRs: Behind Diggs and Thielen you have Laquon Treadwell and Kendall Wright as the two names that stand out as the WR3 and WR4 targets in the offense. Behind those two names it looks like Tavarres King and Brandon Zylstra could be worth monitoring for roster spots. Treadwell has been linked as one of the bigger first round wide receiver busts over the past few years as the Vikings drafted him 23rd overall in 2016 and through his first 25 games he has a total of 21 receptions for 215 yards and 0 touchdowns. 2018 will be a prove it year for him and he will likely be given one more chance to contribute to this offense and improve on his skills. Kendall Wright was brought in from the Chicago Bears following a 59/614/1 season and will add a reliable WR3 for Cousins, and for that reason he should be able to make a big play here and there when the ball comes his way. Tavarres King is another free agent the Vikings brought in to add depth to the wide receiver core and in 8 games last season he caught 18 passes for 240 yards and 3 touchdowns and had a 2/70/2 game against the Eagles in Week 15. Brandon Zylstra is drawing comparisons to Adam Thielen and has the size to play at this level at 6'3" 220 lbs. He comes from the CFL, where in 2017 he led the league with 100 receptions which totalled 1,687 yards.

Tight Ends

Starters: Kyle Rudolph
Backups: David Morgan, Tyler Conklin [R], Blake Bell, Tyler Hoppes [R], Cedrick Lang

Kyle Rudolph is entering his 8th year in the league and has become one of the most trusted tight end names out there. His first four seasons he was up and down with injuries but over the past three seasons he has not missed a game. His touchdown volume has increased each year going from 5, 7, to 8 over the past three years and he is one of the main target options when the Vikings are in the red zone. Rudolph suffered an ankle injury from Week 14 through the NFC championship game, and had surgery in February to correct the issue. Behind Rudolph the Vikings have David Morgan who showed at least something in his second season with 10/95/1 stat line. They also drafted Tyler Conklin with the 157th pick who is an acrobatic pass catcher and blocker with a 6'4" 240-pound frame. Morgan looks to have the experience right now to back up Rudolph but it won't be long before Conklin takes over that backup role.

Place Kicker

Kai Forbath, Daniel Carlson [R]: The Vikings exorcised the demons from Blair Walsh's flameout as their kicker in 2016 and successfully replaced him with Kai Forbath, who didn't miss a kick in seven games that season. He followed that up with a solid 2017, tying for tenth in kicker scoring. Forbath did miss five extra point attempts and two field goals under 40 yards, so there is room for improvement. The Vikings took Daniel Carlson of Auburn, the top kicker on many boards, in the fifth round to create a full-blown kicker competition in camp. Carlson had the second-best conversion rate (13-of-21) on 50+ yard field goal attempts in NCAA history Kirk Cousins should keep this offense among the league's most productive, so Forbath or Carlson is worth consideration in the final round of your draft, and certainly should be atop your list of bye/injury/waiver kickers if he goes undrafted.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Marcus Sherels, Stacy Coley, Mike Hughes [R]

Marcus Sherels is mostly known for his work on punt returns, but in 2017 with no standout kickoff specialist to rely on, Sherels had the opportunity to handle those responsibilities, too. He acquitted himself rather well, but the Vikings would like to bring in more help to keep from burning him out. First-round pick Mike Hughes was an accomplished kick returner and can contribute here right away. He returned two kickoffs for scores last year at Central Florida and averaged 31.8 yards on 20 returns.

Punt Returners: Marcus Sherels, Mike Hughes [R]

In 2016, something remarkable happened for the Minnesota Vikings. Thanks to an injury, someone other than Marcus Sherels returned a punt for the franchise for the first time since 2010. Sherels ensured that this didn't become a habit; 39 punts were returned by the Vikings in 2017, and Sherels handled every one of them. Rookie Mike Hughes could figure in to this picture. He averaged 16.6 yards per punt return at Central Florida last year, including one return for a score.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Riley Reiff, LG Nick Easton, C Pat Elflein, RG Tom Compton, RT Mike Remmers Riley Reiff, Nick Easton, Pat Elflein, Tom Compton, Mike Remmers
Key Backups: Rashod Hill, Brian O'Neill, Danny Isidora, Colby Gossett

The left side of Riley Reiff at tackle and Nick Easton at guard are a powerful run blocking team. Easton was eating pancakes last season and the team hopes he can build on the success. Center Pat Elflein has become a fixture in the middle in only one season. Right tackle Mike Remmers is an effective blocker in both run and pass phases. New right guard Tom Compton started five games last year for the Chicago Bears and is a seven year vet originally from South Dakota who should fit well in the team culture. Rashod Hill is a versatile backup who could push Compton at guard. The team also drafted Brian O'Neill on the second day of the draft to one day take a tackle job. Overall this Vikings' offensive line begins the season as a mid-tier option.

Team Defense

The Vikings were an elite fantasy defense in 2016, only to fall well outside of the top 10-12 in most scoring formats in 2017. They should return to the top tier this year, or at least they are being drafted as if they will. A defense that was already strong at all three levels added Sheldon Richardson to the defensive line and drafted a top corner, Mike Hughes, in the first round. Hughes will also add punch to the return game. Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen are still only looking up at the Chargers duo at defensive end, Xavier Rhodes can hang with any shutdown corner in the league, and Eric Kendricks, Harrison Smith, and Anthony Barr add a gratuitous number of versatile playmakers to those cornerstones. The consensus might be baking in a bigger rebound than is called for, but the personnel warrants a pick in the top five fantasy defenses.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Danielle Hunter, DE Everson Griffen, DT Sheldon Richardson, NT Linval Joseph
Backups: DE Brian Robison, DE/DT Jaylen Holmes [R], DT Jaleel Johnson, NT Dylan Bradley

Starting DL: Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen are arguably the league's best defensive end tandem. Though Hunter's sack stats sagged from 12.5 to seven last year, the attention he garnered from opposing blockers freed up Griffen to generate his highest sack totals to date with 13. Hunter will be a free agent in 2019 and the team has expressed they want to get a long-term deal in place. The Vikings made a splash in free agency when they added former Jet and Seahawk Sheldon Richardson. They hope that Richardson and the already disruptive Linval Joseph can generate even more interior pressure and keep blockers occupied so that their talented defensive end tandem can wreak havoc on quarterbacks.

Backup DL: Brian Robison will retire after this year, leaving a void at the backup spot that the Vikings will need to fill in next year's free agency or draft. Jaleel Johnson will be entering his second year and the team is hoping he'll take the next steps toward becoming an eventual starter. His high motor and athleticism is what originally attracted Zimmer to Johnson in the 2017 Draft. Jaylen Holmes was drafted by the Vikings in the fourth round this year. He played both tackle and end at Ohio State, which gives the Vikings some versatility with his usage. They will likely endeavour to develop him as an interior pass rusher. Dylan Bradley is the most likely to win the backup nose tackle job at this time. The second year UDFA re-signed with the Vikings after spending most of last season on the practice squad.


Starters: SLB Anthony Barr, MLB Eric Kendricks, WLB Ben Gedeon
Backups: SLB Eric Wilson, MLB Kentrell Brothers, MLB Devante Downs [R], WLB Reshard Cliett

Starting LBs: In addition to needing to extend Danielle Hunter, the Vikings also wish to extend Anthony Barr. They exercised his fifth-year option last year, meaning he'll at least be with the team until the conclusion of the 2018 season. Barr improved his solo tackle total (52), but continued to be a disappointment in the sack column last season, logging only one. Eric Kendricks signed a 5-year, 50 million dollar extension with the Vikings shortly before the Draft and will remain the centerpiece of this linebacker group. The Vikings took Ben Gedeon in the fourth round of last year's Draft and will need him to step into the spot vacated by Emmanuel Lamur.

Backup LBs: Kentrell Brothers will have to serve a four game suspension to start the 2018 season due to a violation of the NFL's policy on performance enhancing drugs. The team may have to turn to Eric Wilson, a UDFA they signed last year, to be the backup during that span. They also may choose to turn to Reshard Cliett. A sixth-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans, Cliett has not appeared in any NFL games. The Vikings also will be without their seventh-round rookie selection Devante Downs early on because he is rehabbing from a knee injury he suffered in college. Downs played both running back and linebacker in high school and produced well for the Cal Bears before getting hurt in his senior year.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Trae Waynes, CB Xavier Rhodes, SS Andrew Sendejo, FS Harrison Smith
Backups: CB Mike Hughes [R], CB Horace Richardson, CB Alexander Mackenzie, SS Jayron Kearse, FS Anthony Harris, CB Holton Hill [R]

Starting DBs: Trae Waynes did show enough improvement last season that the Vikings are comfortable with him slotting into the starting spot opposite Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes was able to land a big payday and was extended up to the 2023 season. Though turning 31 this year, Andrew Sendejo does not have the tread on his tires of a typical NFL starting safety. Harrison Smith remains a Pro Bowl caliber player.

Backup DBs: The team used its first-round pick on corner Mike Hughes. Hughes needs work developing his game, but can serve as an excellent return option while he waits to crack the starting unit. The aggressive Alexander Mackenzie could fill the nickel role for the Vikings this season, but Terence Newman is back for his 16th season and he was still playing well last season. Jayron Kearse is best known for being the nephew of Titans pass rushing great Javon Kearse, but has continued to come on for this team in spot duty. Anthony Harris re-signed with the team. When asked about how he felt being back, he said, "I'm excited. I started out with Minnesota. They gave me an opportunity to display my talents. It's been a lot of hard work trying to get better and trying to find a way to be a contributor, so to get the opportunity to come back for another year is great." Holton Hill fell out of the draft because of off-field concerns, but physically and on tape, he graded as a second or early third-day pick and like Hughes could figure into the team's long-term plans.

Last modified: 2018-05-18 12:42:13