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2010 Team Report: Minnesota Vikings

Quarterbacks

Starter: Brett Favre
Backup(s): Tarvaris Jackson, Sage Rosenfels

Starting QB: Oh stop asking. He's coming back. You know he is. He just won't have to un-retire this season. The impact that Favre had on the Vikings last season was flat out amazing. They were absolutely unbeatable at points last season. He turned Visanthe Shiancoe into a double-digit TD tight end and Sidney Rice into a fantasy stud. The last time Favre threw for more than 4200 yards was 1998. 33 TD Passes? 1997. Seven INTs? Career best since becoming a starter. He was the No. 3 fantasy QB last season. Why wouldn't he come back? When Favre returns, expect another solid season from him. He probably won't have a career low-interception type of season, but another 4,000+ yards and 30+ TDs year is well within reach. Especially with a training camp to work with his team.

Backup QB: Tarvaris Jackson saw limited playing time last season when the Vikings had put their opponents away early. He showed improved poise and decision making, and the Vikings saw enough to bring him back for this season. Assuming Favre returns, Jackson will see spot duty for most of the season, and will be a handcuff draft pick at best. Sage Rosenfels will have even less value if Favre returns as the starter. In the unlikely event that Favre retires before the season starts, Rosenfels and Jackson will probably battle it out for the starting job. Jackson would have the edge because he's the guy that Minnesota wants for the future, but the Vikings will go with whoever gives them the best chance to win.

Running Backs

Starter: Adrian Peterson
Backup(s): Toby Gerhart (R), Albert Young, Darius Reynaud
Fullback(s): Jeff Dugan

Starting RB: Despite having almost 400 yards rushing less in 2009 than in 2008, Peterson finished as the No. 2 fantasy back in the league. He became a more versatile back, doubling his receptions and posted a career best 18 rushing TDs. Peterson's improvement made Chester Taylor expendable, and Peterson is now the most experienced back on the team. Look for Peterson to put up top tier fantasy numbers again this season, and he will be taken in the first three picks of almost every redraft league. Rookie Toby Gerhart will probably steal a few carries this season, but he shouldn't have a big impact on Peterson's numbers. The biggest challenge to Peterson's stats may be the success of the Vikings in general. The Vikings are committed to resting him in the fourth quarter if the game is well in hand, and you can expect them to do it again in 2010.

Backup RBs: Toby Gerhart should slide right into the role that Chester Taylor played last season: stealing a few carries from Adrian Peterson during the first three quarters, and then grinding it out in the fourth after the Vikings have built a solid lead. This gives him some upside as a handcuff, but it still means that he's Peterson's backup with limited upside. Albert Young had a few carries last season, and you can expect much of the same again in 2010. Unless Peterson goes down to injury, both Gerhart and Young will not be worth starting in any fantasy league. Darius Reynaud moved from WR to RB this offseason, but his main function is to return punts for Minnesota.

Fullback: The Viking fullback position is more of an H-Back/TE type of setup and is primarily used for blocking. Jeff Dugan did see a few goal line receptions for TDs last season, but he still finished the year with only six total receptions. He might see a little more playing time this season, but he isn't going to put up fantasy points with any consistency.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Sidney Rice, Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin
Backups: Greg Lewis, Jaymar Johnson, Joe Webb

Starting WRs: Sidney Rice joined the top tier for fantasy WRs last season. With Favre under center again this season, you can expect that Rice will have another Top 10 fantasy season. Bernard Berrian is listed as the No. 2 WR on the depth chart, but he is more of a possession receiver now for the Vikings. Despite his 55 receptions last season, he only averaged 11 yards per reception and of the four TD receptions that he had, only one was more than 20 yards in length. Percy Harvin has taken over as the Big Play receiver for the Vikings, and he's a solid fantasy WR2-WR3 option in most fantasy leagues. Harvin is also electric as a kick returner and is even more valuable in leagues that award points for kick returns.

Backup WRs: Greg Lewis was re-signed this offseason and returns to the No. 4 WR spot. He came up big for the Vikings last season when they ran four WR sets and had an impressive eight receptions on just eleven targets. Jaymar Johnson barely saw the field last season and will probably have similar stats unless someone is injured. Joe Webb is a converted QB who will be brought along slowly. The Vikings took advantage of Bernard Berrian's throwing abilities last season, and with Webb and on the field, the trick play possibilities are endless.

Tight Ends

Starters: Visanthe Shiancoe
Backups: Jim Kleinsasser, Garrett Mills, Mickey Schuler (R)

Shiancoe returned to his fantasy elite status last season and he became the goal line favorite option for Brett Favre last season. With Adrian Peterson drawing considerable defensive coverage, and Sidney Rice pulling the better secondary opponents, Shiancoe was often miss-matched against weaker LBS and DBS. As a result, Shiancoe turned in a career high 11 receiving TDs. Jim Kleinsasser and Garrett Mills had less than ten receptions each last season and are not good options for fantasy TEs. Rookie Mickey Schuler was a 6th-round pick but will have to fight for a roster spot this season.

Place Kicker

Ryan Longwell, Rhys Lloyd : In 1998, Gary Anderson scored an NFL record 164 points for the Vikings. In the nine subsequent years, they averaged only 99 kicking points a year. They returned to the top ten in kicker scoring the last two years, ranking 7th and 3rd. Last year Longwell had the most accurate season of his career, hitting 26 of 28 (92.9%) on field goals, with one of the misses coming on a block. In recent years the Vikings have toyed with adding a kickoff specialist. They made their most serious move in that direction by signing free agent Rhys Lloyd this year.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: -- Percy Harvin, Darius Reynaud, Asher Allen, Adrian Peterson, Jaymar Johnson, Benny Sapp, Ryan Moats

WR Percy Harvin did not handle returns in college at Florida; however the Vikings have tried him in that role as a rookie last year. The experiment was a smashing success (42 returns, 27.5 avg., 2 TDs). WR/RB Darius Reynaud (4 returns, 22.5 avg.) serves as the primary backup. CB Asher Allen averaged 24.6 yards on kickoff returns at Georgia. The team was willing to occasionally use RB Adrian Peterson in 2007 (16 returns, 25.8 avg.), but not as willing the last two years (one return for 11 yards in 2008). Speedy WR Jaymar Johnson averaged 18.5 yards on kickoff returns during his college career at Jackson State. CB Benny Sapp averaged 24.9 yards during his senior year at Northern Iowa, but didn't fare as well for Kansas City in 2007 (15 returns, 16.7 avg.). RB Ryan Moats handled a few kickoffs for the Texans in 2008 (9 returns, 23.6 avg.).

Punt Returners: Darius Reynaud, Jaymar Johnson, Bernard Berrian

WR Darius Reynaud emerged as the teams top punt returner last year (30 returns, 10.3 avg.). Jaymar Johnson averaged 9.6 yards and scored once during his college career at Jackson State, and filled in last year (16 returns, 8.4 avg.) when Reynaud missed time due to injury. WR Bernard Berrian put up strong numbers on limited work in 2008(7 returns, 16.3 avg., 1 TD). Last year he had only two returns (6.5 avg.). After slipping to 19th in 2007 and to 21st in 2008 in fantasy returns, the Vikings jumped up to 5th last year.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Bryant McKinnie, LG Steve Hutchinson, C John Sullivan, RG Anthony Herrera, RT Phil Loadholt
Key Backups: T Ryan Cook, T Chris Clark, C Jon Cooper

The Vikings have the makings of an excellent offensive line. In fact, the potential is there for this group to be a top-three unit this season. Bryant McKinnie is a massive, talented left tackle but he struggled last season and played his worst football as a pro. He needs to rebound this season for the Vikings offensive line to elevate their play. Phil Loadholt started 15 games as a rookie last season and had some good moments. However he struggled at times in both the running and passing game and needs to improve his lateral movement this year. The good news is both are capable of playing much better than they did last season. John Sullivan started all 16 games last year but needs to elevate his run blocking ability. He struggled to open holes for the running backs to exploit. Steve Hutchinson is a fixture at left guard. He isn't as dominating as he once was but is still a very good football player. Finally Anthony Herrera has started 42 of the past 48 games for the Vikings. He does a decent job but he'll never be considered a great lineman.

Team Defense

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Jared Allen, DT Kevin Williams, DT Pat Williams, DE Ray Edwards
Backups: DE Brian Robison, DE Everson Griffen, DE Mike Montgomery, DE Jayme Mitchell, DT Jimmy Kennedy, DT Fred Evans, DT Letroy Guion

Starting DL: The Vikings boast one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, led by perennial pro-bowler Jared Allen, arguably the league's best defensive end. Allen, who is annually among the league leaders in sacks, is a dynamic pass rusher and also excels in run defense. Manning the other DE spot is emerging talent Ray Edwards, who had a career-year in 2009. Edwards should continue to improve and joins Allen in forming one of the most formidable defensive end duos in the NFL. The Vikings also have elite performers inside in the form of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams. Kevin Williams is one of the best two-way interior linemen in the league and is equally adept against the run and as an inside pass rusher. Pat Williams is more in the mold of a run stuffing nose tackle, but his penetration in passing situations helps prohibit opposing QBs from stepping up in the pocket to avoid the outside pass rush.

Backup DL: The Vikings not only have a stellar group of starting defensive linemen, they also have capable backups and role players. Brian Robison has flashed pass rushing ability, but has yet to display the consistency needed to earn more snaps. The Vikings drafted Everson Griffen in the fourth round to add quality depth to their defensive line. Mike Montgomery was signed as a free agent and will compete for a roster spot. Veteran Fred Evans provides solid depth at DT. Jimmy Kennedy, a former first round draft pick, was solid in a reserve role last year and along with Evans, could see substantial time this year should Kevin Williams and Pat Williams get suspended. Jayme Mitchell and Letroy Guion will battle for playing time this season.

Linebackers

Starters: WLB Chad Greenway, MLB E.J. Henderson, SLB Ben Leber
Backups: MLB Jasper Brinkley, MLB Nathan Triplett, OLB Heath Farwell, OLB Erin Henderson, OLB Kenny Onatolu, OLB Jeremy Leman

Starting LBs: After suffering a broken femur last year, E.J. Henderson returns at middle linebacker for the Vikings. Henderson has missed a total of 16 games in the last two seasons, but when healthy he is a consistent LB who creates big plays and is a consistent tackler. The Vikings are cautiously optimistic that Henderson will be ready for training camp. Starting WLB Chad Greenway is solid in all phases of the game and can also play SLB. Greenway has played in 48 consecutive games after missing his entire rookie season with a torn ACL. Starting SLB Ben Leber can play all three LB positions and has the ability to play in all situations. Leber is durable, having played 15 or more games in seven of his eight seasons. The Vikings are one of the few teams that can use all of their starting LBs on passing downs.

Backup LBs: Jasper Brinkley is the backup to Henderson and started the last four games after Henderson was injured. Brinkley was solid in run support, but struggled in coverage and was basically limited to being a two-down LB. Fortunately for the Vikings, both Greenway and Leber can play in all situations. The Vikings drafted Nathan Triplett in the fifth round to add depth at MLB. Triplett is a very good run defender, but like Brinkley, is limited in pass defense. Heath Farwell is the primary backup at outside linebacker and is a great special teams player. Erin Henderson is a backup outside linebacker and the brother of E.J. Henderson. Kenny Onatolu and Jeremy Leman will battle for roster spots.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Antoine Winfield, CB Cedric Griffin, SS Tyrell Johnson, FS Madieu Williams
Backups: CB Lito Sheppard, CB Asher Allen, CB Chris Cook, CB Benny Sapp, SS Jamarca Sanford, SS Eric Frampton, FS Husain Abdullah

Starting DBs: Antoine Winfield cracked a bone in his foot last season, missing six games and causing him to struggle mightily after returning. When healthy, Winfield is a premier corner, offering a rare combination of coverage skills and a physical presence in run defense. He is annually among the league leaders in tackles by a cornerback. The other starter, Cedric Griffin, suffered a torn ACL in the NFC championship game and his return for the start of the season is in question. Like Winfield, Griffin is physical in run defense, but is average at best in coverage. Veteran safety Madieu Williams is a versatile player who can play either safety position as well as cover slot receivers. Williams played in all 16 games last year for only the second time in his career. Tyrell Johnson returns as the starting strong safety, but will have to be more consistent to hold onto his starting spot.

Backup DBs: With Winfield and Griffin both suffering serious injuries last year, the Vikings make a move to shore up their depth by drafting cornerback Chris Cook with the second pick in round two. Cook is a versatile player who could also see time at safety. The Vikings also signed veteran free agent Lito Sheppard and although he is not the player he once was, Sheppard brings a badly needed experienced backup at the cornerback position. Asher Allen returns and with the additions of Cook and Sheppard, will have to compete for snaps at CB. Benny Sapp returns and could be battling Allen for a roster spot. Sapp is helped by being solid on special teams. Jamarca Sanford could give Tyrell Johnson a battle for the starting SS spot. Eric Frampton and Husain Abdullah will compete for a roster spot as a backup at safety.

Last modified: 2010-08-08 13:02:29