By Cole Hoopingarner (with Contributions from Joe Zollo and Chris Tyler)
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Case Keenum came out of nowhere to lead the Vikings to the NFC championship game. His fantasy numbers weren’t anything to rely on, but you can be sure he doesn’t care after his big signing with Denver. Running back Dalvin Cook was fantasy’s ninth best RB before tearing his ACL in week 4. Latavius Murray picked up the slack and was fantasy’s 19th best RB from week 5 – 16 while splitting time with Jerick McKinnon. Adam Thielen (WR9), Stefon Diggs (WR22), and Kyle Rudolph (TE7) gave Minnesota and fantasy owners the firepower they needed through the air. And the Vikings’ defense laid siege to its opponents. 2017 was a great year for Minnesota.
|(Projected Starting Lineup)|
|QB1||Kirk Cousins (w/ WAS)||326.10||QB6|
|QB2||Trevor Siemian (w/ DEN)||150.10||QB29|
|RB4||(R) Mike Boone||N/A||N/A|
|WR4||Kendall Wright (w/ CHI)||118.50||WR52|
|WR5||Tavarres King (w/ NYG)||62.30||WR92|
|TE2||(R) Tyler Conklin||N/A||N/A|
In arguably the biggest move of the offseason, Kirk Cousins signed with Minnesota on the heels of three consecutive seasons in which he finished as QB8 or better in Washington. At this point, there’s nothing really to argue about Cousins’ passing ability or reliability. You can clearly rely on him as your QB1. He’s so underrated on the ground, too. Not many people seem to realize that he has 13 rushing touchdowns since 2015. His rushing TDs may decrease with all the talent around him, but it’s sure to be replaced by more passing yards and touchdowns. He’s a lock for top 10 numbers and he very easily could be a top 5 QB.
His sample size is small. He’s coming off an ACL tear. But Dalvin Cook – and yours truly – don’t care about your skepticism. Let’s discuss that small sample size. In 3.5 games last year, Cook carried the ball 74 times for 354 yards (4.8 YPC), adding 2 rushing touchdowns on the ground. He also added 11 receptions for 90 yards. He was RB9 through those 3.5 games before tearing his ACL. All you have to do is look at his career at FSU to know that he’s not a fluke. He’s the real freaking deal. Cook’s vision and acceleration combo are probably in the top 3 in the league. He’s an RB1 currently going in the mid to late second rounds of drafts. Grab him with confidence as your RB1.
Behind Cook is Latavius Murray, who filled in very admirably for Minnesota’s starter after his injury. Guess who is second behind only Ezekiel Elliott in rushing touchdowns since 2016? Yep, you guessed it, Murray. Unfortunately, with a healthy Cook, Murray is just a decent FLEX consideration. If Cook goes down, Murray instantly becomes an RB2. Aside from Tevin Coleman, he’s the most important handcuff in fantasy. If you draft Cook, you’d better be prepared to spend a late pick on him.
There’s more buzz about Stefon Diggs this year than Adam Thielen, and I can’t blame people. Diggs’ miracle catch in the Divisional round against the Saints will go down as a top 5 play in NFL history. But I like his teammate, Adam Thielen, a bit more than Diggs. Thielen made a little noise in 2016 and turned the volume up to the max in 2017, catching 91 passes on 142 targets for 1,276 yards and adding four touchdowns. His low touchdown total may be a little concerning, but that target share, reception total and yardage total should ease your mind. Thielen should only benefit from Kirk Cousins’ arrival. Cousins likes receivers who are versatile and who work the middle of the field. Thielen is both of those. I have super high hopes for Thielen this year. I think he’ll catch 90 passes for 1250 yards and five touchdowns, and finish in the top 10 at his position. He’s a low-end WR1.
My concern about Diggs is the same one I have about Julio Jones (which you can read about in our preview of the Falcons). He’s just not as consistent as I’d like him to be. Diggs has a propensity to drop sub-10 point games on a pretty frequent basis. In 2016 he had six games in which he produced fewer than 10 fantasy points, including two in which he scored fewer than 5. In 2017, he had five games under 10 points and 1 under 5. I’d rather have a guy like Thielen who is more likely to approach his season PPG on a weekly basis than a guy like Diggs, who will rely on a couple of monster games to boost his season PPG. Still, Diggs is definitely WR2 material and he’ll likely finish in the top 20 at his position. That’s worthy of your consideration. Just don’t draft him as your #1.
Kendall Wright joined Minnesota this offseason. Besides a monster season in 2013 when he caught 94 passes, he’s only eclipsed 60 catches one time in his career (his rookie season in 2012) and now he comes to Minnesota as the clear #3 on the totem pole. Cousins does like to spread the ball around, but Wright is not a credible end zone or downfield threat. Therefore, he’s only worth consideration as a late-round flier.
Laquon Treadwell was supposed to be the future at WR for Minnesota when they drafted him in 2016. Yeah, about that. Hasn’t happened. Probably won’t. Consider him in dynasty leagues, but leave him alone in season-long leagues.
After lighting the world on fire in 2016 with a TE2 finish, Kyle Rudolph backslid a bit in 2017, finishing as fantasy’s 7th best tight end. TE7 numbers aren’t anything to turn your nose up at, but it’s safe to say fantasy owners who invested a mid-round pick on Minnesota’s tight end wanted more. If you’re one of those people, I suggest you give this purple and gold warrior another chance in 2018. Color me excited about Rudolph’s potential this year, and it’s all due to the arrival of his new quarterback. It’s no secret that Kirk Cousins loves his tight ends. Jordan Reed (when healthy), Vernon Davis, and Niles Paul all enjoyed great production in Washington with Cousins at the helm. Rudolph will be the best overall tight end that Cousins has ever thrown to (yes, he’s better than Jordan Reed because he’s not made of glass). We’re just two years removed from Rudolph’s 83 catch, 840 yard and seven touchdown campaign in 2016 and he’s got a tight end-friendly QB coming into the fold. I foresee 75 catches, 750 yards, and six touchdowns in 2018. He’ll flirt with top 5 numbers at the position.
Rookie to Watch
The Minnesota Vikings are pretty stacked when it comes to skill-position weapons but something they needed to improve on was the offensive line. OL Brian O’Neill is their guy. At 6’7’’ 297 lbs, he’s athletic and fluid as a run blocker with natural toughness to run through people. O’Neill is going to help the Vikings offense as a whole, keeping quarterback Kirk Cousins upright in the passing game and opening holes for running backs Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray in the run game. – Chris Tyler
Five years in Nashville and one lone year in the Windy City, Kendall Wright keeps his talents in the NFC North to play with the Minnesota Vikings. He has never started a full season in the NFL but has shown he has talent in all areas of the field. He will compete for the third spot on the depth chart with Laquon Treadwell and very well could beat him out considering Treadwell has been nothing but a disappointment. Wright has never had an established QB throwing him the football, but he now has Kirk Cousins behind center. Wright is a deep sleeper as this Minnesota team is already very established but look for him to be a solid bench guy who has the skills to fill in if necessary. – Joe Zollo
2018 Loose Ends
You could argue that Minnesota has the best overall offense in the league, or at least the potential to have the best overall offense. I would be hard-pressed to disagree with you. I’m eager to see how Cousins does with this talent and in this system. The dog days are long gone in Minnesota.
|4||9/27 (Thurs)||@ LAR|
|10||** BYE WEEK **|
|14||12/10 (Mon)||@ SEA|