Fantasy Football Team Showcase: This is the first of a twice a week presentation of each NFL team’s top fantasy players by position. The first part of this twice a week presentation will present the NFC North division.
With each showcase you will find a player from each key position to target in fantasy. The lists will consist as to why they are chosen as the top player for their respective positions and teams, players poised to breakout or as sleepers, 2pt specialists and a new format based off of individual defensive players.
The Minnesota Vikings (7-9 record and 3rd in the NFC North) are coming off of a 2014 season where their offense saw a change at quarterback the loss of their best offensive player and a 7th round draft pick claimed off of waivers from the Cleveland Browns as their leading receiver. On the defensive side of the ball with Mike Zimmer taking over the reins, there were significant strides made towards being a top tier defense. Key players at all levels of the defense making the difference; a change at defensive end position provided double digit sacks, a young rookie poised to become a star at LB, a CB who is making steps towards being a lockdown player and a safety who continues to produce but not gaining the recognition he deserves. With Bridgewater now the team’s starting quarterback and face of the franchise look for the team to take big strides forward and with the additions of rookies specifically on the defensive side of the ball.
QB Teddy Bridgewater: I will look for Teddy to take continue to grow and take steps towards the next level of his in his game. With the addition of Mike Wallace and the return of Adrian Peterson, Bridgewater’s numbers should increase. Bridgewater should be in the middle tier of the NFL in fantasy numbers, with consistent play.
RB Adrian Peterson: Without AD, the numberswere spread around to Jerick Mckinnon and Matt Asiata. The decision of Peterson coming back to the Vikings is still up in the air, we are not sure what will happen. Our opinion is that he is coming back and playing. With Peterson in the lineup, we should see him have similar if not better numbers due to the fact he will have consistency at the quarterback position. Peterson should be drafted high and produce high fantasy numbers like in past seasons.
If Peterson does not return and chooses to “retire” or sit out, then look for similar statistics from the running back position that we saw during the 2014 season. The two top ball carriers will be Jerick Mckinnon and Matt Asiata, as we saw last year. Again, I would give the nod to Mckinnon getting the primary carries and for Asiata to spell him on third and short yardage downs. Asiata will be the guy to warrant majority of the touchdowns, while Mckinnon should lead in yardage and yards per carry.
WR Mike Wallace: The former Miami Dolphin and Pittsburgh Steeler, should look to find a high range of success this season. Look for Wallace to be the go to target in Norv Turner’s system, leading the team in all major categories (yards, yards per catch, receptions and possibly touchdowns). I see with the addition of Wallace as the type of deep threat that will get touches not just down the field, but in the screen game that we saw Josh Gordon receive while Turner was in Cleveland.
TE Kyle Rudolph: If Rudolph can stay healthy, which at this point is a big if, look for him to lead the team in touchdowns. His yardage numbers haven’t ever been overly impressive, but he has the opportunity this season to be more than a red zone and third down threat. With attention being garnered towards Peterson and Wallace, look for Rudolph to feed off of that with increased yardage and touchdowns.
WR Cordarrelle Patterson: The jack of all trades. Where do we envision Cordarrelle Patterson this coming season? Will he finally develop into the playmaker he was drafted to be, or will he fizzle out and ride the bench as we saw late last season. I envision him figuring out some of his route running deficiencies and producing as the team’s jack of trade’s type of player. We should see him catching screens, passes downfield (if he can get his route running together), from the backfield and in the return game. The return game based off of your fantasy league settings, Patterson should be close to the league lead in kick return yardage and touchdowns.
Charles Johnson: I think if Cordarrelle still can’t refine his route running and doesn’t get on Zimmer/ Turner’s good side. Charles could become that strong outside possession receiver that will compliment Mike Wallace since Mike Wallace has the ability to blow the top off the safeties. Johnson came on strong last season as Bridgewater’s go to go later in the season. Johnson won’t give up the role he earned last season so easily, and expect him to compete for the position opposite Wallace and to beat out Patterson during training camp.
DL Everson Griffen: Griffen looks to continue his level of production heading into his second full season as starter. Griffen should lead the team in sacks for a consecutive season, and again have double digit sacks. For fantasy purposes Griffen is a high end defensive end in any IDP format.
DL Shariff Floyd: Sharrif Floyd came on strong last season and looks to apply more pressure on the quarterback up the middle, and if Linval Joseph can step up his game it should provide Floyd with a better opportunity to make plays. Floyd in an IDP format should be a middle of the road defensive tackle in fantasy leagues.
LB Anthony Barr: The second year linebacker was highly impressive as a rookie and looks to emerge as a pro bowl caliber player this season. Look for Barr to be a disruption all over the field producing high levels of turnovers and sacks. Barr should ascend into one of the top linebackers in an IDP format for fantasy leagues.
DB Harrison Smith: The Pro Bowl snub from a season ago, should become a household name as the leader in the secondary. Smith should provide high levels of interceptions and has a knack for finding the end zone after he does so. Smith should be looked at as one of the top five safeties in the entire league for IDP formats.
DB Xavier Rhodes: Rhodes took a tremendous step forward last season and at one point was rated in the top three at corner according to Pro Football Focus. Rhodes interception numbers should more than triple his career number of (1). Look for Rhodes to have a number close to four or five interceptions and does well in run support. This translation in IDP fantasy formats should see Rhodes toward the top of most people’s lists.
K Blair Walsh: With the new extra points rule kicking in this coming season, pushing the yardage back to the 15 yard line, it should take a big toll on kickers fantasy values. Teams might be more readily going for the 2pts instead of risking the more difficult extra point based off of timing, weather and other factors. This will most certainly contribute to the decline in kickers in fantast value. So where does Blair Walsh fit into this mix, well with him playing outdoors for one more season in Minnesota, his numbers might take a dip. But with one of the strongest and most accurate legs from deep, Walsh should still be considered one of the better kickers in fantasy.
LB Eric Kendricks: Kendricks the rookie LB from UCLA. Kendricks looks to step into the starting middle linebacker role and should flourish in it. With Zimmer running the defense, look for Kendricks to be in the running as the team’s leader in total tackles. The biggest reason I have him on this list is because of his three down ability, he can stop the run and as we saw in college, Kendricks is a ball-hawk that can run with tight ends and running backs. This translates to some fantasy value for Kendricks in both tackles and the ability to create turnovers in the passing game, should provide some fantasy value.
Rookie Impact: For the Vikings, some of their rookies might make big time contributions, but don’t expect much from any of them in the fantasy world. Like Kendricks, Trae Waynes the first round CB out of Michigan St. should see significant playing time. Although the playing time should increase as the season goes on, do not expect big numbers from a rookie Cornerback. On the offensive side of the ball the only two players who could impact the fantasy world are late round picks MyCole Pruitt a Tight End out of Southern Illinois and Stefon Diggs the electrifying wide receiver out of Maryland. Both of them aren’t expected to see the field that much this coming season, but Diggs could end up winning the punt returning job and adding some fantasy value from a return perspective. Pruitt, I wouldn’t expect to see the field in his first season much unless there is an injury to one of the tight ends.
Two Point Specialists: Cordarrelle Patterson/Adrian Peterson: With the new extra point rules taking place this coming season (Extra Point 15 yard line), look for teams to consider going for 2pt conversions instead of risking missing extra points. I see Patterson and Peterson as the top two players for the Vikings to lead the team in 2pt conversions. Also, don’t be surprised if we see some Jerick Mckinnon in the mix as a former college quarterback running the offense with Patterson or Peterson in the backfield with Mckinnon running as QB.
The Vikings as a whole are an up and coming team looking to break through the tough NFC North division. They have big time players on both sides of the ball. This team should be able to produce high end fantasy value at the QB, RB (pending the Peterson situation), WR, DE, LB, DB and the Kicker position. Expect players like Peterson and Wallace to be key fantasy players this season on offense, and for Griffen, Barr and Smith on the defensive side. Blair Walsh should continue to be a top tier kicker.
The next article will feature the Detroit Lions of the NFC North
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