The Minnesota Vikings have been placed in a tough spot with Adrian Peterson tearing his ACL in Week 16 of the 2011 season. Even though he is making progress in his recovery, the Vikings need Christian Ponder to play well if they want to get off to a fast start. Unfortunately, the Vikings did not provide him with enough weapons to keep up with the high-powered offenses in the NFC North. Unless their second-year quarterback makes drastic improvements, the Vikings will be in for a long year.
QuarterbackAfter playing 11 games in his rookie year, Christian Ponder gets a shot at starting a full season. He struggled, completing only 54.3 percent of his passes while throwing 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. But growing pains were expected given the fact that he was just a rookie with very few receiving options to turn to. To help out their young quarterback, the Vikings drafted left tackle Matt Kalil and signed free agents Jerome Simpson and John Carlson. Aside from Kalil, the additions seem marginal. Ponder appears to be improving in his decision making and has nice mobility, but temper expectations. View him strictly as a backup fantasy quarterback.
Running BackAdrian Peterson is making strides in his recovery, but the Vikings will look to ease him back slowly. Coming back and playing well from a torn ACL is no easy task, but Peterson has proven to be pretty durable. With the exception of last season, he has rushed for nearly 1,500 yards while scoring double-digit touchdowns; Peterson is as reliable as they come. But still, nobody knows how effective he will be coming off a major injury, which makes him a risky pick in the early rounds of drafts. Toby Gerhart should receive at least 50 percent of the workload to start the season. He averaged 18 carries for 73 yards in the four games Peterson missed last season, so he has demonstrated that he can be a serviceable running back. Gerhart is a must-own handcuff if you seleck Peterson.
Wide Receivers and Tight EndsIn June, it was reported that Percy Harvin requested a trade, but his feelings about leaving the organization have been put to rest for now. Harvin appears ready to be Minnesota's leading receiver and can be viewed as a No. 2 fantasy wideout. What makes him appealing is that he can receive the ball in so many ways through screens, short crossing routes and reverses. He should easily lead the team in receptions and targets each week. The only drawback is his lack of supporting cast. Opponents know Harvin is Minnesota's biggest threat, so they will make it a priority to stop him. Jerome Simpson was brought in from Cincinnati and figures to be the Vikings' No. 2 receiver after he serves a three-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. When he does returns, Simpson should be treated as a bye-week filler at best. During his time with the Bengals, he has shown gradual improvement, recording a career-high 50 receptions for 725 yards and four touchdowns last season. Expect similar totals even though he will play in three fewer games. Michael Jenkins is expected to start alongside Harvin in Simpson's absence, but still has no fantasy value.
Kyle Rudolph appeared set to take over as the starting tight end with Visanthe Shiancoe leaving via free agency, but the Vikings signed John Carlson during the offseason. The offense is still going through a transitional phase with Ponder and both tight ends are expected to share snaps, so look elsewhere for your starter.
After drafting Blair Walsh in the sixth round of April's draft, the Vikings released 16-year veteran Ryan Longwell. Walsh already secured the job, but is not an appealing fantasy option given the team's expected struggles on offense.
As little as three years ago, the Vikings were considered one of the best defenses in the league. However, age and injuries have caught up with this unit, causing them to suffer a major dropoff. Despite ranking 26th in pass defense the Vikings were tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for the most sacks. Jared Allen and his 22 sacks were a major reason why they were able to get after the quarterback but Brian Robison and Kevin Williams also played a key role. Outside of their defensive line, the Vikings don't have much to get excited about. The secondary is still a major concern as Minnesota failed to address that need. Unless the team found gems in free agency or in the draft, they'll continue to get exposed by Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler.
Travis Chan is a fantasy sports enthusiast and contributor for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. You can follow him on Twitter @Travischan1.
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