The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all 32 NFL teams between now and the end of July as training camps open. We’ll tackle pressing season-long fantasy questions, Best Ball tips (new on Yahoo for 2019) and team win totals. Next up, the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings sport a team full of fantasy goodies. A top wide receiver duo in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. A running back who, when healthy, can be a top option in Dalvin Cook. Even Kyle Rudolph has proven valuable in seasons past. They also drafted talented tight end, Irv Smith Jr. Kirk Cousins (though he often finds himself as the butt of many jokes) has provided fantasy value as well.
With all that though, can this team take the next step and challenge for an NFC Championship — and, potentially, a Super Bowl?
TRUST or BUST?
Largely due to various physical setbacks, Dalvin Cook (18.8 ADP, RB11) has routinely left rosters in ruin and fantasy managers bitter. Weighing his injury-plagued past and Gary Kubiak’s presence operating as assistant head coach, YES or NO, the RB is someone you’ll target in Round 2?
Brad: YES. If fortunate to receive a top overall pick, Cook is the guacamole to the tortilla chip, a perfect pairing for any of the ultra-elite RBs (e.g., Saquon, Zeke, CMC, Kamara, etc.) in a RB-heavy draft strategy. Yes, his lower extremities have the durability of saturated cardboard, but IF — and that’s a Thanos-sized IF — he can log even 14 games, he’s bound to finish inside the RB top-12. His assertive one-cut ability jives seamlessly with the zone scheme OC Kevin Stefanski and Kubiak will implement. The run-stressed scheme combined with Minnesota’s rebuilt offensive line — which ranked No. 27 in run-blocking efficiency last year — all imply the arrow is pointing up.
When on the field, Cook has shown spectacularly in many advanced categories. Last season, for example, he posted the fourth-highest elusive rating among RBs with at least 100 carries according to Pro Football Focus, forcing a missed tackle 21.8 percent of the time while tallying 3.02 yards after contact per attempt. Also impactful as a pass catcher (81.6 catch% in ‘18), he’s a certifiable three-down back who should thrive in an offense loaded with field-stretchers. North of 1,500 total yards with 10-12 TDs would be no surprise.
Liz: YES. Guess what? Running backs get hurt, so you’re going to have to work with the waiver wire at some point during the season. There’s no denying that Cook has a proclivity towards being dinged … but when he’s on the field he’s straight fire.
Fantastically elusive, the Florida State product evaded six tackles per game (RB8) and posted a juke rate of over 38 percent (RB2). He also excelled via the air, averaging 3.6 catches per contest and nearly 30 receiving yards per outing. That sort of dual skill set earns players more opportunities and, in turn, boosts their fantasy stock.
Furthermore, Mike Zimmer has been loud about entering 2019 with a run-focused approach. We saw hints of this down the stretch last year after John DeFilippo was canned. Cook saw his highest number of rushing attempts from Weeks 13 through 17, averaging nearly 15 carries per game. Taking into account the resources that Minnesota has poured into its offensive line, one has to believe that Cook’s 2019 numbers only get better.
Player Pick ‘Em
Which sticky-fingered Viking would you prefer to roster at their current price point in .5 PPR: Adam Thielen (24.9 ADP, WR9) or Stefon Diggs (31.4 ADP, WR14)?
Brad: DIGGS. This by no means is a face-slap to Thielen who was undoubtedly the king of consistency over the regular season’s first half last year. His eight straight games with at least six catches and 100 yards to begin the season was not only remarkable, it established a new NFL record. His in-traffic toughness, excellent downfield production (No. 4 in total yards in ‘18), expanded red-zone role (No. 11 in red-zone target%) and gigantic target share (26.2%) are delightful.
However, Thielen and Diggs are the Spiderman-twins meme come to life. In one fewer game played last season, the sure-handed Stefon was separated from his colleague by just four spots in total .5 PPR points. Though they’re mirror images in myriad ways and both should again top 100 catches with 1100-1200 yards and 7-9 TDs, maximizing value is the name of the game in fantasy. When someone secures Thielen in Round 2, take the discount on Diggs in Round 3.
Andy: I’ve been getting DIGGS everywhere and have almost no shares of Thielen, and it’s strictly a result of cost. Both of these guys are terrific receivers, skilled at uncovering and capable of big plays. If we get a season in which both are healthy, then Minnesota is going to produce a pair of WR1s. One of the great things about the Vikings’ passing offense for fantasy purposes is that all the yards and catches get funneled to two guys. I have nothing bad to say about either Thielen or Diggs, but I’ve been consistently drafting the cheaper option.
OVER or UNDER
In his first season with the Vikes, Kirk Cousins finished a very respectable QB14 in standard Yahoo league total scoring last season. OVER or UNDER final QB rank in the follow up 18.5? (Over: Outside the top-18; Under: Inside the top-18)
Liz: OVER. Few people have stumped for Captain Kirk as much as I have, but there’s just so much damn talent at the position. Plus, while the receiving weapons in Minnesota are certainly gifted, the corps’ depth is far from voluminous. In an offense that ditched the pass-happy John DeFilippo a month before the season’s end, Cousins’ attempts are likely to decline. In fact, he averaged under 29 attempts per game over the last four weeks of 2018. That’s just not enough juice to compete with a Kyle Shanahan-blessed Jimmy Garoppolo or a dual-threat like Mitch Trubisky, both of whom are similarly ranked. Cousins is my QB21 heading into the fall.
Andy: Let’s be clear: Cousins is not my guy. He’s fine, certainly a quality starter in reality. Deserves his payday. I have no issues with Cousins. But in a league that happens to be loaded with all-time passers and thrilling dual-threat QBs, I’m not going to draft Cousins outside of superflex and two-quarterback leagues. His ceiling looks a lot like last season — nice, but it didn’t win you a fantasy title.
In any case, I’m taking the UNDER here, because I fully expect him to remain healthy (per his usual) and produce a 4200-28-ish season. His weapons are too skilled, and he’s no scrub. He quietly completed 70.1 percent of his passes last season, one of the best rates in the history of the game.
Best Ball Bargain Bin
Brad: ALEXANDER MATTISON. In the unfortunate (inevitable?) event Cook was to succumb to injury, the rookie from Boise State, assuming a solid training camp/preseason, stands to benefit most. Though far from an explosive athlete, the rookie is an experienced one-cut, downhill runner with above-average wiggle and power. In other words, he’s an ideal scheme fit. Place a stranglehold on the No. 2 spot behind Cook this summer and he could command 30-35 percent of the opportunity share working as the incumbent’s complement.
Liz: IRV SMITH JR. Despite the news of Kyle Rudolph’s four-year extension, the tight end situation in Minny isn’t as muddy as some may believe. As discussed on the June 20 episode of the Yahoo Fantasy Football Podcast, Rudolph figures to work as a bridge for the rookie. It would not surprise me in the slightest if Smith Jr. emerges as a downfield weapon over the last third of the year, while Rudolph commands most of the blocking work. An explosive talent with strong hands, the Alabama product has the goods ... and given his advanced blocking technique he should see the field early.
Mad Bets (From FanDuel Sportsbook): Minnesota 9 wins OVER (-120) or UNDER (+100)
Brad: UNDER. Full transparency, the Vikes will most likely push on the proposed total above, but if the ball wobbles in an unwanted direction just one time, there’s tremendous value at +100 (Bet $100, win $100). Minnesota does have the 11th-toughest schedule according to projected Vegas win totals.
Andy: Will the Vikings find a way to underachieve, to not reach their full potential? Yeah, probably. When we think of this franchise, we think of improbable near-misses and crushing disappointment. But Minnesota’s roster has serious talent on both sides of the ball — arguably as much as any team in the NFC. Gimme the OVER.
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