As the mercury rises and we inch closer to the open of training camps, our resident fantasy football sickos, Brad Evans and Liz Loza, will profile their favorite booms/busts of every NFL team. Today’s topic: The Skol Squad.
Minnesota features a wealth of quality fantasy talent. Using ADP as a guide, which sure-handed Viking profits most handsomely this season: Adam Thielen (29.3, WR12), Stefon Diggs (35.2, WR14) or Kyle Rudolph (87.4, TE8)?
Brad – STEFON DIGGS. When faced with gridlock, Diggs is a darting motorcycle who always finds creases to catch and accelerate through. He’s arguably the game’s finest in-traffic receiver, a player who ranked No. 1 in catch rate (64.6%) and No. 1 in WR rating (145.2) on contested catches last season. He’s undaunted, very dependable and is sure to be a favorite target of Kirk Cousins.
Recall last year in Washington, Cousins didn’t have the luxury of a player with Diggs’ skill set, yet he still completed 63.9 percent of his attempts on over-the-middle passes between 0-15 yards. As Sharp Football Stats tracks, the wideout’s glowing success rates on intermediate and outside the number throws suggest he’ll blend beautifully with Cousins’ strengths.
Diggs finished No. 12 in fantasy points per game in 2017. If he stays healthy and he strikes an instant chemistry with Cousins, a career year is on the docket. Final numbers around 80-1050-9 are reachable.
Liz – KYLE RUDOLPH. There’s no denying the studliness of Minny’s top-two receivers. As such, I have the duo ranked within my top-15 WRs. But with Diggs’ ADP at 38.63 (WR12) and Thielen’s close behind at 45.12 (WR15), they’re both being drafted at peak value. Assuming Dalvin Cook stays healthy, Thielen’s volume and Diggs’ red zone looks will take a hit, making it harder for them to ROI.
Rudolph, on the other hand, isn’t coming off draft boards until the eighth round. A top-six fantasy producer in back-to-back seasons, the Notre Dame alum hasn’t missed a game since 2014. He did undergo ankle surgery in February, but his recovery is reportedly ahead of schedule and he’s already building chemistry with Kirk Cousins. Given John DeFilippo’s penchant for featuring TEs (Remember Gary Barnidge’s 79-1,043-9 season back in 2015? DeFilippo was the Browns’ offensive coordinator that year), Rudolph remains a top-end option at an inconsistent position.
Dalvin Cook (14.5 ADP, RB10), who certainly looked the RB1 part prior to season-ending knee surgery in his inaugural season, is going primarily in the early-to-mid second round in all formats. Play bookmaker, what are the odds the sophomore rusher finishes OUTSIDE the RB top-15 in total fantasy production (.5 PPR) this fall?
Liz – 75-to-1: Back at practice as of early June and taking reps as both an RB and WR, Cook is on schedule to be 100 percent by training camp. Obviously, running back is a volatile position and set-backs can occur, but at just 22-years-old the second-round selection has time on his side. That’s ultimately what he needs… since his talent is unquestionable.
While the sample size was small, what Cook did last year was impressive. Averaging 18.5 carries and 4 targets per game, the former Seminole managed two 100+ yard outings and two scores… and that was over just four games! Demonstrating excellent vision and the power to shake would-be tacklers, Cooks has the burst and balance to weave through traffic for major gains.
As for Latavius? Come on. Dude tallied 16 touches while Cook was on the field (and half of that total came in Week 4 after Cook was sidelined). He’s an inefficient insurance policy, who will probably vulture the second-year back just enough times to provoke #draftwitter into reacting with a Judge Judy meme.
On pace for over 1,700 scrimmage yards last year, Cooks is one of this year’s top breakout candidates. He can easily close out 2018 with over 1,100 rushing yards and 8 rushing scores. That’s top-ten FF territory.
Brad – 45-to-1, or roughly the same odds IHOP’s transition to IHOB will actually prove successful. It’s not like their pancakes are anything special, unless you’re inebriated at 2 AM.
Before the injury imp snacked on his knee, Cook was on pace to deliver on the hype, and then some. In four contests, he netted 69.2 percent of the opportunity share, averaged 111.0 total yards per game, scored twice and, most spectacularly, forced 5.2 missed tackles per game, a number nearly identical to Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott. Extrapolate his accumulated production over a full season and you’re talking 1,776 combined yards and eight touchdowns, a tally that would’ve ranked between Mark Ingram (RB6) and LeSean McCoy (RB8). Earning reps in OTAs, he is on schedule to open camp without any hindrances.
Latavius Murray is a minor threat to steal goal-line work, but a healthy Cook should secure two-thirds of the workload in an offense sure to tax defenses. Behind an offensive line that ranked No. 10 in power run blocking last year according to Football Outsiders, the second-year back is one of the safer bets and the perfect come-back investment for an owner who chooses Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins or Odell Beckham in Round 1.
Despite Washington’s persistent injuries on the offensive line and in its receiving corps, Kirk Cousins still managed to finish inside the QB top-10 last season. Donning the purple this season, OVER or UNDER 31.5 passing touchdowns for the well-paid passer?
Brad – SLIGHTLY OVER. What Cousins accomplished in unfavorable conditions last season was rather remarkable. Washington’s offensive line, at one point down all five original starters, was tattered and torn for most of the year, which placed the signal caller under duress 36.6 percent of the time (QB9). Snowballing matters, Terrelle Pryor, thanks to the curse I placed on him, and Jordan Reed greatly under-performed primarily due to significant injuries. Despite the setbacks and his horrid completion percentages, Cousins weathered the tempest finishing QB4 in total fantasy points.
With OC John DeFillipo determined to fix Cousins’ red-zone woes and blessed with a trio of reliable receivers (Thielen catch% in ’17: 63.6; Diggs: 67.4; Rudolph: 70.4), he’s a solid wager to finish with 32 or more passing TDs.
Liz – OVER. Last year Cousins put a hobbled and clueless Redskins team on his back and passed for 4,093 yards and scored 31 touchdowns. A top-ten fantasy producer for three consecutive years and top-five option in back-to-back seasons, let’s finally give the man some credit.
Going from a bottom-ranked offensive line to a top-six pass-protecting unit, the Chicago-area native will finally have some room to operate. He also gets an upgrade in talent and a playoff-caliber backfield. Plus, QB wizard John DeFilipo, who plans to focus on Cousin’s efficacy in the red zone, will be calling the plays (Carson Wentz passed for 33 TDs in 13 games).
I understand an improved defense means the eighty-four-million-dollar-man isn’t likely to be playing from behind as often, but duels with Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford twice a year certainly offer shoot-out appeal. Welcome (back) to the Midwest, Captain Kirk!