Athletic ability like this is why many are projecting a breakout season for Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph. That could make him a nice addition to your fantasy team late in your draft. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
With fantasy football season coming up, and a lot of us trying to figure out how to get some players from our favorite team on to our fantasy rosters without looking like complete homers, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at what the Minnesota Vikings have to offer from a fantasy football perspective. As it stands now, you'll probably be able to get quite a few members of the team in free agency after the draft, but there are a few draftable players residing in Minnesota.
Quarterback - While many of us expect Christian Ponder to be much improved in 2012, the fact remains that he still isn't getting a whole lot of respect from a fantasy football perspective. If your league is 10-12 teams, you're looking at between 20 and 24 quarterbacks getting selected. Ponder will be towards the end of that list, if he gets drafted at all. He's definitely someone to keep an eye on as the season progresses, though. . .he's not going to launch himself to the Tom Brady level of fantasy quarterbacks or anything, but he could wind up being a decent bye week replacement.
Football Outsiders projected stats - 311 completions/517 attempts (60.2%), 20 TD, 16 INT; 57 rushes, 293 yards, 1 TDRunning Back - Possibly the biggest question of this year's fantasy football season is where to draft Adrian Peterson. Yes, he tore his ACL on Christmas Eve, but he is expected to start practicing on Tuesday and start the season opener against Jacksonville. While all of us are excited about the idea of Peterson being back, there's a very good chance he's going to get eased in to the offense rather than given the standard workload to start with. Then again, he's Adrian Peterson. . .he could just as easily put up 200 yards in the first game and make all of this speculation look silly. Of course, I wouldn't bet on that, either. As it stands now, you can probably get Peterson towards the end of the second round or the beginning of the third, depending on how many teams are in your league.
FO projected stats - 249 carries, 1084 yards, 8 TD; 25 receptions, 179 yards, 1 TD
With Peterson's injury, you can't discuss him without discussing Toby Gerhart as well. Gerhart is not Adrian Peterson. . .then again, who is. . .but he is still a viable option at the running back position. In fact, if you draft Peterson, I think you need to make every effort possible to get Gerhart as a "handcuff" option. I'd guard against taking him too early, but somewhere in the ninth or tenth round sounds about right.
FO projected stats - 100 carries, 438 yards, 2 TD; 36 receptions, 321 yards, 0 TD
Wide Receiver - Now that Percy Harvin is happy, he projects to be one of the Vikings' two top targets for Ponder in the passing game. He came up just short of 1,000 yards receiving last season. . .a pretty impressive feat, given the lack of other options Minnesota had in the passing game. . .and will likely approach that this season. Harvin brings a lot of versatility to the table as well, though that isn't always reflected in fantasy football. Harvin isn't going to be the #1 wide receiver on your fantasy team. . .at least, he shouldn't be. . .but he's a very solid #2 option, particularly if your league accounts for kickoff return yardage. The sixth round seems like about the right time to try to grab Harvin, in my opinion.
FO projected stats - 81 receptions, 908 yards, 6 TD; 34 carries, 147 yards, 1 TD
The Vikings' big addition at the receiver position in the off-season was Jerome Simpson, late of the Cincinnati Bengals. Simpson has been consistent in his inconsistency in his career. . .he'll make catches that look impossible, and then drop one that hits him right in the numbers. But he does have the top-end speed that the Vikings lacked in 2011, and the team hopes that will translate into him becoming a deep threat that can open things up offensively for the team. He's going to miss the first three games of the year, so there's a very good chance he's going to go undrafted, but you can take a late-round flier on him without too much issue.
FO projected stats - 41 receptions, 606 yards, 3 TD
Tight End - Can you project someone as a "sleeper" if everyone is expecting a massive improvement? Because, if you can, Kyle Rudolph falls firmly into the sleeper category. He has outstanding size and athletic ability, and from the reports we've been seeing out of camp this year, he's quickly becoming one of Christian Ponder's favorite targets. He's not in the Rob Gronkowski/Jimmy Graham tier of tight ends. . .yet. However, there would be significantly worse ways to use your second-to-last pick in a fantasy draft (because your last pick should always, always be a kicker).
FO projected stats - 63 receptions, 804 yards, 6 TD
Kicker - As I just mentioned, a kicker should be your last pick in any fantasy draft, and then only because you have to fill that roster spot. The difference between a "top" fantasy kicker and a mid-level one is, maybe, two or three points per game. Throw in the fact that it's pretty much impossible to project how kickers are going to perform from year-to-year, and you can see why kickers aren't a priority. That said, if you want to take a flier on The Blair Walsh Project™ to have another Viking to cheer for, then shine on, you crazy diamond.
Defense/Special Teams - The Vikings' defense might be worth taking as a second defense, if you're inclined to draft more than one. We know that they're going to rack up sacks and, as a result, force some fumbles. As far as interceptions, they should get more than they had in 2011 because. . .well, man, they almost have to, don't they? The threat of Percy Harvin gives the Vikings a chance of some special teams scores as well. Like I said, if you want to draft more than one defense, grab the Vikings late. Otherwise you can grab them off the waiver wire.
If I didn't mention a player, they're probably not worth spending a draft pick on.