Minnesota Vikings 2012 Fantasy Team Outlook
The Minnesota Vikings had one of the worst seasons in franchise history in 2011, going 3-13 as three quarterbacks started games (Donovan McNabb, Christian Ponder, Joe Webb) and the defense struggled despite DE Jared Allen’s 22 sacks.
The Vikings top fantasy option in recent years, RB Adrian Peterson, enters 2012 with his status for the start of the season up in the air after suffering a torn ACL and other damage to his left knee late last season. His potential absence takes a dynamic player away from the Minnesota offense, but also opens up an opportunity for Toby Gerhart to play more and prove worthy of attention for fantasy owners.
Let’s take a look at the Vikings’ players who could be fantasy options for 2012.
QB Christian Ponder
Ponder had some good moments after taking over as the Vikings’ starting quarterback after the McNabb experiment ended, but injuries and turnovers plagued him late in the season. A full offseason to learn offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s offense and some added talent around him should benefit him greatly, and he is worth considering as a QB2 in 12-team leagues.
QB Joe Webb
Webb has had flashes of brilliance over three starts during his first two NFL seasons, but his lack of overall quarterbacking skills look likely to limit him to a specialized role in whatever version of the Wildcat the Vikings may choose to employ. The team has had him focusing on being a quarterback this offseason, and if Ponder were to go down to injury he would become worthy of consideration as a waiver wire addition in deep leagues.
RB Adrian Peterson
Peterson is one of riskier players in fantasy football this season due to the uncertainty of the health of his knee, but reports have suggested he is making excellent progress and his initial goal to be ready for Week 1 is still in place. The Vikings are virtually certain to limit Peterson’s work early in the season, and exactly how he will perform is still an open question. His status through training camp and preseason games will be among the most monitored in fantasy circles, but drafting Peterson as a RB1 is a serious role of the dice.
RB Toby Gerhart
Gerhart has been stuck behind Peterson through his first two NFL seasons, but he has performed well when given the opportunity when Peterson has been limited by injuries. The recent buzz is that Gerhart will be the Vikings’ workhorse back to open the season, with Peterson as his backup, and that automatically should elevate his status in fantasy football. Be sure to monitor Peterson’s progress through the preseason, but right now Gerhart looks like a solid RB2 to start the season with the potential to retain that value all season.
WR Percy Harvin
Harvin made headlines recently by saying he was unhappy with some things and then reacting as if he had not said anything controversial, but he is clearly the most versatile offensive player the Vikings have and could be in line for more touches this season if Peterson is out or limited at the start of the season. Harvin should be motivated to prove he is worthy of a new contract, and as long as he stays on the field he is a nice choice as a WR2 in most fantasy leagues.
WR Jerome Simpson
Simpson will be suspended for the first three games of the season after being signed as a free agent from the Cincinnati Bengals, which obviously hurts his appeal in fantasy football. But once he returns he can give the Vikings’ offense a vertical threat it has lacked in recent years, and thus fantasy football owners should be intrigued by his potential. Simpson is not worthy of a draft pick in all but the deepest of leagues, but he could become a popular waiver wire addition at some point.
WR Michael Jenkins
Jenkins is coming of a knee injury of his own that caused him to miss the final five games of the 2011 season, and he was not particularly productive in the 11 games he did play (38 catches, 466 yards, three touchdowns). He is likely to start the first three games of the season during Simpson’s suspension, but it would be a big surprise to see him become relevant to fantasy owners this season. Jenkins is a candidate to be cut before the season, as he is due to make $2.5 million in 2012, if he becomes a backup.
WR Greg Childs
Childs was a fourth-round pick out of Arkansas after being limited by his recovery from a knee injury during his senior season. He has the size (6’4″, 219 lbs.) and speed (4.55 40-yard dash) to potentially make an impact down the road, but it would likely take multiple injuries for him to rise up the depth chart as a rookie.
WR Jarius Wright
Wright is another rookie receiver out of Arkansas, and has a similar skill set to Harvin. He will be in the competition to be Minnesota’s No.4 wide receiver, along with Childs, but there is little to see here for fantasy football owners in 2012.
WR Devin Aromashodu
Aromashodu has had some good moments during his NFL career, but those have been way to few and far between for the Vikings or fantasy owners to rely on him at all.
TE Kyle Rudolph
Rudolph has some good moments as a rookie in 2011, and seven of his 26 catches came in the final three games and all three of his touchdowns came in the final six contests. He is likely to be a nice red zone target for Ponder, and his overall role looks certain to expand in 2012. Don’t expect a huge catch total, but fantasy owners can do worse for a TE2 due to Rudolph’s upside potential alone.
TE John Carlson
The Vikings signed Carlson to a lucrative contract during the offseason, which qualifies as one of the more head scratching moves acrosss the league as he missed the entire 2011 season with the Seattle Seahawks due to a shoulder injury. Carlson’s salary alone assures him of a significant role, but his relevance to fantasy football owners is limited to the effect he has on Rudolph’s playing time and production, if any.
K Blair Walsh
Walsh was drafted in the sixth round out of Georgia in April, and the Vikings have opened up a job for him by releasing veteran kicker Ryan Longwell. He struggled with accuracy as a senior (21-for-35 on field goals), so without correcting that and with the uncertainty surrounding some key parts of the Minnesota offense fantasy football owners should stay away on draft day. Unless perhaps you are in a keeper league.
Vikings Team Defense
The Minnesota defense has a couple of nice IDP options in defensive end Jared Allen and linebacker Chad Greenway, but they had just eight interceptions and went a long stretch of the 2011 season without an interception. Some additions have been made to the secondary and cornerback Antoine Winfield’s return to health will help, but fantasy owners should only think of the Vikings’ defense as a low-end No.2 option and a possible starting option in favorable matchups.
Brad has contributed to many sports-related websites for the last eight years, covering predominantly fantasy sports (football and baseball), the NFL and MLB. Some of the websites where his work has been or is currently featured include KFFL.com, Rotowire.com, Bruno Boys Fantasy Football and Tree.com. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.