Minnesota Vikings - 2014 Preseason #FF Preview
“Oh Zygi you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Zygi…” When Toni Basil sang these lyrics (minus a consonant change here and there), she was not referring to the Vikings current owner Zygi Wilf, but the song goes on to say “you have been around all night and that’s a little too long”. These ominous words could go with Wilf’s willingness to release head coaches. Since Wilf took over as owner in 2005, the team will start this season with its 4th head coach, Mike Zimmer. He, of Hard Knocks fame, is a gifted, hard-nosed, defensive coordinator getting his first crack in the big chair. To help on the other side of the ball, Zimmer has enlisted one of the greatest offensive minds to coach the game, Norval Eugene Turner. Where will this have the most impact? It very well could be at the tight end position. Everyone knows Turner’s running backs have always been a force to be reckoned with. This goes all the way back to his first offensive coordinator job with the Cowboys and Emmitt Smith, and more recently with the likes of the Chargers and LaDainian Tomlinson. But the tight end has always been a key figure in his offensive scheme and will continue to be in Minnesota, eh.
Kyle Rudolph, entering the final year of his contract, comes from a long line of Notre Dame tight ends. He was an integral part in the passing game in college and is entering his fourth year in the NFL. In the past, fantasy owners have seen his value completely tied to touchdowns. Norv Turner’s offense should help to change this. Without a doubt, he has some of the best hands on the team. With Cordarrelle Patterson’s deep strike capabilities, and AP’s presence a constant in the backfield, Rudolph will be left primarily unchecked to roam the midfield. Rudolph is Pyro’s #5 tight end going into the 2014 season. In recent mock drafts, Rudolph has an ADP of 92 according to 4for4. That puts him in the 8th round for a 12 team league. I like Rudolph better than Jason Witten and Dennis Pitta, both of whom are going before Rudolph. The unknown is the QB.
Kyle is one fired up TE now that Norv Turner is in town
According to a $100,000 study, Teddy Bridgewater was the best quarterback in this year’s draft. I’m sure the Browns (who foot the bill) front office will receive a nice Christmas card from the Vikings this year. Bridgewater could very well be the ideal fit for Turner’s down the field offensive attack. The other two candidates are Matt Cassel, and Christian Ponder, who was under center last year for the Vikings. Ponder’s game does not seem to fit Turner’s style. Last year, Ponder’s accuracy for balls thrown 20 yards or more down field ranked 30th out of 32. If Bridgewater can become acclimated to the playbook, his style would keep defenses honest. They would have to account for a deadly Patterson streaking downfield, a massive target lurking midfield in Kyle Rudolph, and arguably the league’s best running back. These three spots could be the key to Turner’s offensive game plan. We will have to watch training camp to see how one of the true quarter back controversies in the league turns out. Cassel is a decent QB. In his four years with KC, he completed 57.4% of his passes. In the four years he spent in New England, he completed 62.9% of his passes. However, Cassel often has a high ratio of interceptions. Pyro ranks him as QB #34. His counterpart, Bridgewater, is far more appealing, especially in dynasty leagues. With Cassel, you know what you are getting, a bye week fill in, and chances are there would be better options on the waiver wire. Bridgewater is the unknown. His draft stock plummeted after a poor combine and pro day. He did not help matters as he gave several excuses including the gloves. Really? Pyro ranks him just 2 ahead of Cassel at QB #32. The difference here is the potential. We know what Cassel is. With Bridgewater, there is an upside. We know the Vikings like him as they traded up to get him. Out of the big three rookie Quarter Backs, Bridgewater is in the best position to succeed this year. The Vikings have the surrounding pieces that could make for a nice transition into the pros.
Offensive linemen are the Rodney Dangerfield of the NFL, they get no respect. In Minnesota however, they are quietly improving. This equates to fantasy goo for running backs and quarter backs. If Matt Kalil can stay healthy and return to his rookie year performance level, he and John Sullivan, one of the league’s best centers, can help contribute to a formidable line for the Vikings. Their schedule helps out as well. The Vikings have the 5th best schedule for running backs, and the 7th for wide receivers.
Last year, we all remember the magic that Josh Gordon created in just his second year in the league. Well, part of Gordon’s success came from Norv Turner’s down the field mentality. Cordarrelle Patterson, also entering his second year, hopes to have the same type of impact. He could be primed to break out this year, especially if your league rewards for long td’s he can strike anytime, from anywhere. Pyro puts him at WR #16. The guy had 3 rushing TD’s last year, and how can anyone forget his 109 yard kickoff return for touchdown. As stated, the Vikings have a great schedule for wide receivers. For the playoffs, they are just outside the top ten for easiest strength of schedule. Detractors look at Greg Jennings as a threat to Patterson, claiming they will cannibalize one another. Let’s look at it from the other side. With an established receiver like Jennings on the field, defenses will most likely focus on him. Pyro ranks Jennings as Wide Receiver #41. Since he came into the league in 2008, he only had one season, in which he only played 8 games, where he did not garner over 100 targets. However, Jennings did not quite average 7 fantasy points per game last year with the Vikings. Although he has not been the same threat he once was in Green Bay, defenses must contain him. Combine that with the attention that AP commands, Patterson will rarely see double coverage; that is until defenses start to catch on. Patterson is primed to be a break out candidate this year. His current ADP on 4for4 is 43, the 18th wide receiver off the board. He is also slated to be their kick returner. The cautious man will worry about the increased risk of injury. Even with the rule change, making kick offs more likely to be ruled a touchback, only 45.4% have been ruled as such from 2011 – 2013. Although there are not as many opportunities for points from kick offs, such points can win you a week here and there. This is why you have to know your league. If you get the points for return touchdowns, you need to keep your eyes peeled to draft such a player. So, if you are a gambler, never count your money until the dealing is done, and Patterson could be a nice pick up. He could easily win you a week with the bonus of return touchdowns.
Can Cordarelle Patterson be Norv's 2014 version of Josh Gordon?
As far as AP is concerned, he is one of the most reliable backs to come to fantasy in a long time. No one is going to make much of a stir if you take McCoy, Forte, or Charles with the first, pick. However, if you are going by consistency, what would be more of a surprise, if those guys did not finish in the top ten for RBs, or if AP did not. Clearly, it is the later, he did not get the moniker ‘All Day’ for nothing. One change that may come with the new OC, Peterson might actually get a slight boost in PPR leagues, as he is expected to take on a slightly larger role in the passing game. Since he came into the league, AP has never rushed for less than 10 TDs and has only had one season (2011) where he did not reach 1,000 yards rushing, and that was due to injury. With Patterson coming into his own, defenses will no longer be able to stack the box against AP, opening up more room for him to run.
Defensively, there is not much to say. The Vikings are one of the worst scoring fantasy defenses out there. Against opposing quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends, they are abysmal, ranking 32nd, 31st, and 31st respectively. Even thought they will get a boost from Patterson on special teams, the horrific defensive statistics makes them undraftable.
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By Jeremy Battaglia aka 'Mo'