Respect the Norseman
The Vikings are headed in the right direction offensively
Earlier this week, I got into Chip Kelly’s Receivers. Today, we’ll take a look at the Minnesota’s new offense and how impressive it is conceptually. Sure, there are questions in terms of the new scheme and the quarterback situation, but this is a Vikings team that should end up with quite a bit to hang its horned hat on.
The new scheme is being installed by OC Norv Turner, who can run a NFL offense with just about anybody. He’s also been outstanding with young quarterbacks throughout his career. This bodes well for Teddy Bridgewater, who, we think, is already a better player than incumbent starter Matt Cassel or Christian Ponder. Regardless of who starts, the play at quarterback is bound to be improved.
The word that keeps coming up when we break down the Vikings’ roster on film is dynamic. This team is filled with dynamic talent. Some of the names are well known, but I think some folks are napping on this group as a whole. Let’s look at some of the skill players the Vikings will deploy in 2014.
- Adrian Peterson - He’s state-of-art when it comes to running backs. The challenge for Minnesota is to not over-use him in the final third of his hall of fame career. They want AP at the top of his game when they open their new building in 2016. He’ll be 31 by then and the Vikings could be ready to compete for a title if things work out. We envision a modest scaling back of Peterson’s workload this season with some carries going to Cordarrelle Patterson, Jerick McKinnon and perhaps even Matt Asiata. Peterson is still an elite RB1 in all formats. He’s still a reasonable option as the top pick in standard scoring leagues.
- Codarrelle Patterson - He’s a polarizing fantasy asset who makes stat model guys nervous. Projecting Patterson requires an understanding of the skills he possesses and how special they are. Cordarrelle is one of the best open-field runners I’ve ever seen—a true game-breaker. Any OC worth his salt will make it a priority to get Patterson the ball. We have no doubts that Norv Turner will get a lot out of him. We are also unsold on Cordarrelle’s so-called route limitations. We expect continued improvement in this area. Patterson played just under 42 percent of the Vikings’ offensive snaps in 2013. We expect that number to increase by 30-40 percent in 2014. Here's our original scouting report on Cordarrelle, who we think is worth drafting as a WR2 in 12-team leagues this season.
- Greg Jennings - He turns 31 in September, but is still a very good receiver and is still explosive. Jennings will see plenty of man coverage and that’s all the help he needs to make plays. We expect a better year than he gave fantasy footballers in 2013. The former Packer should tease the thousand yard mark and he’ll improve on last year’s touchdown total of four. He's a fringe WR3 option in 12-team leagues.
- Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright - A gifted athlete who often gets lost in the shuffle, Simpson could be a fantasy factor in Norv Turner’s system ... if he keeps his nose clean. The most likely scenario has him playing the role of big play receiver. Simpson played 61 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in 2013 and he could repeat that this year if he can outplay Wright. That may not be easy as Jarius is entering his third year and is a talented player with the speed and quickness to make big plays. Both players have the talent to do well in Norv Turner's scheme. This is a camp battle to watch.
- Kyle Rudolph - Rudolph’s season ending foot injury is not going to be an issue. He’s been running for months already. We love his ability as a 2-way tight end who can be featured offensively as needed. When you factor in that Norv Turner's tight ends have been hugely successful over the years, you have to like Rudolph’s chances at having a big year ... which is also looking like it will be a contract year. Rudolph can be a difference-maker in 2014, both in terms of fantasy and real-life football. He should have TE1 value in 12-team formats.
- Jerick McKinnon - He’s being listed not because we expect him to dominate right away, but because the rookie gives them more special talent. If defenses relax because Minnesota gives AP a rest, they will pay a heavy price, because, like Patterson, McKinnon can hit the home run from anywhere on the field. McKinnon will be battling with Matt Asiata for the snaps behind Peterson.
- Teddy Bridgewater - The Vikings didn’t just draft a potential franchise quarterback, they drafted a very good athlete and a great competitor. Bridgewater gives them agility at the position as well as precision passing. Defenses will be hard-pressed to account for Teddy's agility--with so many of the weapons I’ve already listed on the field with him. That’s potentially the back-breaker. Even if you handle Patterson and Peterson and cover everybody else, Teddy can take chunks with his feet. Check out our original scouting report on Bridewater if you have not already.
That is a lot of skill talent and the Vikings can get most of it on the field together. If Turner can get Bridgewater up to speed quickly, they will have an offense where, no matter who possesses the ball, the defense is dealing with a play-maker. This means Bridgewater can get by quite nicely as a ball distributor who can deliver death blows with his feet.
The presence of Peterson and Patterson means that defenses can give no extra attention to players like Jennings and Rudolph. Jerome Simpson, while not the most trustworthy guy, will have matchup advantages almost all the time. Remember, defenses must make stopping Peterson job one … and it’s a hefty task. This offense works off of a big strength. Teddy Bridgewater works the play-action game very well.
When the Vikings force teams into the nickel, they are a matchup nightmare. This was often the case in 2013, but they lacked the quarterback to make it work consistently. Get a passer who plays fast and hits receivers in-stride and this offense can become devastating.
One last point on Patterson.... Remember that it wasn’t Sean Payton who unlocked Darren Sproles' skill set at the NFL level. Norv Turner did that in San Diego and that’s why Sproles became unaffordable for them. Turner can use both conventional and non-conventional players. He’ll find a way to fully utilize Minnesota’s abundant skill talent and that includes the quarterbacks, Jerick McKinnon and especially Patterson.
It’s worth noting that the Vikings are talented up front as well. We expect solid offensive line play buoyed by the new scheme.
In the final analysis, we believe Norv Turner will maximize the talent on hand as he usually does. We do not think he is beholden to his scheme, and certainly not to a fault. He has a solid offensive line, an all-time great running back and some dynamic skill talent on top of that. That’s a very solid base to work from. Do not sleep on this team for fantasy purposes.
I’ll be back on Tuesday with our long overdue running back projections plus the tight ends and receivers later next week.
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- Post Draft Rookie RB Rankings
- 2017 Pre-Draft TE Rankings
- 2017 Pre-Draft QB Rankings
- 2017 Pre-Draft RB Rankings
- 2017 Pre-Draft WR Rankings
- 2017 Pre Combine Rankings
- Postseason Cheatsheets
- Tight End Rankings Week 17
- Wide Receiver Rankings Week 17
- Running Back Rankings Week 17