Despite the fact that there are many NFL and fantasy football fans who pick over offseason news with a fine-tooth comb, we understand that there are still a lot of you out there who simply don't have time to keep up with player movements or the happenings of each team. That's why yours truly is here to give you the lowdown on the recent 2014 news of each team, both AFC and NFC and how it impacts your fantasy football league/team.
Today I'll be finishing off the NFC North with the Vikings, the team who will look to rebound after winning a mere 5 games and going winless on the road (7 losses/1 tie).
With the hiring of OC Norv Turner, who I feel got a bit of a raw deal in Cleveland after the Browns traded RB Trent Richardson to the Colts, the Vikings offense should take a step up after a disappointing 2013 season.
It all starts with the quarterback position. Which, unfortunately, is the team's most questionable position at the moment on offense. Coming off another sub par performance last season, QB Matt Cassel should still be named the starter at the beginning of training camp, while keeping the job throughout the rest of the summer over Teddy Bridgewater. Despite Cassel's inept play, including a mere 27 touchdowns in his last 27 appearances, his veteran status gives him the edge over the much more raw Bridgewater. Cassel already has backing from Turner, who revealed that he wanted the Browns to sign him last season.
Now keep in mind that this isn't a prediction that Cassel will hold onto the starting job for all 16 games. Far from it. Cassel's past will creep back, it's just a matter of when. In that regard, Cassel isn't worth your time in any league format. Despite Turner's presence, Cassel will yield starts to Bridgewater eventually. It will only be a matter of time considering Cassel's track record. As for Bridgewater's fantasy football value; Dynasty only. Bridgewater fell to the late second round of my rookie-only dynasty draft after I drafted Jaguars QB Blake Bortles. There could be some value there. However, redrafters can bypass Bridgewater since the chances of him making a Cam Newton-type impact in his first year is pretty slim.
As if RB Adrian Peterson couldn't get any better. Given Turner's abilities with running backs, Peterson will improve from 2013. It might not be a huge improvement since there isn't a lot that needs improving in the first place, but it will be enough to keep AD amongst the top-3 overall players drafted this year. After averaging 90.4 rushing yards a game and another double-digit scoring season, Turner is looking to get Peterson more involved in the passing game. Essentially, this has been one of Peterson's biggest drawbacks compared to guys like Eagles RB LeSean McCoy and Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles. Peterson's lack of involvement in the passing game has pushed his value down compared to those other two guys in PPR leagues. Peterson won't break out into a 70-80 catch running back overnight, but he could push his career high of 43 catches set in 2009. If he can squeak out 45-50 catches, owners should be ecstatic.
Peterson also has to show he can play a full 16-game season, a feat he's been able to attain in just one out of the last four years. This is where the question marks at backup running back come into play. With Toby Gerhart now in Jacksonville, Matt Asiata is currently penciled in as the No. 2. But his job shouldn't be considered safe. Asiata is a plodder who offers no explosiveness with the ball in his hands. In two seasons, he has averaged just 3.9 yards per carry. Rookie RB Jerick McKinnon is raw, but he has blazing speed and is an all-around better athlete than Asiata. I know if I draft Peterson in a redraft league, I won't be taking a handcuff this year only because there isn't a clear-cut player to pick before the season starts. As for dynasty owners, McKinnon is an excellent grab-and-stash in the hopes he can push for No. 2 duties eventually this season.
The Vikings' receiving corps looks good on paper, but much of the hype has come from the expected breakout season from second-year Cordarrelle Patterson. While not showing much in the way of stats in 2013, he showed just how dangerous he can be in the Week 14 game against the Ravens, after catching 5 passes for 141 yards and a score. Plus, he scored a rushing touchdown in each of the last two regular season games. With most of his offense coming from kickoff returns, Patterson has already received praise from both Turner and Cassel in regards to his improvement in route running. Fellow WR Greg Jennings was also quoted as saying that the Vikings plan on showcasing Patterson a lot this year.
Despite all the praise and the possibility of a breakout year, temper your enthusiasm as an owner. The problems will continue to persist at quarterback and this team isn't going to give up on it's bread-and-butter in the running game. Patterson is currently being drafted in the latter half of the third round, while ranked as the 13th overall fantasy receiver with guys like Redskins WR Pierre Garcon and Giants WR Victor Cruz sandwiching him. I'd rather wait until the 5th or 6th round for Patterson. While the breakout talk will continue until Week One, I'd prefer a sure thing over predictions and hype. Patterson is a better WR3, with the upside of a WR2.
I haven't forgotten about Jennings, but he's clearly on the decline after putting in eight seasons as a veteran. Jennings did improve once Christian Ponder was benched, but he was feast or famine for most of the 2013 season. There were 5, 6 and even 7 catch games, but 2 and 3 catch games strewn in between. If the Vikings want to get Patterson more involved like they say, Jennings will be nothing more than fantasy bench fodder. Listed as the 61st ranked receiver, that puts his value at around a WR5. No doubt Jennings will have a couple more big games, but his consistency has disappeared.
Jerome Simpson had the best season of his career, catching a career-high 726 receiving yards, but he'll fight with Jarius Wright for No. 3 duties behind Jennings and Patterson. Neither player is worthy of a draft pick.
Finishing off the Vikings analysis on a high note, TE Kyle Rudolph could take a big step forward with Turner calling the plays. Turner was one of the big reasons for Browns TE Jordan Cameron's 2013 season. Rudolph has shed 15 pounds and has been working out at Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald's receiving camp to hone in on his receiving skills. Plus, he's been viewing tape on both Cameron and former Turner protege TE Jay Novacek, who excelled under Turner in Dallas. Facing one more year on his contract, Rudolph will have a lot to prove in 2014. And like Patterson, is considered another breakout candidate. Rudolph's career highs in catches (53) and receiving yards (493) could easily be smashed if everything falls into place. Even with WR Josh Gordon taking up much of the offensive attention in Cleveland in 2013, Cameron still caught 80 passes for 917 yards. There's no reason to think the equally athletic Rudolph can't do the same. Rudolph will emerge as a low-end TE1 by the end of August, where he is currently ranked as of this writing.