StrategyAugust 12, 2009

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Daily Preview: Minnesota Vikings

By R.J. White

The Vikings have been a hotly-discussed team this offseason. With their stellar running game and elite defense, many have pegged Minnesota as the likely NFC representative in this year’s Super Bowl. The Vikings have also dominated headlines by courting some retired QB named Brett something to come and try to win another championship. With all this excitement — I just remembered, his name is Brett Favre — surrounding the team, you would think that you could land multiple fantasy starters by pillaging the Vikings. But aside from the number-one overall fantasy pick and a top-notch defense, there isn’t too much to get excited about.

QB: Sage Rosenfels, Tarvaris Jackson
RB: Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor, Ian Johnson
WR: Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin
TE: Visanthe Shiancoe
PK: Ryan Longwell

Quarterback: Despite a strong finish to the season by Tarvaris Jackson, who threw seven TDs in three starts after Gus Frerrote was injured, the Vikings traded a draft pick to bring Sage Rosenfels over from Houston. You get the feeling the players want Jackson as their QB, but since they don’t have the deciding vote, I feel Rosenfels will be under center in Week 1. Since he was a turnover machine in Houston, both quarterbacks might eventually get the chance to start. Whoever winds up with the job is an interesting fantasy sleeper, playing with some good pass-catching weapons and an elite running game to keep the pressure off. At this point in the offseason, Rosenfels is a decent QB2 pick near the end of the draft.

Running Back: Adrian Peterson. That was simple enough. The 24-year-old Peterson is going #1 overall in a majority of fantasy football leagues, and it’s easy to see why. He rushed for 1,760 yards in 2008, while scoring 10 times, finishing as the third-best running back in fantasy leagues for the second consecutive year. The top two backs from 2008 don’t have Peterson’s track record, leaving the Viking as the clear favorite for the top spot. Be warned; he cedes much of the passing-game work to Chester Taylor, an elite receiving back and rosterable fantasy player in his own right. So while Peterson might not finish with the most points, he’s the safest pick of the elite fantasy backs. Owners much handcuff their investment by taking Taylor in the middle of the draft.

Wide Receiver: The #1 in this offense is Bernard Berrian, who averaged over 20 yards a catch last year and scored seven TDs. Berrian makes for a great WR3 on fantasy teams, as an improved QB situation could lead to a 1,000-yard season. While Sidney Rice is the other starter, the second WR off this team in fantasy drafts is Percy Harvin, the rookie out of Florida. He’s dropped jaws in camp so far, and the coaching staff is gameplanning creative ways to get the ball into his hands in open space. He’s definitely a fantasy backup with upside. Rice carries a solid bit of upside in TD-heavy leagues, as he’s primed to be a great red-zone weapon this year if he can stay healthy.

Tight End: Exploding on to the fantasy scene virtually out of nowhere, Visanthe Shiancoe caught seven TDs and gained nearly 700 receiving yards, finishing as a top-five TE in 2008. However, owners aren’t showing faith in a repeat season, as ten-plus TEs usually get drafted before Shiancoe. If you punt the TE position early, Shiancoe is a solid late-round gamble. If he doesn’t recapture last year’s magic, be prepared to search the wire for a replacement.

Team Defense/IDP: The success of the Vikings defense is bred from their exceptional ability to defend the run. This strength could be compromised if the Williams Wall (Pat and Kevin Williams) is suspended due to fallout from the StarCaps scandal. At this point, it doesn’t look like that will happen this season, so the Vikings remain an elite pick for your defense slot. If you count the return game in your league, you have to like the addition of Harvin to your D/ST unit.

The IDP to target is Jared Allen, one of the game’s best sack artists. In leagues that require teams start defensive lineman, Allen should be one of the first few off the board, if not the first overall DL drafted. Don’t sleep on Kevin Williams, as the defensive tackled added 8.5 sacks to his 46 tackles last season. Linebacker E.J. Henderson missed much of last year with an injury to his foot, but if he’s 100% he’s a great IDP pick in the middle of this defense. Chad Greenway is solid for LB depth. CB Antoine Winfield is one of the best tackling CBs in the league, making him a great asset in leagues that start cornerbacks. Feel confident with him as your CB1.

The Vikings are a supremely-talented team, but their success this season will hinge on the play of their quarterback. If they don’t get production out of that position, they’ll have a tough time winning the NFC North, much less the Super Bowl, and many of their fantasy players could suffer. I like Sidney Rice and Visanthe Shiancoe as late-round flyers, and I’d loot this team for IDP talent.

R.J. White is a fantasy blogger at the sports site FanHouse. Check out his work both here and there, and feel free to talk to him in the forums, where he posts under the name daullaz.
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