Fantasy Football: Don't Sleep on Minnesota Vikings Receiver Jerome Simpson

Mike NelsonCorrespondent IAugust 18, 2012

Aug 17, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings receiver Jerome Simpson (81) jumps over Buffalo Bills  cornerback Jairus Byrd (31) for a first down in the first quarter at the Metrodome. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-US PRESSWIRE

Among the many positives in Friday’s 36-14 victory over the Buffalo Bills was the performance of Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson.

Simpson caught three passes for 43 yards, including an impressive 33-yard reception that featured a nifty hurdle over Buffalo free safety Jairus Byrd.

It wasn't the first time Simpson made noise for his vertical abilities. In 2011, Simpson famously flipped over an Arizona Cardinals defender and into the end zone.

That same season Simpson played in a career-high 16 games and set career-highs in receptions (50), receiving yards (725) and touchdown receptions (four).

With the fantasy football drafting season in full-swing, don’t overlook Simpson as a viable backup and sleeper candidate at the wide receiver position.

At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Simpson has the build to be a play-making receiver in the NFL. He just hasn’t had a true full-time opportunity yet.

In 2008 and 2010, the two years prior to 2011 in which Simpson was active, Simpson had to compete with Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh for playing time and targets.

Houshmandzadeh caught 92 balls for 904 yards with four touchdowns in 2008. Johnson caught a combined 120 passes for 1,371 yards with eight touchdowns during that two-year period. Even though neither player was at his pinnacle during those years, both were still very viable.

Because of that, Simpson has never been “the man” at his position. But in Minnesota he has a great opportunity to do just that.

Percy Harvin is the leader of the receiving corps, but he’s a slot receiver. Harvin is at his best going over the middle and operating in the flats. That's not Simpson's territory. He operates at his best from the split end position. He will be Minnesota’s go-to deep-ball guy.

Yes, there are concerns about Simpson’s quarterback Christian Ponder.

Ponder was erratic during his rookie campaign (13 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions while completing 54.3 percent of his passes with a 70.1 passer rating in 10 starts).

But Ponder has looked much improved during the first two preseason games. During those games, Ponder is 14-of-22 (63.6 percent) for 216 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions. And if not for receiver drops in the first preseason game, Ponder’s completion percentage could be even better.

He has led Minnesota to at least a field goal in each possession he’s been under center.

Now Ponder has only outperformed his rookie campaign in limited preseason action. There’s no guarantee he’ll be equally as efficient come the regular season. But he will be better than last year.

Ponder's 2012 performance will greatly impact Simpson's season from a statistical standpoint.

If you're intrigued by Simpson for your fantasy team be warned: He is suspended for the first three games of 2012. That will reduce his overall statistics for the season, but with Minnesota’s limited talent at the wide receiver position Simpson should start in Minnesota’s fourth game and be on Ponder’s radar from the first passing play.

CBS Sports Senior Fantasy Writer Dave Richard agrees with me. He listed Simpson as a sleeper, depending on the depth of your league.

ESPN projects Simpson for 589 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions. I’m not projecting a 1,000-yard season for Simpson or double-digit touchdown receptions. But a rough duplication of his 2011 stats (750 receiving yards, and four touchdown receptions) in 13 games isn’t out of the question.

If you need a wide receiver come the end of your draft Simpson is worth the look…or if you want to wait until the end of September it’s realistic that he’d be available in free agency.