Fantasy Football Focus: Minnesota Vikings

Russell IvanacSenior Analyst IAugust 12, 2008

The Minnesota Vikings are on the verge of becoming a playoff contender. They are a strong defensive team, have arguably the best running attack in the league, and play in a weak NFC North division.

So what is holding them back?

Their passing game.

That could change this year if quarterback Tarvaris Jackson can improve on his less-than-60-percent completion percentage and 1,911 passing yards. It won't be easy, but the Vikings will need him to step up if they are going to make an impact in the postseason.

Even if he can't take his play to the next level, the Vikings have plenty of other talented players that you will want to look at before your fantasy draft.



Tarvaris Jackson

There is no denying that Jackson is a tremendous athlete, and as a result, will definitely pick up a decent amount of yards using his legs. Too bad the Vikings need him to be gaining yards with his arm and giving teams a reason to not put nine or 10 players in the box on almost every play.

Some of that responsibility will fall to the receivers, but Jackson will still need to improve.

If Jackson wants to get better, he needs to improve on his throwing mechanics and on-field decision making. The decision making should come with experience, but improving his mechanics will come from hours upon hours of work. That said, he could surprise some fantasy owners this year for one simple fact: Opposing defenses will be focusing heavily on stopping the run.

He is a fantasy backup at this point, and if he is going to change that, it probably won't be for another few years.



Adrian Peterson/Chester Taylor

Peterson is one of the most talented running backs in the league and will only get better; so why shouldn't he be the No.1 overall pick?

The first concern is his durability. I'm sure you have heard it before, and it isn't my biggest concern, so I won't really go into it. My biggest concern is his inconsistent fantasy production last year. It could be blamed on the fact that it was his rookie year, but the majority of the blame should go to Chester Taylor.

I'm not saying that Taylor has done anything wrong. In fact, he played effectively enough to continue to split time with Peterson while Peterson earned his spot among the top backs in the league.

Taylor could be a starter on quite a few teams in the league, but both Peterson and Taylor's fantasy value will be hindered as long as they are together.

Peterson is the No. 1 guy and should be taken no later than No. 3 overall (I would take him at No. 2). Taylor, on the other hand, is a No. 3 or No. 4 fantasy running back.



Bernard Berrian/Sidney Rice/Visanthe Shiancoe

Berrian should be the No.1 receiver in Minnesota and will be asked to make himself enough of a threat to draw attention away from the run. Can he do it? Only time will tell.

He will need to develop a good relationship with Jackson during the preseason. He has never gone over 1,000-yards receiving, nor has he ever caught more than six touchdowns in an NFL season.

There is little indication that he will change that this year, which gives him the value of a No. 4 fantasy receiver. Could this be his best year yet? Yes, but I have my doubts.

Rice is a tall receiver with "burner"-caliber speed, who should develop into Minnesota's biggest deep threat. He will need to stretch the field with his speed and make enough big plays to make safeties think twice about cheating up to help against the run.

He should improve on last year's performance, but he has little more than No. 5-fantasy-receiver value now.

Shiancoe has far more value in real life than he does in fantasy. He is a good blocker and should prove to be valuable in run support once again this year. The best thing that can be said about his fantasy potential is that some "mobile" quarterbacks tend to rely on their tight end. Even if that does happen, he shouldn't be more than a bye-week pickup, which is more than he is right now.



Ryan Longwell

There is little to say about Longwell's fantasy value. He hasn't made 25 field goals since 2002, which doesn't give him much value at all. If the passing game gets better, then he could see his value rise, but right now, he is a wait-and-see kind of fantasy kicker. He has little value, but could become a decent bye-week pickup in certain matchups.




The Vikings recently lost their new, starting, strong safety Madieu Williams to an injury that will reportedly keep him out for about six weeks. He is an upgrade in coverage over former strong safety Dwight Smith, who is now with the Lions.

Once he returns, he, and free safety Darren Sharper, will give the Vikings plenty of talent at the safety positions.

Their starting cornerbacks, Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield, struggled in defending against the deep ball at times last year, but Sharper and Williams should help that. Winfield is a very physical cornerback and adds to an already great run defense.

The strength of the Vikings' defense is their defensive line. Defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams are two of the league's best and are a big part of why the Vikings are so good at stopping the run.

The addition of Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen should take some pressure off of the defensive backs and increase the defense's sack total.

Aundrae Allison averaged 28.7-yards per kickoff last year, which helped Minnesota rank fourth in the league in average yards gained per kickoff (24.8 yards per kickoff). Minnesota was average in punt returns last year, and that probably won't change this year, especially considering the departure of running back/return man Mewelde Moore.

They should be considered one of the top-five defensive units in the league.


Top Five Minnesota Vikings Fantasy Players

1. Adrian Peterson

2. Chester Taylor

3. Bernard Berrian

4. Vikings D/ST

5. Sidney Rice

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