Vikings fantasy football values
Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY SportsNow there’s something like 40 million Americans participating in fantasy sports online and none of them have newspaper ink all over their fingers. Yep, I’ve witnessed a lot from my front-row seat to the fantasy football explosion in this country.
I know what you’re thinking: “Man! Bo must be older than I thought. I mean, he must be like 60 or something.” Not quite. I never had Fran Tarkenton on my team and I’m still a few years shy of my AARP card.
My point here is neither to vigorously wave my fantasy football freak flag nor show my age, but to underscore the fact that in all my years of enjoying the hobby there has never been more touchdowns being scored or more yards being gained. Passing is at an all-time high. There’s a glut of quality-to-elite quarterbacks and a dearth of dependable, feature running backs.
As we enter the heart of fantasy football draft season, you must apply that information to your rankings and draft strategy. It’s really quite simple: quarterbacks are devalued in today’s fantasy football marketplace and the very best running backs have never been more valuable. This is not to say that today’s quarterbacks aren’t good – quite the opposite is true. Nor are today’s running backs, beyond the one atop my rankings, all-time greats. It’s just Economics 101. Supply and demand, baby.
Which brings us to Adrian Peterson, the aforementioned running back atop my rankings if you hadn’t figured that out. Speaking of my rankings, my updated cheat sheet is at the bottom of this article. Scroll down and click on it. Go ahead. We'll wait.
Peterson had an injury-truncated season in 2013, but he’s still the player with the highest ceiling, and despite his various ailments in recent years he’s still the safest fantasy player not named Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers. I’m guessing most folks reading this are Vikings fans and don’t need any convincing when it comes to Adrian. You know the numbers. You know the records. You know about his seemingly superhuman abilities. Moreover, you also know he’s going first off the board in 95 percent of fantasy drafts held within the state borders this month.
This isn’t a provincial thing. Peterson isn’t only leading the way in the rankings on Minnesota fantasy football cheat sheets. He remains the consensus No. 1 pick by the majority of industry experts (just ahead of LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles) and he’s got the highest average draft position (ADP) among ESPN.com online drafters.
So you know where Peterson is going in your drafts… what about other Vikings players?
The next Vikings player off the board in your fantasy league will be second-year wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. According to those same ESPN.com stats, Patterson is the 66th player off the board on average. That makes him a fifth or sixth-round draft pick depending on the size of the league. Keep in mind, however, that’s the national average of all their drafts thus far. His average draft position in Minnesota-based leagues and, frankly, in more veteran or so-called “expert” leagues is higher. Much higher. Vikings fans and those in the fantasy industry are well-aware that Patterson was one of the best wide receivers in fantasy football down the stretch last season, scoring six touchdowns (three rushing, three receiving) over his final five games.
I loathe the term “fantasy football expert” but I’m in one of the national fantasy expert leagues. It’s actually 24 teams split into two 12-team leagues, each with their own pool of players. In one league, Patterson was the 31st player drafted. In the other, he went 36th. Thinking he might go one round later than he did, I didn’t get him. I have him in my dynasty league, so I’ve got that going for me… which is nice. The big idea here is as follows: if you absolutely can’t live without having Patterson on your fantasy team this season, ignore the rankings in your outdated magazine or the online ADP rankings and be prepared to take him in the third round.
Aside from Peterson and Patterson, the only other Vikings player getting much love from fantasy football owners this season is tight end Kyle Rudolph. He’s a personal favorite of mine, and as such I probably have him ranked higher (No. 5 tight end) than most. But I just can’t ignore the potential in Norv Turner’s offense. You think the Vikings’ front office might suspect he’s sitting on a breakout season? They wanted to give him the big money deal now instead of waiting until after he scored 10 touchdowns, when they would have had to pay him even more. Yep, I said 10 touchdowns.
Per ESPN.com’s ADP metrics, Rudolph has been the 107th player off the board – the ninth tight end – in league’s using their commissioner service this year. In the expert league I mentioned previously, he was the 115th player off the board (10th round) in one and 80th off the board (seventh round) in the other. That’s quite a range, but know this: he’ll go closer to that seventh-round end of the range in Minnesota-based leagues full of Norv believers.
What about the rest of the Vikings offense? Well, Blair Walsh is a top-10, even top-five kicker in most fantasy rankings, but you’re not drafting kickers until the final rounds of your draft in standard-sized leagues. Greg Jennings is going off the board in about the 10th or 11th round and feels like a little bit of a value pick given the vibe he displayed with Matt Cassel last season.
As for Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater, they’re going undrafted in a lot of re-draft leagues. I haven’t seen Cassel ranked above the mid-20s on anyone’s quarterback list. Bridgewater is generally ranked somewhere in the 30s at his position. Not many leagues are large enough to go that deep at quarterback. Once again, as I said at the top, we’re in a golden age of sorts for quarterbacks. Merely solid signal callers like Cassel are getting left in the fantasy dust. Some would suggest that with fantasy-worthy targets like Patterson, Rudolph and Jennings he is ranked much too low. However, it’s tough to rate him higher when the Bridgewater Era might be dawning at some point this season.
Don't forget to check out my updated rankings in the cheat sheet below. Good luck in your fantasy drafts!