Adrian Peterson returned with a vengeance last year, leading the league with 1,485 rushing yards and finishing 2nd among RBs in fantasy points.
AP turned 31 in March, though. And the Vikings bolstered their passing attack with the addition of 1st-round rookie WR Laquon Treadwell.
Will this remain Peterson’s offense in 2016? Or will it become the Teddy Bridgewater Show?
What will happen: The Vikings defense finishes as a top 8 fantasy unit
Fantasy defense scoring is fickle, so we might be setting ourselves up to fail with this one. But it’s tough to imagine this Minnesota D failing to crack the top 8.
The Vikings finished 14th in 2014, defensive-minded HC Mike Zimmer’s 1st season. They climbed to 7th this past year on the strength of 43 sacks (7th most), 22 takeaways (18th) and 6 defensive/special teams scores (3rd). They also ranked 13th in yards allowed and 5th in points allowed.
All the key pieces return and have another year of experience in Zimmer’s scheme. Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr form 1 of the best young LB duos in the NFL. DE Everson Griffen has racked up 22.5 sacks over the last 2 seasons and remains in his prime at 28 years old. The secondary is deep and talented, led by CB Xavier Rhodes and S Harrison Smith. And Cordarrelle Patterson — although a bust at WR — is 1 of the league’s most dangerous return men.
Don’t chase the Vikings defense too early in your fantasy draft. But you’d do well to snag them with 1 of your last 3 picks.
What won’t happen: Teddy Bridgewater scores as a QB1
He’s ranked 22nd and 23rd, respectively, in his first 2 NFL seasons. That’s despite a solid 64.9% completion rate and 7.2 yards per attempt.
Volume has been Bridgewater’s problem. He finished 24th in pass attempts in 2014 and 21st this past year. Minnesota resided in the bottom 12 in pass rate both seasons.
Expect a similar attack in 2016. Perhaps there’s a slight shift toward the pass with the addition of 1st-round rookie WR Laquon Treadwell. But this offense will continue to lean on RB Adrian Peterson for as long as it can.
With such a deep QB pool, Bridgewater is only worth drafting in 2-QB and best-ball leagues.
What might happen: Jerick McKinnon is a RB3 or flex option even without an Adrian Peterson injury
Peterson is 31. He has nearly 2,500 NFL carries under his belt. He averaged a solid 4.5 yards per carry last year, but that mark dropped to 3.2 over the final 6 games (including playoffs). Has he finally hit the wall?
Maybe. We won’t know for sure until the 2016 season gets going. But it wouldn’t be surprising if Minnesota scaled back Peterson’s workload at least a little. That’s easier to do when you have an explosive change-of-pace back at your disposal.
McKinnon has impressed with every chance he’s gotten. He averaged 4.8 yards on 113 rookie-year totes in 2014. He upped that mark to 5.2 yards per carry last year, although he carried just 52 times.
Perhaps more importantly, McKinnon showed growth as a pass-catcher in Year 2. He improved his catch rate from 69.5% to 72.4% and his yards per catch from 5.0 to 8.2. If he can prove reliable in pass protection, McKinnon could siphon a bunch of passing-down work from Peterson this year. And his explosive ability means just 8-10 touches per game could make him a fantasy factor, especially in PPR leagues.