The Vikings were this close to heading to Super Bowl XLIV after an amazing 2009 campaign led by Brett Favre.
The 40-year-old put up one of his best seasons last year thanks to a solid offensive line, a tremendous receiving corps and an excellent running game. Give a sage gunslinger like Favre that kind of supporting talent and there's no doubt that he'll perform.
But will he do it again?
Favre ended that playoff game at New Orleans with an injured ankle that required surgery, which he had early on in the offseason. That previously suggested that he would return for a 20th season with the Vikings, but reports in early August said Favre texted teammates saying he was retiring, starting a chain reaction of events that saw the future Hall of Famer say he wasn't sure what he was planning on doing -- talk straight from the horse's mouth. Now speculation is all over the place on Favre, but most people agree that he'll come back at some point for the 2010 season.
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That's making Fantasy owners skeptical of drafting Favre, even after an eye-popping 33-touchdown, seven-interception regular season. After all, if he gets drafted and then doesn't play, the pick is wasted. So until then, Fantasy owners are taking a cautious approach with him, either pulling him off their draft boards or drafting him much later than a passer who finished last season third in Fantasy points among quarterbacks should. Getting Favre and pairing him with an established, quality quarterback to back him up is a safe plan, or if you've already drafted Favre and are jittery, pick up Tarvaris Jackson, who would start for Favre if he's done.
With Favre there appear to be certainties but no guarantees. The rest of the Vikings team returns fresh and nearly unchanged from last season, but it is Favre's presence that will ultimately get the engine going -- and the stats piling up -- in the Twin Cities.
Keeper-league target ... Joe Webb, QB
Admittedly, this one is "out there." But if you're in a deep dynasty or keeper league and have a late pick to burn on a youngster with some pretty serious potential, check out Webb. Drafted late as a receiver prospect, the Vikings gave Webb some reps at quarterback during a rookie minicamp and were blown away by his basic skills. Since then he's worked with the second- and third-team offenses and been "superb" according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. You talk about diamonds in the rough, Webb potentially might be worth a fortune in long-term leagues. Despite public perception, Favre won't play forever.
|Player||Draft Day value|
| Brett Favre |
(assuming he returns)
Bounce-back candidate ... Bernard Berrian, WR
There were two significant reasons why Berrian didn't contribute more than 618 yards and four touchdowns last season: A sore hamstring and a plethora of other receivers to share targets. Those receivers are still there, but Berrian is healthy heading into 2010 and should be more of a deep threat. Here's some proof: Berrian's receiving average dipped to a career-worst 11.2 yards per catch in 2009 with just five grabs for 20 yards or more. Compare those stats to his previous three seasons when he averaged nearly 16 yards per catch and had at least 11 20-plus-yard receptions per year. And the 55 catches he had a season ago is proof that he's not lost in the offensive shuffle. The Berrian we saw in 2009 isn't the Berrian we should expect to see in 2010. He's a nice late-round pick.
Breakout ... Percy Harvin, WR
Think Harvin has done something already? There's potential for more -- Harvin established himself as a unique threat last season, topping all rookies with 790 yards on 60 catches (tied for the rookie lead with Austin Collie) and six touchdowns (one behind Collie). But he also piled up 135 rushing yards, and with Chester Taylor off to Chicago there's talk that Harvin -- not rookie Toby Gerhart -- will take over on some third downs in addition to his duties as a slot receiver. Bottom line: Harvin's going to be on the field a lot and picking up touches a bunch of different ways. There's still room for him to improve, and he's got a shot to land No. 2 receiver stats before this season is through.
Week 1 will be a challenge, and the middle portion of the schedule doesn't do the Vikings any favors, but there's a stretch late that should give the Vikings a good push for the playoffs. What specifically stands out is a three-game homestand against the Bills, Giants and Bears that should result in some big numbers for the Vikings. That comes late in the year and should play a role in Fantasy postseasons. One other stretch to watch: at the Jets, vs. the Cowboys and at the Packers in Weeks 5 through 7. Adrian Peterson will definitely get tested there.
Training camp topics
Aside from that and the annual Favre Watch, there's not much to check out on the Vikings offense as most of the roles have been claimed. One interesting development should be how the running backs shake out behind Peterson as veteran Ryan Moats and Gerhart will look to carve out roles. Which one of them will help AP out -- or will it be Harvin filling a role?
The defense is a different story, as there are questions about the health of linebacker E.J. Henderson and the status of the starting cornerback opposite Antoine Winfield. Some are optimistic that Henderson will be ready to roll while Lito Sheppard was acquired by the Vikings this offseason to pad their depth and offer a starting choice since Cedric Griffin isn't expected to be ready for the start of the season.
But everything hinges on Favre. Without him, Tarvaris Jackson takes over at quarterback and the offense figures to lose a step. With him, the offense should continue to roll. This is significant for Peterson; if Favre is out, the target will squarely be on his back for 16 weeks, and with a schedule that's not quite as easy as last year, he could be in for a rough ride. That's hard to read, but that's the reality, especially after he's taken on 748 total carries over the last two seasons and postseasons -- that's more than 370 carries per year on average. Peterson needs Favre -- or Jackson to play like Favre -- in order to retain his amazing stats.
Many expect the Vikings to compete for a Super Bowl appearance this season after falling short. A good camp will help them climb back toward the top of the proverbial mountain.
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