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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Minnesota Vikings

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Adrian Peterson's knee is the biggest storyline for the Vikings and Fantasy owners this season. He suffered multiple torn ligaments in his knee on Christmas Eve in Week 16, and he is trying to make a full recovery in time for training camp.

Through Minnesota's minicamp in June, Peterson had been running at full speed and starting to cut. He said he was able to do everything with his knee, and his goal is to be ready for training camp and be on the field in Week 1 against Jacksonville.

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We're cautiously optimistic about Peterson. He's an athletic freak, and he's dedicated himself to his recovery. All the reports are glowing -- he was even beating teammate Percy Harvin in sprints -- but we want to see him in pads and in preseason action.

There's still a chance he could suffer a setback or just not be the same Fantasy standout we've become accustomed to when Peterson first entered the league in 2007. Fantasy owners will gravitate to Peterson based on all these positive reports and his pedigree, but anything prior to Round 3 is a risk in our estimation.

Most likely, you will have to draft Peterson in Round 2, and hopefully he lives up to the billing. But we're not ready to invest in a running back less than nine months removed from such a devastating injury.

Instead, consider waiting and draft Toby Gerhart with a mid- to late-round pick. Gerhart might have the chance for quality production if Peterson just isn't the same dominant rusher -- at least initially -- following the injury.

Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value Estimated round
Quarterbacks
Christian Ponder ND
Running Backs
Adrian Peterson 3
Toby Gerhart 8
Lex Hilliard ND
Jordan Todman ND
Wide Receivers
Percy Harvin 4
Jerome Simpson 12
Michael Jenkins ND
Devin Aromashodu ND
Greg Childs ND
Tight Ends
Kyle Rudolph ND
John Carlson ND
Kickers/Defense
Blair Walsh ND
Vikings DST ND
ND - not expected to get drafted

Sleeper ... Kyle Rudolph, tight end
We hope Rudolph is able to build off his performance to end last season over 16 games this year. He had three touchdowns in his final seven games, and if his targets increase he could be a quality contributor for the Vikings. Fantasy owners shouldn't consider Rudolph anything more than a late-round flier in deeper leagues, but he could be someone to add off the waiver wire if he starts off the season playing well. The Vikings need playmakers in the passing game, and Rudolph was a star at Notre Dame. He is a big target at 6-foot-6, and the Vikings have said he will be featured in two tight-end sets. John Carlson will cut into his production, but if Christian Ponder can rely on Rudolph, especially in the red zone, this could be a good year for Rudolph and those owners who trust him.

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Breakout ... Toby Gerhart, running back
I'm skeptical Peterson will be ready and 100 percent for Week 1, which means more touches for Gerhart. And even if Peterson is back and ready to go, it would be surprising to see him get 19 carries a game, which is what he's averaged for the past three years. The Vikings don't want to overwork Peterson coming off his injury, and Gerhart was solid in place of Peterson last year. Gerhart had double digits in Fantasy points for five games in a row from Week 12-16, and he averaged 4.9 yards per carry. Gerhart is never going to be a dominant running back, but it's clear he can be a weekly starter if given enough touches. If something happens to Peterson in his comeback then look for Gerhart to shine, and he's definitely worth drafting in all leagues with a late-round pick.

Late-round flier ... Jerome Simpson, wide receiver
Simpson will play 13 games at most for the Vikings in 2012 after being suspended for three games because of an offseason arrest and guilty plea to a drug charge. But once he returns in Week 4 at the Lions, he should be a key figure in the Minnesota passing game. He'll be an upgrade over Michael Jenkins as the starter opposite Harvin after posting career-highs in 2011 with 50 catches for 725 yards and four touchdowns with the Bengals. He's got some potential to serve as a quality reserve for Fantasy owners -- not a consistent No. 3 receiver -- making him worth a late pick in drafts. Just remember, he'll miss the first three games of the year, so if you draft him you have to commit to keeping him for a little while, and he could be slow in his development and rapport with Ponder. But the talent is there, and Simpson should get the opportunity to succeed once he gets back on the field.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
JAC @IND SF @DET TEN @WAS ARI TB @SEA DET bye @CHI @GB CHI @STL @HOU GB
The Vikings play 12 games indoors, which helps them since they're built for turf -- but it's not going to make their season any better. They might start off 2-0, even if they're without Peterson, but it gets tougher from there with matchups against the 49ers and Lions. It gets worse late in the year when they face the Bears and Packers twice each over their final six games. If they don't improve their offensive line, they could have some real trouble for those games along with a tough Week 16 game at Houston. The silver lining is that their last four games are in domes, so there shouldn't be any weather issues slowing them down, which is nice.

Training camp topics

Aside from Peterson's knee, Fantasy owners will pay close attention to Harvin and his attendance. He caused a controversy in June when he said unknown issues may cause him to hold out.

2011 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Adrian Peterson 208 carries, 18 catches
Percy Harvin 87 catches, 52 carries
Toby Gerhart 109 carries, 23 catches
Michael Jenkins 38 catches
Visanthe Shiancoe 36 catches

Harvin said he wasn't upset at his contract, and reports surfaced he wanted a trade, which the Vikings quickly said would not happen. Now, we have to see if he will show up on time.

We like Harvin a lot as a No. 2 Fantasy receiver. He was a Top 10 Fantasy receiver last year as a third-year breakout when he totaled more than 1,300 yards with career-bests in total touchdowns (eight) and catches (87). If he shows up on time as expected then he should be drafted in Round 4 or 5 in most formats. His value will also be on the rise if Peterson is out.

The key for Harvin and the Vikings will be the development of Ponder. He had some positive moments as a rookie last year -- in 10 starts last season, Ponder had multiple touchdowns in five games -- but he needs to improve for Minnesota to have any success (he also had no touchdowns in three games). The Vikings gave Ponder some new weapons in Simpson and Carlson, and we hope Rudolph's improvement will help as well. The biggest key for Ponder could be if Peterson is out, which would force him to carry more of the load on offense.

We know he can rely on Harvin, but Ponder would need to do a lot of heavy lifting to keep the Vikings competitive. Keep Ponder on your radar because he's a No. 2 quarterback who could reach Top 15 status with a good year. He is not worth drafting in the majority of leagues.

Injury update

Peterson (knee; questionable for the start of training camp) ... Harvin (shoulder; probable for the start of training camp) ... Gerhart (knee; probable for the start of training camp) ... Jenkins (knee; probable for the start of training camp) ... Greg Childs (calf; probable for the start of training camp) ... Antoine Winfield (shoulder; probable for the start of training camp)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Saints' Drew Brees unable to overcome costly turnovers
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:55 pm ET) Saints quarterback Drew Brees was credited with three costly turnovers in his team's 30-14 defeat to the Falcons in Week 16.

Brees was picked off by Desmond Trufant in the first quarter and by Robert McClain in the fourth. On the final play of the game, Osi Umenyiora recovered a fumble from Brees and took it 86 yards for a touchdown to eliminate New Orleans from playoff contention.

Brees threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham in the fourth quarter for his only score of the day. He finished 30 of 47 for 313 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, registering a 72.4 passer rating. He was sacked five times and finished with 8 rushing yards on two carries.

Bress will face Tampa Bay to end the season.


Eddie Lacy runs past 1,000 yards on the season in Green Bay's win
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:55 pm ET) Packers running back Eddie Lacy rushed 17 times for 99 yards and a touchdown in Green Bay's 20-3 win over the Bucs Sunday.

Lacy, who was dealing with an eye injury coming into the game, surpassed 1,000 yards rushing on the year as well in this game. He now has 1,039 rushing yards and 401 receiving yards on the season.

The Packers will welcome the Lions to Green Bay in Week 17 with the division title up for grabs.


Dolphins RB Lamar Miller falls just short of 100 rushing yards
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(4:54 pm ET) Dolphins running back Lamar Miller received his most extensive action of the season during the Dolphins’ 37-35 win over the Vikings Sunday.

Miller received a season-high 19 carries for 92 yards while also catching five passes for a season-high 58 yards on seven targets. The five receptions tied his season high. Miller also scored on a 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter.

Miller has yet to surpass more than 20 carries in a game this season, but is less than 100 away yards from achieving his first 1,000 rushing season.

The Dolphins will play the Jets Week 17.


One big run highlights Sunday effort by Browns RB Crowell
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:49 pm ET) The Browns used rookie Isaiah Crowell as their lone featured back Sunday at Carolina and he did nothing spectacular aside from a 26-yard run over a huge role in the second quarter.

Crowell otherwise rushed for just 29 yards on 18 carries in finishing with 55 yards on 16 attempts. He was not targeted in the passing game.

He will try again when the Browns finish the regular season next Sunday against the host Ravens.


Dolphins WR Mike Wallace scores two touchdowns Sunday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(4:47 pm ET) Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace scored two touchdowns to help the Dolphins defeat the Vikings 37-35 Sunday.

The two touchdown catches from 16 and 7 yards was Wallace’s first multiple touchdown game as a Dolphin. Wallace now has 10 touchdowns on the season which he also accomplished in 2010. Wallace was targeted five times and caught all five passes for 58 yards.

The Dolphins host the Jets in Week 17.


Panthers back Stewart runs wild again in Week 16 win
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:44 pm ET) Panthers featured back Jonathan Stewart continued to sizzle Sunday in the absence of injured backfield mate DeAngelo Williams. He keyed a defeat of the Browns.

Stewart not only caught a 9-yard touchdown pass five minutes into the second half, but he rushed for a game-high 122 yards on a season-high 24 carries. His twisting, turning 30 yard rush in which he faked out several defenders allowed his team to go into victory formation.

He has 437 yards on 78 carries for a 5.6 YPC average over the last four games. He will try to maintain his momentum when the Panthers play at Atlanta in Week 17.


Packers' Aaron Rodgers sits out final drive with injured calf
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:43 pm ET) Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 318 yards and a touchdown in Green Bay's 20-3 win over Tampa Bay Sunday, but was not on the field for the team's final drive while dealing with a calf injury. With the game well out of hand, backup Matt Flynn went in to take the final three kneel downs to give Green Bay the win. 

Rodgers downplayed the injury after the game.

"I'll be okay for next week. [I] hurt my calf pretty good... Battled the flu the last few days," Rodgers said. 

Rodgers injured himself in the first half when he was sacked awkardly, forcing him to lose the ball and turn it over. 

Rodgers threw his first touchdown pass in seven quarters late in the fourth when he found Jordy Nelson from 1-yard out for the score. He and the Packers will look to clinch the division in Week 17 against the Lions. 


Long run doesn't change things for Colin Kaepernick
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4:39 pm ET) Colin Kaepernick had another poor passing performance Week 16 against San Diego, throwing for a season-low 114 yards with one touchdown pass. But because he ran for 151 yards, most of which came on a 90-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, he ended up having a standout performance in Fantasy.

But when's the last time you saw a 90-yard run for a quarterback? It doesn't happen every week. Even as athletic as Kaepernick is, his season long was only 23 yards prior to Week 16. That 90-yard touchdown run was a 15-point play in standard CBSSports.com leagues, which means it was responsible for more than half of Kaepernick's 29 Fantasy points. Take it away, and his performance in Week 16 was just as disappointing as in his previous eight games.

Kaepernick hasn't thrown for multiple scores in nine games, averaging 189.9 passing yards during that stretch, and he's averaging just 137.5 passing yards in his last four games. Don't let this performance change your approach to him in the season's final week, when the 49ers visit the Cardinals.


Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill has career day vs. Vikings
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(4:38 pm ET) Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill had the best game of his career to help lead the Dolphins to a 37-35 win over the Vikings Sunday.

Tannehill completed 35 of his 47 pass attempts to go along with a career-high four touchdowns and 396 passing yards. After not posting a 300-yard passing game all season, Tannehill has now thrown for more than 300 yards in two consecutive games. 

If Tannehill can throw for 215 yards in the season finale, it will mark the first time in his career he surpassed 4,000 passing yards in a season.

The Dolphins host the Jets in the final game of the season.


Panthers QB Newton rises to occasion in Sunday win
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:36 pm ET) Coming off a back injury sustained in a car accident, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton played well in the clutch to lead his team to a critical victory Sunday against the Browns.

Newton led a 66-yard touchdown drive to provide the go-ahead score, completing the job on a 9-yarder to running back Jonathan Stewart, then fired a perfect 37-yard strike to tight end Ed Dickson to clinch it. Newton completed 6 of 7 for 100 yards in the fourth quarter and finished 18 of 31 for 201 yards.

He also rushed for 63 yards on 12 attempts, including a 2-yard scramble for a touchdown off play-action late in the second quarter. His lone major mistake was a terrible decision and flutter ball that resulted in a third quarter interception.

Newton will conclude the season next Sunday at Atlanta.


 
 
 
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