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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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