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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
Dwight Freeney limited in practice Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:35 pm ET) Chargers linebacker Dwight Freeney was limited in practice Wednesday.

Freeney is dealing with a knee injury. Freeney was probable Week 4 due to non-injury reasons. Freeney started the game, but was seen receiving treatment from trainers during the second half of the contest. 


Colts involving their wide receivers more
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(7:26 pm ET) While running back Ahmad Bradshaw's role in the passing game has diminished the last two weeks, wide receivers Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton have both been more involved. Each had his best performance of the season Week 4 against Tennessee, with Wayne catching eight passes for 119 yards and a touchdown and Hilton catching 10 passes for 105 yards.

Hilton seems to be the more reliable of the two -- he's had double-digit targets in three of the Colts' first four games -- but Wayne's best games have been better. Both figure to remain involved in Week 5. The Colts, who have relied much more on their passing game this year, recognizing the limitations of their running game, have every incentive to stay the course against Baltimore. The Ravens rank seventh against the run, allowing 82.5 yards per game, but 24th against the pass, allowing 260.3 yards per game. They've given up the ninth-most Fantasy points per game to wide receivers this season.

Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard both seem to prefer Wayne to Hilton this week -- especially Dave, who ranks him 18 spots ahead -- but they're about on equal terms for me. I'd treat them as low-end No. 2 wide receivers, which means I'd be starting them unless I was just loaded at the position.


Texans bring in Charles James, Kendall James
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:16 pm ET) The Texans have signed cornerbacks Charles James and Kendall James to the practice squad. 

Charles James was undrafted, but did make an appearance with the Giants in 2013. He recorded two tackles and induced a fumble. Kendall James was drafted by the Vikings this year, but did not make the 53-man roster. 


No sense choosing between Colts tight end duo
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(7:16 pm ET) Torn between Colts tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener? It's easy to see why. Both scored a touchdown for the second straight game Week 4 against the Titans, but neither stands out between the 20s. Allen had 64 receiving yards in Week 1, but otherwise, neither has topped 50 in a game.

Well, the good news is that in Week 5 against the Ravens, you probably don't want either. Through four games, the Ravens have allowed the fewest Fantasy points per game to tight ends and have yet to have one score on them.

Maybe one of Allen and Fleener reverses the trend this week, but which one? And what happens if he doesn't? I don't know about you, but I don't like the thought of getting two measly points from my tight end spot.

Owners in 12-team leagues can do better. With the emergence of Larry Donnell, Delanie Walker, Travis Kelce, Heath Miller and even Clay Harbor, tight ends aren't exactly in short supply.


Andre Ellington limited in practice Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:10 pm ET) Cardinals running back Andre Ellington was limited in practice Wednesday.

Ellington has been dealing with a foot injury all year, but has managed to play through it. With the team on a bye last week, Ellington should be a bit healthier entering Week 5. 


Status quo for Trent Richardson
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(7:07 pm ET) Prior to Week 4, you probably weren't the least bit excited about starting Trent Richardson in Fantasy. But then he scored a touchdown, which, combined with an uncharacteristic 52 receiving yards, led to a 15-point showing in standard CBSSports.com leagues.

But here's what he still didn't do against the Titans: run the ball effectively, which is saying something considering they rank 22nd against the run, allowing 127.0 yards per game. On a daring 20 carries, Richardson picked up only 47 yards for an average of 2.4 yards per carry.

I don't see him doing any better against the Ravens in Week 7. They rank seventh against the run, allowing 82.5 yards per game and 3.3 yards per carry.

No one can predict whether or not Richardson will get a carry at the goal line -- for some reason, the Colts keep going back to him -- but if he doesn't, just like the first three weeks, you won't like what he does for your Fantasy team.


Time to shy away from Ahmad Bradshaw?
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(6:59 pm ET) Fantasy owners who had been relying on Ahmad Bradshaw since his two-touchdown effort against the Eagles in Week 2 lucked out when he found the end zone on a 15-yard pass from Andrew Luck in the fourth quarter Week 4 against the Titans. He hadn't played much of a role up to that point, finishing the game with just 11 touches.

Looking back, even when he seemed like such a find those first two weeks, he wasn't getting all that many touches. His value was largely a function of him playing a bigger-than-expected role in the passing game, but he has just two catches in each of his last two games.

Bottom line: I'm getting nervous about using Bradshaw in Fantasy. He played only 36 percent of the Colts' snaps in Week 4, down from about 60 percent the first two weeks. The Colts seem content with the plodding Trent Richardson carrying the load, using Bradshaw as just a change-of-pace guy.

Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard still like him for Week 5 at Baltimore, ranking him among their top 20 running backs, but I think his luck finally runs out. The Ravens rank seventh against the run, allowing 82.5 yards per game, and have given up the seventh-fewest Fantasy points to running backs this season.


Report: Mychal Kendricks unlikely to go Week 5
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:57 pm ET) Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks is unlikely to play Week 5, according to 94 WIP.

Kendricks has already missed two games due to a calf injury, and it appears he'll miss another Sunday. Kendricks has 10 tackles and one sack through two games. 


Cam Newton hoping to run soon
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:46 pm ET) Panthers quarterback Cam Newton expressed that he may run more soon, according to the team's website.

Newton is still dealing with the effects of offseason ankle surgery. A rib injury during the preseason has also impacted his ability to use his legs more. Newton stressed that he's looking to be more of a pocket passer, though, even when he's fully healthy. "I look at myself as a pocket passer with the ability to run," Newton said. He added, however, that he's feeling healthier and might be able to show off his running skills soon. "Hopefully I will be able to display my running talents soon," he added.


Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson risky for Week 5
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(6:41 pm ET) If the last two weeks are any indication, as quarterback Kirk Cousins goes, so go wide receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. Both were complete busts in Week 4, when Cousins threw four interceptions in a laugher against the Giants.

The correlation is especially troubling with the Redskins set to host defending champion Seattle in Week 5. The Seahawks, in case you haven't heard, are pretty stellar on defense. Though statistically, they don't rank as high against the pass as you'd expect thanks to some tough matchups against Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning to begin the season, Cousins isn't of the same caliber. And not all of them did so hot anyway. Rodgers threw for just 189 yards in Week 1.

If you're going to pick one, Garcon is probably the better choice since his role as the possession receiver should theoretically make him a little more consistent than the boom-or-bust Jackson, but neither Jamey Eisenberg nor Dave Richard has either higher than 32nd at wide receiver this week.


 
 
 
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