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Offseason Primers: Minnesota Vikings

Senior Fantasy Writer
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It's safe to say there were a lot of improbabilities in the Vikings 2012 season. It was improbable that their star running back, Adrian Peterson, would not only be ready to play in Week 1 after tearing his ACL late in the prior season but rush for over 2,000 yards. It was improbable that quarterback Christian Ponder, not Peterson, would ultimately steer the team to a playoff berth without the benefit of a quality receiver like Percy Harvin. Heck, it was improbable that the Vikings were a playoff team!

And how improbable was it that the Vikings were forced to use backup quarterback Joe Webb in their playoff loss at Green Bay?

2012 Touches Leaders
786 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
Adrian Peterson 388 (348 car., 40 rec.) 49.4%
Percy Harvin 84 (62 rec., 22 car.) 10.7%
Toby Gerhart 70 (50 car., 20 rec.) 8.9%
Christian Ponder 60 car. 7.6%
Kyle Rudolph 53 rec. 6.7%
Michael Jenkins 40 rec. 5.1%
All Others 91 11.6%

Fantasy Football deals with probabilities as much as improbabilities, but there's seemingly one sure player on the Vikings: Peterson. His story from 2012 was enough to make him the league MVP after rushing for the second-most yards in a single season with 2,097 yards. He added 12 touchdowns on the ground and one more through the air. Peterson regained his form as a dominant rusher capable of rumbling for over 120 yards on the ground per week, which he did in half of his regular season games. He's got a hammerlock on the amount of work he'll get from week to week (he had under 20 touches just three times last season) and will run behind a solid offensive line. Though there's a smidge of concern Peterson could exhaust himself after taking on 370 carries over 17 games last year, the reality is that he's too good a player to pass up taking if made available on Draft Day. Owners shouldn't hesitate to take him with the first overall pick.

The rest of the Vikings? Defensively it's looking good but offensively there are a lot of questions after the team traded one of the NFL's most explosive playmakers.

Jarius Wright -- Sleeper

2012 Target Leaders
483 pass attempts
Kyle Rudolph 96 19.3%
Percy Harvin 85 17.6%
Michael Jenkins 72 14.9%
Jerome Simpson 52 10.8%
Adrian Peterson 51 10.6%
All Others 127 26.3%

With Percy Harvin moving on to the Seahawks and Greg Jennings serving as an outside receiver the door is open for Jarius Wright to contribute in his second season. He sat out the first nine games of the year, only getting playing time once Harvin got hurt. Wright didn't have a major impact in place of Harvin but did cobble together two touchdowns on 22 catches for 310 yards. He also caught 60 percent of his targets. But that little experience combined with what he did in college helps project him into someone worth taking. At Arkansas he set the school's career records for catches (168) and yards (2,934) and is second in school history with 24 touchdowns.He's also pretty much the same size as Harvin, so the measurables are there if the Vikings wanted to try and use Wright like they did Harvin. That's definitely not to say Wright will produce like Harvin but if given the chance to see over 60 percent of the snaps week in and week out he could work his way into 50-catch territory with some modest numbers to go with it.

Greg Jennings -- Mid-round value

Jennings' arrival in Minnesota should be welcomed considering the lack of receiving threats on the roster before he came to town. He'll be in a familiar role – the No. 1 receiver – but won't have quite as good of a quarterback throwing to him. That's an obvious factor that hampers his value compared to years past. Health is also a concern after missing 11 games over the last two seasons with leg, groin and abdomen problems. The glimmer of hope comes in what Jennings did for the Packers just before he left, catching 25 passes for 280 yards and four touchdowns over his last four games including two in the postseason.That's the kind of stuff the Vikings offense needs to keep going strong. Jennings might be boiled down to a top-of-the-line possession receiver but he should still be effective so long as he's upright. Best of all, Jennings can be had at a much later point in drafts compared to recent years as you can probably make it to Round 7 and still see him there. Consider him a No. 3 Fantasy receiver with obvious upside.

Kyle Rudolph -- Top 10 tight end

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Christian Ponder Late-round pick
Adrian Peterson Top 2 overall
Toby Gerhart Late-round handcuff
Greg Jennings 65-80 overall
Jarius Wright Late-round pick
Kyle Rudolph 115-125 overall
Blair Walsh Late-round pick
Vikings DST Undrafted

We doubt we won't tell you anything you don't already know but Rudolph is absolutely in the conversation regarding tight ends you can draft and start right away. In 16 games last season Rudolph didn't record more than 67 yards per contest but did have eight games with at least 7 Fantasy points, one of three tight ends to land that many productive games in 2012. Ponder and the Vikings coaching staff already recognize Rudolph as a major red-zone threat and he's come up big there, scoring all of his eight touchdowns down there with 12 of 15 red-zone targets caught. There's room for improvement as Rudolph had the worst target conversion percentage of any tight end with at least 90 targets, catching just 56 of the 96 passes sent his way. An improvement in that area along with more targets in general would better serve Fantasy owners, but the reality is that he'll get picked with a mid-to-late choice anyway.

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

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Player News
Vikings sign defensive end Caesar Rayford
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:31 pm ET) The Vikings signed defensive end Caesar Rayford on Wednesday, Rayford's representation, the Willis & Woy Sports group announced.

Rayford attended the NFL veterans combine, which gave him another look for NFL teams. Rayford was last in the CFL and the Arena League. He was last in the NFL in 2013 when he was with the Cowboys. 


Broncos LB Reggie Walker said he'll add versatility to position
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:19 pm ET) Linebacker Reggie Walker is all right with doing whatever the Broncos coaching staff asks of him. 

Walker, in an interview with DenverBroncos.com, said one of his biggest assets as a football player is the ability to play multiple positions as a linebacker. However, his primary position is at inside linebacker. 

"I’ve had to play in multiple positions throughout my football career; I can do a lot," Walker said. "I think I can do a lot very well. Hopefully I can come out here and show that and I’m going to be ready to compete."

Walker will earn his pay check on special teams. That was a role he played with the Chargers and one the Broncos will rely on him for as well. 

"Special teams is all a mindset," Walker said. "It’s all just about who’s willing to work harder and I’m going to work as hard as I can so I’ll be great at it."


Browns' Randy Starks wants to 'take care of the defensive line'
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:03 pm ET) One attribute that defensive lineman Randy Starks is looking to bring to the Browns is leadership. 

Coming from Miami, Starks is hoping to be an outspoken leader to the younger members on the defensive line. Starks added that he doesn't necessarily want to try and assert his authority over the whole defense. 

“I’m not trying to come here and take over the whole defense," Starks said on Sirius XM radio, via ClevelandBrowns.com. "I’m just trying to take care of the defensive line, and that will help take care of the defense itself. Because we have (Karlos) Dansby and Joe Haden to take care of their respective positions.”

Starks recorded 28 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks in 15 games in 2014. In 11 seasons, Starks has only been to the playoffs twice. He's hoping that changes with the Browns. 

“That’s the same thing I told (coach Mike Pettine): I’m trying to win games," Starks said. "I’m trying to get to the playoffs. And we’re on the same page.”


Cardinals' Kareem Martin could move from DE to OLB
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:49 pm ET) Cardinals pass-rusher Kareem Martin could be going from having his hand in the dirt to standing up with the intent of rushing the passer. 

Martin, who spent his rookie season at defensive end, is being considered for a move to outside linebacker, coach Bruce Arians told the team's website

"With his length, I wouldn't say he's (San Francisco’s) Aldon Smith at this point in his career, but he's got that body style and he's shown some stuff off the edge,” Arians said. “So we are going to look at him to see if he can play in space at all. That might be a spot where he can find his niche as a pass rusher.”

Martin actually spent one day during his rookie year in the outside linebackers meeting room before making the move to defensive end. When Martin worked with the scout team, he would occasionally work as an outside linebacker.

“Being on the edge won’t be so foreign to me,” Martin said. “I’m ready for it.” 


Ravens' Steve Bisciotti: Haloti Ngata could return in 2016
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:38 pm ET) In a conference call with PSL ticket holders, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti didn't rule out the possibility of defensive tackle Haloti Ngata returning to the organization in 2016. 

The Ravens tried to restructure Ngata's contract but were unable to, and thus traded him to the Lions. Ngata is in the final year of a four-year, $48.5 million contract he signed after the 2011 season started. 

Ngata was drafted by the Ravens in the first round in 2006. In his nine-year career, he's totaled 445 tackles and 25.5 sacks. 


Ravens working on contract extension with G Marshal Yanda
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:22 pm ET) The Ravens are working on a contract extension with right guard Marshal Yanda, owner Steve Bisciotti said on a conference call with PSL ticket holders. 

Yanda is slated to earn a $5.5 million base salary and carry an $8.45 million cap number heading into 2015, the final year of his contract. Yanda's regarded as one of the top interior linemen in the NFL, making him a prime candidate for the Ravens to work a new deal out with. 


Jets re-sign offensive tackle Ben Ijalana
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:44 pm ET) The Jets announced on Wednesday that they have re-signed offensive tackle Ben Ijalana

Ijalana has been with the Jets the previous two seasons after the organization claimed him of of waivers from the Colts prior to the beginning of the 2013 regular season. The Colts selected Ijalana in the second round of the 2011 draft. 


Reports: Stefan Wisniewski visited Jaguars, Patriots
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:30 pm ET) The Jaguars hosted free-agent center Stefen Wisniewski on a visit on Wednesday, according to a report from the Florida Times-Union.

Wisniewski also recently visited the Patriots, according to NFL.com, with both New England and Jacksonville in need of interior offensive linemen. Wisniewski spent the past four years with the Raiders, appearing in 61 games. 


Jets sign linebacker Jamari Lattimore
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:24 pm ET) The Jets announced on Wednesday that they have signed unrestricted free agent linebacker Jamari Lattimore

Lattimore spent the previous four seasons with the Packers. Lattimore signed with the Packers in 2011 as an undrafted free agent out of Middle Tennessee State. He's played inside linebacker and special teams for Green Bay. 

In 2014, Lattimore started five games and totaled 35 tackles. 


Vikings sign backup quarterback Mike Kafka
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:20 pm ET) The Vikings have signed free-agent quarterback Mike Kafka , according to his agent Mike McCartney

Kafka recently threw at the first-ever NFL veterans combine. He's been a career backup since being selected in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by the Eagles. Kafka has only appeared in four career games, going 11 of 16 for 107 yards and two interceptions. 

Kafka has also had stints with the Patriots, Jaguars and Buccaneers. 


 
 
 
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