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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
Titans' Massaquoi rehabbing shoulder, to miss OTA's
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(4:34 pm ET) Outside linebacker Jonathan Massaquoi will not participate in the Titans' first organized team activities, per ESPN.com.

Massaquoi, who was claimed off waivers from the Falcons earlier this year, is recovering from shoulder surgery. He had a bone spur removed from the area, but the procedure was categorized as a minor cleanup.

Massaquoi recorded 22 tackles in 15 games with Atlanta last season.


Entering third season, 49ers' Lawrence Okoye eyeing roster spot
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(4:04 pm ET) This might finally be the year Lawrence Okoye can crack a spot on the 49ers' roster, per the Bay Area News Group.

Okoye, a former British Olympics discus thrower and rugby player, is feeling confident about his improvements and feels like his potential is worth a roster spot.

“It’s very different from the first time I came here. I’m feeling very good about things,” Okoye said Thursday while sitting at his locker. “I’m just happy I was given the opportunity to stay here so long, so I could catch up. I have a good opportunity to show what I can do.”

Okoye has worked under new head coach Jim Tomsula for two years and with Justin Smith's retirement, his emergence might be rewarded.

“You’re going to get lots of people telling you things. But the main thing is to just keep yourself motivated, despite what people say about you," Okoye said. "People will write you off. People will say this or that. Just keep yourself motivated, keep going every day and you’ll be good.”

 


Bengals' Terrelle Pryor still dreams about winning it all
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(3:45 pm ET) Terrelle Pryor's chances of taking the Bengals to the Super Bowl and winning it are slim, but that won’t stop him from dreaming.

Pryor -- in his fourth year in the league -- dreams about winning the Super Bowl with quite some frequency, he just isn't sure what team he's doing it with.

“I don’t know the team. It’s always in black uniforms,” Pryor said. “I didn’t see any orange. No, it’s not the Raiders. But I believe it can happen because I can visualize it like that. I’m into visualization.”

Pryor hasn't played a down since the 2013 regular season, when he passed for 1,798 yards, seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 11 games.


Flowers' college position coach thinks he can fill in for injured Beatty
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(3:18 pm ET) Things are moving really fast for Giants offensive lineman Ereck Flowers. The eighth overall pick in the draft, because of an injury to Will Beatty, might have inherited a huge workload this season, per nj.com.

Art Kehoe, Flowers' offensive line coach at the University of Miami, thinks Flowers will be up to the task of protecting quarterback Eli Manning.

"I'm sure he raised his level up a notch or two, but I think he plays every week, I think he plays hard in practice," Kehoe said. "He's an unproven commodity at the next level, and he's a high draft pick, [the Giants] drafted him to be a fixer, so I'm sure he's going in there to do what he did in Miami — scrap his ass off every day in practice, and if you're supposed to be a badass the next weekend [against] your opponent, he's gonna be there and he's gonna bring everything he's got. That's what he does. He wants to know that there's a dude, and he has to take care of him, and he'll be up to the challenge.

Giants' 2013 first-round pick, Justin Pugh is also a top candidate to fill in for the injured Beatty.


Union: Goodell must back off hearing of Patriots QB Tom Brady
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:00 pm ET) NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith is growing impatient awaiting word from Roger Goodell on the request of the NFL commissioner to recuse himself as arbitrator of the appeal hearings ofPatriots quarterback Tom Brady.

The league suspended Brady for the first four games next season for his alleged role in the Deflategate scandal, claiming that he likely knew that game balls were being deflated for his benefit before the 2014 AFC title game.

Smith is claiming that neither Goodell nor the Wells Report, which investigated the incident, could legitimately claim impartiality. He added that the NFLPA will "advance the volume" of the request if they don't hear from Goodell by next week. Part of the union's press release reads as follows:

Given a process that has contained procedural violations of our collective bargaining agreement, the Commissioner's role as a central witness in the appeal hearing and his evident partiality with respect to the Wells report, the Commissioner must designate a neutral party to serve as arbitrator in this matter. The players also believe that the Commissioner's history of inconsistently issuing discipline against our players makes him ill-suited to hear this appeal in a fair-minded manner.

As for the Wells Report, Smith stated that "you can't really have credibility just because you slap the word independent on a piece of paper." He offered into evidence the findings in regard to NFL official Walt Anderson, who was a key figure in the investigation, citing one part of the report questions his memory and another credits it.


Zimmer happy with progress of Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:32 pm ET) Mike Zimmer has expressed optimism that underachieving Vikings wideout Cordarrelle Patterson is gaining a better understanding of route-running and the nuances of playing the position in the NFL, which would allow his talent to result in greater productivity.

Patterson took a step back in 2014 after a mediocre rookie year. He played in every game, but managed just 33 receptions for 384 yards and one touchdown. He has since stated that 2015 is his make-or-break year and is apparently acting like it in the offseason.

"He's done real well," Zimmer told Fox Sports North. "He's running routes good. He's working hard. So we just need him to continue to do those things and continue to keep getting consistent and keep improving. I've been impressed."


GM: Dolphins LT Branden Albert should be fine for Week 1
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:22 pm ET) Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey has expressed optimism that left tackle Branden Albert will be ready to roll by the regular season opener.

Albert has been rehabbing from a torn ACL and MCL sustained last November against Detroit. He had signed a five-year, $46 million contract the previous March and had been performing particularly well before going down.

"It's been a long rehab and he's really attacked it every day," Hickey told SiriusXM NFL Radio, adding that there was a "reasonable explanation" that he would be ready for Week 1. "We really like his progress. He's out there with his team working out. We're really encouraged by what we're seeing with him."

Ja'Wuan Williams was forced to move to left tackle following the Albert injury in 2014. But he struggled at that position and is expected to move to his more familiar right tackle spot this year.


Report: Bills still want to extend Marcell Dareus
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(1:15 pm ET) The Bills still want to extend the contract of defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, according to a report by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport

Despite the one-game suspension levied by the league against Dareus on Thursday, the team still hopes to have an extension wrapped up before the start of training camp. 

2015 is scheduled to be the last season of Dareus' current contract. He'll make $8.06 million.


Shanahan: Struggles of Robert Griffin III unrelated to injury
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:13 pm ET) Former Redskins coach Mike Shanahan does not believe injuries have prevented quarterback Robert Griffin III from maximizing his potential in the NFL. Rather, he feels it was the team not creating an offensive system that best fits his talents and his own belief that he could play a traditional role at that position.

Griffin sustained a serious knee injury in the 2012 playoffs. He then struggled in 2013 in an offense designed to transform him into a drop-back quarterback rather than one that took advantage of his mobility. He suffered another knee injury last year and did not perform well in the offense of new coach Jay Gruden.

"I don't think getting hurt has anything to do with it," Shanahan told 106.7 The Fan. "In college he didn't have a route tree, didn't have a playbook. That does take some time. ... If you take a quarterback like that you must run the kind of system that allows him to be successful. ... I really believe Robert thought he was more of a drop-back quarterback. He hasn't done things the NFL asks you to do. It does take some growing pains. You better really work on it inside and out."

Some have wondered why the Redskins went so hard after Griffin if they weren't willing to create an offense that maximizes his skill set.


Sheldon Richardson not at Jets' OTAs because 'I have a life'
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(1:05 pm ET) Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson is skipping the team's OTAs this week, a decision that earned him criticism from fans and media. 

Richardson's explanation isn't likely to win anyone over. 

Richardson went on Twitter and told fans he missed the workouts because, "I have a life outside of football."

"I chose to enjoy my family a little longer," he continued. "So to (you) fans that know everything, please worry 'bout yourself."

Richardson pointed out in another tweet that he "jus' wasn't at practice," but that he was still "putting in work tho'"


 
 
 
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