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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
Report: Jaguars looking for help at RB this offseason
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:39 pm ET) It appears Jaguars running back Toby Gerhart will have new role in 2015. 

According to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, the Jaguars are planning to move Gerhart around on offense at H-back in addition to running back. This also means the Jaguars will be in the market for additional help at running back. 

Gerhart was plagued by injuries in 2014, which paved the way for Denard Robinson to assert himself as a potential starting running back down the road. Robinson, however, is injury prone himself, which goes back to his days as a standout quarterback in college at Michigan.

Robinson's 2014 season ended on injured reserve with a mid-foot sprain.

Gerhart's season ended with just 326 yards and a patry 3.2 yards per carry average. Robinson emerged late in the year and ran for 582 yards and held a 4.3 yards per carry average.  


Report: Titans parting ways with safety Bernard Pollard
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(6:51 pm ET) The Titans will release veteran safety Bernard Pollard, according to a report from The Tennessean

Pollard had previously requested for the Titans to release him. He's coming off a season that ended prematurely due to an Achilles tear in early October. He was slated to earn $3.5 million with the Titans this year if he stayed on. 

In the five games he appeared in during the 2014 season, Pollard recorded 27 tackles and one sack. 


Report: Browns looking to add another quarterback
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:52 pm ET) The Browns are not done just yet in their search for quarterback talent, according to ESPN.com. Cleveland is reportedly looking to add at least one more quarterback through the draft or free agency.

The Browns made their signing of Josh McCown to a three-year deal official last week, but appear to want another to go along with him and Johnny Manziel.


Report: Redskins will pursue Ndamukong Suh as free agent
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4:49 pm ET) After the Lions chose not to use the franchise tag to retain DE Ndamukong Suh, it became more likely that he'll become an unrestricted free agent on March 10. 

When Suh hits the market, the Redskins will be interested in signing him, reported Dianna Marie Russini of DC's NBC 4, citing sources within the organization. 


Browns don't use franchise tag on Jordan Cameron
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4:30 pm ET) The Browns won't use their franchise tag on any player, meaning that TE Jordan Cameron will become a free agent on March 10. 

Cameron had 24 catches for 424 yards and two touchdowns last season, at a salary of $1.431 million.


No franchise tag for Broncos' Julius Thomas
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4:27 pm ET) The Broncos will not use their franchise tag on TE Julius Thomas. The team instead tagged WR Demaryius Thomas. 

Julius Thomas will be able to become a free agent on March 10. He had 43 catches for 489 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. Thomas made $645,000 salary last year. 


Report: Bills do not apply franchise tag to linebacker Jerry Hughes
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:26 pm ET) The Bills reportedly chose not to apply their franchise tag to linebacker Jerry Hughes Monday, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.

Buffalo has been working on signing Hughes to a new, long term deal for the past month. The veteran linebacker racked up 10 sacks and totaled 54 tackles in all 16 games in 2014 for the Bills. 


Giants release center J.D. Walton
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:22 pm ET) The Giants have released center J.D. Walton, the team announced Monday. Walton played one season in New York, starting in all 16 games. Walton did not play in any games the previous two seasons. 

Steelers release wide receiver Lance Moore
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:16 pm ET) The Steelers have released veteran wide receiver Lance Moore, the team announced Monday.

Moore, who reportedly asked for his release last month, played one season in Pittsburgh, totaling 14 catches with 198 yards and two touchdowns.


Report: Eagles do not apply franchise tag to WR Jeremy Maclin
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:10 pm ET) Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin will reach the open market as the team decided Monday not to apply the franchise tag to the 26-year-old, according to ESPN.

Maclin, who posted a career season in 2014 with 85 catches for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns, has remained hopeful and confident throughout the offseason a deal will get done to keep him in Philadelphia.


 
 
 
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