2012 Offseason Breakdow: Minnesota Vikings fantasysharks.com Jul 11 '12
Stadium: Metrodome (final season)
Schedule Strength: 26th
Postseason Weather issues: None (all dome games)
Offensive Line Ranking: 23rd
Head Coach -- Leslie Frazier
Frazier's time in the NFL began as a cornerback on the vaunted 1985 Chicago Bears (arguably the greatest defense in NFL history). As a coach, Frazier has been either a defensive backs coach or defensive coordinator his entire NFL coaching career, including time spent time in Philadelphia under the late great Jimmy Johnson. Frazier was eventually hired as the defensive coordinator for the Vikings in 2007, replacing now-Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. In 2010, Frazier was promoted to head coach after the departure of Brad Childress, inheriting a team bare in many areas. Being that Frazier is a defensive coach, in the rebuilding process, he will have his many responsibilities, leaving the game plan and play calling in the hands of the offensive coordinator.
Offensive Coordinator -- Bill Musgrave
A four-year starter at quarterback for the University of Oregon, Musgrave still holds the Ducks' all-time passing yard record with 8,343 yards. Musgrave would play quarterback in the NFL under coach George Seifert in San Francisco and later Mike Shanahan in Denver. During his tenure as a coach in the NFL, Musgrave has bounced around from team-to-team including stops in Oakland, Philadelphia, Carolina, Atlanta, Jacksonville and Washington. Hired as the offensive coordinator by the Vikings in 2011, Musgrave made the best of a depleted roster, coming off the NFL lockout with a rookie quarterback under center, without Adrian Peterson for part of the season. Examining Musgrave's history indicates a strong connection to the West Coast offense. However, having a defensive head coach we should expect a more balance run/pass version.
QB - Christian Ponder
A first-round draft choice of the Vikings in 2011, Ponder began the season backing up veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb. After a 1-5 start, Ponder replaced McNabb as the starter in Week 7. In a lockout season, with a depleted offensive line, on a "run-first" team missing their best running back, and no vertical receiving threat it would be unfair to evaluate Ponder's 2011 performance. The Vikings made baby steps towards shoring up their issues this past offseason by drafting left tackle Matt Kalil with the third overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, and signing of vertical wide receiver Jerome Simpson from Cincinnati. Given a full offseason to work as the starting quarterback Ponder should take a giant step forward, but he continues to face an uphill climb with a Player Rating of 6.8.
RB -- Adrian Peterson
Considering Adrian Peterson is amongst the most highly publicized players in the NFL, there isn't much to talk about (but I'm going to try). We'll begin with the obvious. Peterson is easily the most dominant running back of his generation. A superior athlete, Peterson has the perfect combination of power, speed, agility, vision, toughness, great hands and goal-line prowess (we could go on-and-on). However, he is gaining a reputation for being injury prone. In Week 8 of 2011, Peterson suffered a high ankle sprain, causing him to miss three games. Two games after his return for the ankle issue (Week 16), Peterson tore both his ACL and MCL ligaments in his knee. Without injury concerns, Peterson would be the consensus No. 1 overall selection, no questions asked. However, players coming off devastating knee injuries "late in the season" tend to linger as the healing process is typically 8-10 months. Although still early, we are hearing multiple reports indicating the Vikings will start the season with Peterson on the Physically Unable to Perform list, meaning he cannot play in the opening six games. Given all we know right now, Peterson has a Player Rating of 7.9 (just hurts me to write that). Should Peterson land on your team, Toby Gerhart is must-handcuff.
RB -- Toby Gerhart
A big powerful straight-line runner, Gerhart proved last season that he has the skill set to play in the NFL and become a contributor on your fantasy team. Having a defensive head coach often means the team will employ a more balanced run/pass offensive system, further upgrading Gerhart's value. Do not forget, this is Adrian Peterson's job if/and when he returns. However, should Peterson's recovery linger, Gerhart makes for an excellent flyer who could develop into a three-down-running back (the golden goose of fantasy football). Gerhart's value will fluctuate depending on the development of Peterson, but as of right now he has a Player Rating of 8.0 (as stated, a must handcuff should Adrian Peterson end up on your fantasy team).
WR1 -- Percy Harvin
I must admit that I was caught off guard when reviewing Harvin's production from 2011. I knew he had finished the season 11th in wide receiver scoring, but more impressive was the second half of the season (Weeks 8-16) in which Harvin averaged 13.4 points per game, tied for second with Victor Cruz and Roddy White, and a meager one-tenth of a point behind Jordy Nelson (for those of you keeping score at home, that's more points than Calvin Johnson). When evaluating Harvin, the talent is obvious. A dynamic underneath wide receiver who is also provided opportunity as a running back, averaging four carries per game in 2011 and scoring two rushing touchdowns. A subpar offensive line, along with a second-year quarterback creates cause for concern. Also, the ongoing migraine issues can jump up at a moments notice. All told, Harvin should emerge as the Vikings' most productive WR warranting a Player Rating of 8.6.
WR -- Jerome Simpson;
A former second-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2008, Simpson's time in Cincinnati is impossible to evaluate always playing behind Chad Ochocinco, TJ Houshmandzadeh, Terrell Owens and A.J. Green. At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, Simpson runs a 4.42 40-yard dash, meaning he's fast enough to give the Vikings the downfield threat they've lacked since the departure of Sidney Rice. Simpson is receiving much praise during the Vikings organized team activities and minicamp, but these reports are team generated so take them with a grain of salt. We should also remember that Simpson will be suspended the first three games of the season. The real question is - can Minnesota generate enough of a passing attack to sustain multiple fantasy wide receivers? Offseason projections have Simpson with a Player Rating of 7.1, meaning he is higher WR4 with upside.
TE -- Kyle Rudolph
Coming out of Notre Dame, Rudolph was praised for his size-speed combination, but also criticized for shoulder and hamstring injuries. The loss of Visanthe Shiancoe will propel Rudolph into the starting lineup increasing his opportunity. Returning to examine the history of the offensive coordinator, we are reminded of a connection to the classic West Coast system in which the tight end is used as an extra receiver down the middle of the field. As the Vikings lone "Big Man," Rudolph may be the Vikings' lone red zone target becoming a high-end TE2 with spot start ability warranting an offseason Player Rating of 7.4, with room to grow.
D/ST -- Minnesota Vikings
Once amongst the league's more dominant fantasy defenses, like the rest of the Vikings franchise, this unit has been on a slow and steady decline. The lone bright spot is defensive end Jared Allen, however one player equates to a poor fantasy defense. Look for better options with a Rating of 5.5.
K -- Ryan Longwell
Like so many of the Vikings players, Longwell was once amongst the elite kickers in fantasy football in the Brett Favre era. However an anemic offense coupled with the below average defense equates to poor fantasy production and a Player Rating of 6.5.