Kirk Cousins in THE example I think of when I consider the sheer
depth of the quarterback position in fantasy. In his last few seasons
he was a stat compiler on some poor teams, and he was largely the
same during his first year in Minnesota. Despite back-to-back top-10
finishes at the position, Cousins hasn’t proven to be a difference
maker that can get his offenses over the top. The Vikings signed
him to an unprecedented fully guaranteed deal, and on paper it looks
they got their money’s worth, but the offense lacked a true
identity, and faltered greatly down the stretch, wasting a strong
The offensive dysfunction started with coordinator John DeFillipo,
who irked his boss Mike Zimmer by failing to establish a consistent
run game. Things came to a head following an embarrassing 21-7
road loss to the Seahawks where DeFillipo was fired and Kevin
Stefanski, a long-time Vikings position coach and assistant, took
over. Following the marching orders to get the run game going,
Stefanski had Cousins dial up fewer passes during the final three
games than he did during any 3-game stretch of the 2018 season.
Despite finishing 2-1 in those games, the Vikings missed the playoffs.
As Stefanski was retained as full-time coordinator for 2019, it’s
important to consider what this means for Cousins’ fantasy
value. Cousins has used high volume to rack up big yardage and touchdown
totals the last several years, finishing 4th, 4th, and 5th in total
pass attempts. The Minnesota backfield would have to be ravaged
by injury for this to happen again, and in that scenario I can see
Zimmer spontaneously combusting on the field. The Vikings are going
back to old school Black and Blue division football in 2019, and
Cousins is going to have to be ultra-efficient to approach top-5
numbers again. With great talent around him he’s still a QB1
for owners looking to fade the position, but I don’t think
he offers near the same value he has in the past.
Despite flashing a tantalizing combination of speed and power
during his first two seasons in the league, being healthy has kept
Cook from approached his true statistical potential. Missing 17
games over his first two seasons due to ACL and lower leg injuries,
the Vikings desperately need Cook to be the main cog in the offense
After being eased in to start the season, the promotion of Stefanski
might have given us a small look into the usage numbers we can expect
in 2019. Cook’s 46 carries over the final three games were
by far the most of any 3-game stretch during the season, and he
continued to display the dual-threat traits that top tier fantasy
backs need with 40 receptions for 305 yards.
There is a lot to like about Cook’s fantasy prospects this
year. He’s nearly two years removed from his ACL tear, and
has absolutely no proven back-up behind him on the depth chart to
lose touches to. The Vikings offense is looking to emphasize ball
control offense, and the defense gives them short fields and extra
chances via turnovers. Throw in the fact that the passing game is
scary enough that he’ll never have to face stacked fronts,
and the invested draft capital and free agent dollars to strengthen
the interior line, and all signs point to a major breakout potential.
With everything in his corner, health is the only thing that stands
in the way of a RB1 season from Cook. He’s the Tier 2 back
I like the most and would consider taking over guys with slighter
higher ADPs. If he can play close to 16 games this year, Cook is
going to win some fantasy championships.
With long-time back-up/vulture Latavius Murray off to be annoying
in New Orleans, the handcuff to Dalvin Cook remains a fluid situation.
With the 3rd round rookie Mattison, and unknown Mike Boone and
underwhelming Lions cast-off Ameer Abdullah the current options,
it’s a true guessing game to see who picks up the leftover
touches. The Vikings invested a significant pick in Mattison,
and his profile and production at Boise State tell me he’s
the best bet to carry the load should something happen to Cook.
A multi-year starter in college, Mattison caught 60 passes in
his career, and what he lacks in breakaway speed, makes up for
in athleticism and power. There have already been some respectable
puff pieces about Mattison this offseason, and if he can earn
the trust of Zimmer and the coaches, he could be in for a heavy
workload if Cook falls. Upside and feature role combine to make
Mattison a solid handcuff option, and a must-draft for Cook owners.
Diggs has proven to be everything you want in a WR2. He’s
scores touchdowns (17 over the past two seasons), flirts with WR1
weeks (four 100-yard games and four double digit reception games)
and gets enough targets to avoid some truly horrific games.
After a solid 2017, Diggs had a career year in 2018, making sweet
music with his new quarterback Kirk Cousins. Diggs reached 100 receptions
and 1,000 yards for the first time in his career, and the 9 touchdowns
also marked a career high. While I was a little surprised with the
drop in yards-per-reception average (way too many lost yards on
ill-executed bubble screens) Diggs was a difference maker last season.
So how will he fare in what looks to be a less pass-centric offense?
I see a bigger drop-off for Diggs than I do for Thielen. It’s
going to be near impossible to repeat the 149 targets he received
last year (this was 37 more than his previous career high) with
his role on the offense unchanged. And although he usually is able
to play through them, Diggs gets nicked up a bit, missing 9 games
over his 4-year career.
Even with a slight regression, I’d still be happy to take
Diggs as a reliable WR2 that has a chance to be a week winner
a few times throughout the year.
With two straight top-10 finishes at the position, it’s
time to give Adam Thielen some serious respect. An expert route
runner with a gigantic catch radius, Thielen was literally unstoppable
during a historic first half of the 2018 season. He tied Calvin
Johnson for the most consecutive 100-yard receiving games with 8,
added 6 touchdowns, and recorded a mind boggling 89 targets during
that span. While Thielen owners were rejoicing over the start to
the season, fantasy seasons last longer than 8 weeks. And that’s
too bad, as Thielen’s second half looked nothing like the
Over the final 8 games of the season, Thielen only had one more
double digit game, and scored only three more touchdowns. The offensive
inconsistency threw the Vikings into a tailspin from which they
couldn't recover. Despite the amazing start, it’s more than
likely Thielen’s poor second half cost those same teams fantasy
All is not lost however! While I do think 2018 will likely go
down as Thielen’s career year, there is plenty of reason
to believe he’s still worthy of being a WR1 in fantasy.
He’s a format all-star, as he’s sure to pace the Vikings
in receptions for the 3rd straight year, and is sure to push for
6+ touchdowns and 1200 yards. Thielen showed a great rapport with
Cousins last season, and his technical and physical gifts make
him impossible to completely shut out. He might not be exciting,
but he is as reliable and productive as any receiver in the league,
and you are still likely to nab him with great value in your draft.
I’m not quite sure why there was such a commotion over Rudolph
this offseason. There was trade talk around the draft, then some
talk of releasing him as well. In the end the Vikings decided to
ink him to a contract extension that pays him in the top-5 at his
position. That seems like a big chunk of change for very mediocre
player, but I get that the team is in “win now” mode.
There was some hype about Rudolph’s potential to return
to top flight fantasy status last season with the addition of
Kirk Cousins. Over the early career injuries woes that plagued
him nearly annually, Rudolph went out and pretty much replicated
his 2017 reception and yardage numbers. The biggest dip came in
touchdown production, where the usually adept red zone receiver
hauled in only 4. As the de facto No.3 receiver on this team,
Rudolph is going to again be a TE1 option, abet an underwhelming
one, especially if the touchdown floor remains under 5. There
are simply better upside options at the bottom of this fantasy
position. I wouldn’t factor in the addition of Irv Smith
in the 2nd round this year into Rudolph’s 2019 value, as
the rookie still has to develop. >