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2022 Player Outlooks: Minnesota Vikings

By Colby Cavaliere | 6/27/22 |

Kirk Cousins

QB Kirk Cousins
(2021 QB Rank Ė No.9 22.5 FPts/G)

The Vikings of the past two seasons have been near mirror images of each other. Tantalizing talented, and just inconsistent enough to not get into the playoffs. Because of an underachieving defense, and a prehistoric offensive scheme despite dynamic talent, Mike Zimmer and his coaching staff have been replaced with another fruit plucked from the Sean McVay coaching tree, former Ram offensive coordinator Kevin OíConnell. OíConnell has bounced around the NFL as player and coach, but finally brings a brand of football to Minnesota that fits their prolific offensive players.

Cousins' fantasy numbers didnít exactly suffer under a run-first coach, as the Viking defense was so bad, throwing the ball became necessary for survival. Instead of throwing the ball around the yard to play catch-up, look for this Vikings offense to attack defenses with a scheme that isnít shy about putting the ball in their best playerís hands in a variety of ways. Much like the Rams, I anticipate Cousins and the offense utilizing multiple formations and sets to get the ball out quickly to their playmakers. Passing to set up the run will open the offense, and allow more room for Dalvin Cook to scamper around. While Cousins doesnít possess the pure arm talent that Matthew Stafford does, he was in the top-10 in the NFL in pass attempts of 30+ yards last year, so heís got the moxie to go long. Along with his efficiency numbers, I expect those deep shots to increase as well.

With a more modern scheme, Justin Jefferson in his 3rd season, and NFC North that isnít exactly stacked, Cousins has a realistic shot at a top-5 season if Thielen comes back healthy, and the young receivers develop. Either way, Kirk is a great value pick on the fantasy quarterback carousel if you are looking to wait on your signal caller.

RB Dalvin Cook
(2021 RB Rank - No.15 13.4 FPts/G)

It was always going to be a long shot for Cook to reproduce the numbers of his monster 2020 season, but to call 2021 as anything less than a disappointment would be folly. Missing four games certainly didnít help, but when he was healthy, he was all but forgotten in the passing game (his 34 receptions were the lowest since his rookie year) and he only found the endzone 6 times after finding paydirt 30 times over the 2019 and 2020 seasons combined.

While his talent is unquestioned, and he suffered from a lack of offensive innovation and consistency last year, the injuries become a bigger and bigger caveat for the 26-year-old back. Heís missed multiple games in every season in the NFL, with a shoulder injury being the big culprit last season. While his peak seasons may have passed, there is still plenty of RB1 value baked into his game. The fresh scheme on offense should see him moved around the formation more, and keep him out of stacked box situations. If he can remain efficient on a floor of 250 carries and 50 receptions he should be in the top-5 consideration at his position.

RB Alexander Mattison
(2021 RB Rank - No.40 6.0 FPts/G)

Entering the final year of his rookie deal, Alexander Mattison is looking to prove once and for all that he deserves to be a full-time starter in the NFL. Mattison has flashed and produced as a bell-cow back every time heís been asked to fill in for Dalvin Cook over the last several years. He hit career highs across the board in 2021, including 32 receptions which nearly matched his 14-game starter teammate. Mattison and Tony Pollard are likely the most vital handcuffs in fantasy, and Cook owners must keep that in mind during the draft, as they will pay a premium for a back-up that can replace almost all the production of a starter.

WR Justin Jefferson
(2021 WR Rank - No.4, 13.1 FPts/G)

If it wasnít obvious before, itís clear now, this is Justin Jeffersonís team. Supplanting Thielen as the alpha dog in the passing game, and bringing back memories of HOFer Randy Mossís early career production, Jefferson was nearly unstoppable in his 2nd season. His 1,616 yards were the 2nd most in the NFL, and just one of several ways he was able to improve upon a historic rookie season. So, what can be possibly do in Year 3? For starters, the offensive scheme should work wonders for Jefferson, as heíll serve in the Cooper Kupp role. Heís already been thrilled with the modernization of the offense, even if he might see a slightly diminished target share as a result. Hitting 108 receptions and 1,600 yards is going to be an incredible stretch, but with more efficiency and usage in the red zone, Jefferson could see a spike in scoring chances. Either way, Jefferson is just one of a few guys in play as the WR1 in all formats, and a locked in 1st round pick.

WR Adam Thielen
(2021 WR Rank - No.27, 10.2 FPts/G)

While Jefferson garnered most of the headlines last season, and a high ankle sprain cost him four games, Thielen still proved to be a scoring maven, with another double-digit touchdown total (10). Set to be 32 at the start of the season, Thielenís lack of big play ability led to a career low 10.8 yards per reception last year. It will be interesting to see just how invested this offensive scheme is in an aging player, while a few younger, more dynamic receivers remain on the depth chart. With a bigger target distribution, even 100 targets might be hard to reach. Thielen has kept himself in the standard league WR2 conversation on the back of 24 touchdowns over the last two seasons. Touchdowns are notoriously hard to rely on, so a slip back to a more reasonable WR3 standing is more likely.

WR K.J. Osborn
(2021 WR Rank - No.27, 10.2 FPts/G)

For years the Vikings passing game revolved around Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and then Justin Jefferson. The emergence of 2020 5th round pick K.J. Osborn has begun to change that dynamic, and a fresh new offensive philosophy that includes more three-wide sets, could open up much more opportunity for the 25-year-old out of Miami. Osborn burst onto the scene last season with 12 receptions for 167 yards and a touchdown in Minnesotaís first two games. As expected, the raw 5th rounder struggled at times especially during the mid-part of the season, but he showed enough improvement during his 50-655-7 season to be a big part of the passing game in 2022. With little added to the receiver room via draft or free agency, Osborn will be worthy of a roster spot as WR4/FLEX, with upside for more as a handcuff to Jefferson or Thielen.

TE Irv Smith
(2021 TE Rank N/A)

In 2021 fantasy owners were excited to get a look at what the ultra-athletic Irv Smith could do after finally being out of the shadow of Kyle Rudolph. Well that all went up in smoke in the final preseason game, as Smith suffered a knee injury that eventually cost him the entire season. As he rolls it back in 2022, Smith is expected to be a full go by training camp. Entering a contract year, with a more dynamic passing game, a healthy Smith should function as the 3rd receiver in this offense. More athletically gifted than Tyler Higbee who saw 85 targets in a similar offense, and Tyler Conklin who had 87 targets for Minnesota last year, Smith could have a 60-catch floor which would put him in the upper TE2 tier, with upside for more.

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