Heading into the summer time, there’s just a few teams left for the 2017 Fantasy Postmortem series. The purpose of this column is to briefly examine the state of each team’s skill positions for fantasy purposes with an eye towards the 2018 season. Having covered all of 2017’s non-playoff NFL teams, it’s time to review the rest, with the next squad being:
Minnesota Vikings (13-3)
Sam Bradford‘s 2017 season got off to a roaring start with a 346-yard/three touchdown passing performance against the Saints in Week 1. Unfortunately, a mysterious knee injury forced Bradford to miss the following three contests. When Bradford finally got back on the field in Week 5, he was clearly not the same, and was replaced mid-way through the game by Case Keenum. Bradford ended up missing the rest of the season due to his knee ailment, which ultimately required surgery last November. Keenum filled in admirably for Bradford, leading the Vikings to an NFC Championship appearance, and was able to parlay his career season into a two-year $36 million contract with the Broncos in free agency. Meanwhile, Bradford and former 2014 first-round draft pick Teddy Bridgewater each signed free agent deals with the Cardinals and the Jets. Why did the Vikings allow all three of their quarterbacks from a season ago to walk? Because the team was able to reel in the highly coveted free agent Kirk Cousins, who should provide stability at a position in which the Vikings haven’t really had any since the days of Daunte Culpepper.
Dalvin Cook was every bit as advertised through the first four weeks of the 2017 season, averaging 111 total yards per game before being knocked out for the remainder of the year due to a torn ACL. From Week 5 onward, free agent acquisition Latavius Murray and 2014 third-round pick Jerick McKinnon joined forces as a formidable thunder and lightning combo, combining for 152 total yards per contest while finding the end zone 13 times. At the conclusion of the season, McKinnon was signed by San Francisco via a lucrative free agent deal to be their featured back, while Murray is expected to be relegated to backup duties if/when Cook gets healthy. By all accounts, Cook is where he needs to be with respect to his knee, which leaves Murray as nothing more than a handcuff after he agreed to a restructuring of his three-year $15 million contract signed in March of 2017. Meanwhile, Cook has the look of a mid-tier RB1, who can be taken in fantasy drafts after guys like Kareem Hunt and Saquon Barkley are off the board.
Similar to teammate Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs got off to a hot start in 2017, as he led the NFL with 391 receiving yards through the season’s first four weeks. Unfortunately Diggs suffered a groin injury in Week 5 against the Bears, which cost him two weeks of game action, and allowed teammate Adam Thielen to build a stronger rapport with Vikings QB Case Keenum. Diggs was able to return for the Vikings’ Week 8 matchup against the Browns, and didn’t look entirely comfortable the rest of the regular season, while averaging just 53.8 receiving yards per contest over that span. Diggs did manage to come roaring back to life in the playoffs, where he accumulated 15 catches for 207 yards, which includes the legendary 61-yard touchdown reception in the waning seconds of the Vikings’ NFC semi-final matchup against the Saints, which sent the Purple People Eaters to the next round. Adam Thielen showed doubters that his 967 receiving yards from 2016 were no fluke, and he in fact had another gear to his game. Thielen finished fifth in receiving yards in 2017, including a six game span between Weeks 8 and 14 where he averaged 105.3 receiving yards per contest and scored all four of his touchdowns. With Kirk Cousins under center for the Vikings, the sky is the limit for Thielen and Diggs (health permitting), both of whom project as low-end WR1’s heading into Summer fantasy drafts. The emergence of Minnesota’s dynamic wideout duo over the past year-and-a-half, has put the brakes on Laquon Treadwell becoming any kind of fantasy contributor. The former 2016 first-round pick has just 21 receptions for 215 yards over his first two NFL seasons, and projects as the at-best, fifth option in the passing games behind Thielen, Diggs, TE Kyle Rudolph, and RB Dalvin Cook. Six-year veteran Jairus Wright has made a few cameo appearances on the fantasy radar in the past, though has tumbled down the depth chart over the past two seasons. Wright headed to Carolina last March via free agency, and will attempt to revive his career playing with Cam Newton.
Kyle Rudolph’s eight touchdown catches were his most in a season since 2012, though he regressed in both receiving yards and catches from the year prior, in which a late season ankle injury suffered in Week 14 likely played a role. Rudolph gutted through the injury during the playoffs, though ultimately had surgery once the Viking’s postseason run concluded, and is expected to be fine for training camp. The 28-year old tight end will have to adjust to a quarterback chance, though the transition should be seamless. During Kirk Cousins’ past three seasons in Washington, the Redskins’ tight ends collectively averaged 100.3 catches for 1,118 yards and 8.7 touchdowns per campaign. Despite the plethora of other receiving weapons around him, it would not be shocking to see Rudolph get back to around 800-900 receiving yards in 2018, as none of the other tight ends on the Vikings roster pose a threat to his involvement in the passing game.