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Fantasy Football Offensive Evaluation: Minnesota Vikings

Happy again.  But for how long?
Happy again. But for how long?

The Vikings are another team in serious transition this season. The Brad Childress/Brett Favre/Tarvaris Jackson/Darrell Bevell/Sidney Rice era is over and they are going to try to regain some magic from a former NFL superstar. Will it work or are the Vikings trying to polish a Pinto into a Porsche?

Donovan McNabb is the obvious reclamation project, but don't look past new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. Leslie Frazier was officially hired as the new head coach of the Vikings and he chose Musgrave to handle the offensive side of the ball. Musgrave is a former quarterback, QB coach, and offensive coordinator getting his third shot to run an offense.

In his first chance at offensive coordinator in 2000 with the Panthers, he resigned after 4 games.

In his second chance, he was hired by the Jaguars and new head coach Jack Del Rio in 2003. That job lasted all of 2 seasons and those were 2 of the 3 worst offensive seasons in Jaguars history.

Known for working with guys like Matt Schaub when he was at the University of Virginia and Matt Ryan at Atlanta, Musgraves new job is to help turn first round pick Christian Ponder into a star. However, that didn't work out very well when he was hired to teach rookie Byron Leftwich in 2003.

The Vikings are trying to improve upon an offense that finished 29th in scoring and 23rd in yards last season. Can they do it, can Musgrave and McNabb improve them, and how many players are going to be fantasy worthy?

Let's take a look...

Quarterback

Donovan McNabb

Things that are hard to believe:

  • McNabb has spent exactly one season out of Philadelphia. It seems like ages ago that he was an Eagle, but he started 14 games (and went 10-4) there in 2009. Already the Eagles have moved on with Vick, and they just gave him one expensive engagement ring.
  • It's also been just 1 year since McNabb was a Pro Bowl QB. He threw 22 TDs, 253 YPG, and had a 92.9 QB rating in 2009. Just one season in Washington will erase those memories for just about anyone. He threw more TDs than INTS (14/15) for the first time in his 12 year career.
  • The Vikings were 2nd in the NFL in scoring in 2009. Brett Favre turned into a pumpkin last season, and the Vikings offense disappeared. Former OC Darrell Bevell is now in Seattle, Favre is off getting tighter Wranglers, and #1 WR Sidney Rice joined Bevell for some of that delicious Seattle's Best. How will McNabb change the outcome for the Vikings this season? These two would have been a perfect marriage two years ago, and an absolute disaster in 2010, so how do they fair in 2011?

Let's just assume that McNabb isn't as bad as he was last year and Washington is just not a great place for a QB. In Minnesota he's got a stud RB, a decent offensive line, a budding young wide receiver that could be great, and a QB-friendly coordinator. He's also losing a battle with father time and is turning 35 in November. He shouldn't be your QB1, but he's a decent option as a backup, as its a little too early to call it a career after one down season.

Christian Ponder

Personally, I didn't see it. The Vikings selected Ponder with a high draft pick, and the rise of Ponder to that level at #12 seemed so quick, sudden, and for me, unexpected. He suffered not only through injuries at Florida State, but his numbers at Florida State were much closer to good than great. He is a quick QB (4.63 40 yard dash) and a smart QB (Won national student-athlete awards), but for me he didn't display enough to be seen as a "franchise QB" to me. Especially not with an injury history. He could prove me wrong, and at this time Ponder isn't fantasy-draftable anyway except for special long-term formats, but I am going on record to say that I just don't see it.

Running Back

Adrian Peterson

I made my statement on Sunday when I drafted Peterson with the #1 pick. For me, I didn't really know who for sure was #1 on my draft board until the moment arrived and I was put to the test. It's not longer conjecture at that moment, its put up or shutup. I went with Peterson because of all the factors involved, he came out just ahead of anybody else. He's more of a safe pick for me, but he still has "2,000 rushing yards" kind of ability and is only 26 years old. I believe he's just about in the middle of his career, with 4 years down and maybe 4 dominant years to go. Maybe more, but if he continues on a normal path for a star running back, he should start to slow down at age 30.

Toby Gerhart

I took a risk by not handcuffing Gerhart with Peterson in my draft, but I do feel that Gerhart is one of the top handcuff backs in the league. Not only is he in a good situation but the former Heisman candidate averaged 4 YPC as a rookie after a dominating senior season at Stanford. A lot has been said about Peyton Hillis becoming one of the top white running backs in recent history, and Gerhart could be the next in line. He's not as valuable in PPR-leagues, he won't be much of a dual-threat RB, but if he ever did get the opportunity to start he could put up some solid numbers.

Wide Receiver

Percy Harvin

He's pretty much one of the top 10 players in the league that you want to watch every time he has the ball in his hands. In 2009 he was the offensive rookie of the year and made the Pro Bowl, and he avoided a sophomore slump by recording 3 100-year receiving games for a total of 71 catches and 868 yards. He's like an advanced, better version of Devin Hester at WR. With Rice officially out of the picture, Harvin becomes the go-to guy, but with a new OC and a new QB, it's hard to predict exactly what Harvin will do in his third year. Luckily, Harvins game relies more on what he can do when he's given the football, rather than just the players around him. He's being drafted 23rd on average amongst WRs, which could make him a steal as he does have WR1 ability. Or, he could just be a solid WR2/WR3.

Bernard Berrian

A tale of two Berrians: In 2007 with the Bears, he was a "possession receiver" who caught 71 passes for 951 yards and 13.4 YPC. In 2008 with the Vikings he was a "big play receiver" who caught 48 passes for 964 yards and 20.1 YPC. The following year was all about Harvin and Rice, and Berrian became an afterthought. Last season he gained just 252 yards. Now at age 30, he's expected to take on a big role again and should be the #2 WR in Minnesota with Frazier saying he'll be an important part of the offense this year. You don't need to draft Berrian, but do keep an eye on him starting in week 1.

Michael Jenkins

He's no longer a Falcon. He was mostly a disappointment after being a first round pick. His career high in catches is 53, his career high in yards is 777, and his career high in TDs is 7 way back in 2006. Now he's fighting for the third WR position in Minnesota. Not much to see here.

Tight End

Visanthe Shiancoe

The reason I like to stay away from guys whose value in one season relied heavily on TDs, is because the amount of TDs on any given season can be quite volatile. If a TE catches 70 balls every year, then you can rely on him to catch 70 balls. If he displays big play ability, then you know he has big play ability. But if he catches 11 TDs, then he might have just been lucky to get the call 11 times during a season, whereas if it wasn't him, it would have been somebody else. Catching a few short-yardage TDs one year, doesn't mean you'll do that the next. In 2009, Shiancoe had 56 catches for 566 yards and 11 TDs in a very hot offensive season for Brett Favre. Last season he caught 47 for 530 yards and 2 TDs in a very bad season for Favre. What's he going to do this season? Probably catch 50 passes for 500 yards and some amount of TDs to be determined.

Jim Kleinsasser

Many years ago I was the Vikings in dynasty mode for NFL2K on my Sega Dreamcast. One season in the Super Bowl, I threw a 50-yard TD pass to Kleinsasser as time expired to win the game. That's probably still the highlight of his career, real or otherwise.

Kyle Rudolph

He was one of the top tight ends in high school and chose to go to Notre Dame. He declared for the NFL draft after his junior season, that was shortened by injury. The Vikings selected him early in the 2nd round and he should be the heir apparent to Shiancoe. Long-term, Rudolph could be one of the top fantasy TEs. Short-term, you'll just have to keep an eye on him on the waiver wire and if he has a big game or two, who knows.

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