QB Christian Ponder
Considered a bit of a reach when the Vikings selected him with the 12th pick in the 2011 draft, Ponder showcased some potential after replacing Donovan McNabb in the starting lineup in Week 7 but clearly needs to work on his pocket presence and following his progressions. While he is unlikely to ever become an elite NFL quarterback, Ponder displayed some play-making ability last season both as a runner and in the passing game, despite the team’s obvious deficiencies at wide receiver. Unfortunately for Ponder, the team did little to upgrade its receiving corps for the 2012 season and running back Adrian Peterson is unlikely to be back at 100% after suffering an ACL injury late last season. When Peterson was out of the lineup, defenses clamped down on Ponder and that does not bode well for his fantasy prospects early in 2012. Given the Vikings investment in him, Ponder should be considered a safe, lower-tier option as your fantasy backup and a player with solid, but not great, prospects in dynasty leagues.
QB Joe Webb
The athletic Webb has played reasonably well in limited opportunities during his first two years in the league but the Vikings have clearly cast their lot with 2011 1st round pick Christian Ponder. That doesn’t bode well for Webb’s prospects and he is not worth owning other than in the deepest dynasty leagues.
RB Adrian Peterson
Of all the question marks at running back entering the 2012 fantasy football season, none is bigger than the Vikings Adrian Peterson. A perennial candidate for the 1st overall pick in every format, Peterson tore the ACL in his left knee in Week 16 last season and there are doubts that he will be fully recovered from that injury by opening day. What is not in doubt is that Peterson will not be 100% to start the season. In fact, he may not even return to his pre-injury form at any point in 2012. Of course, when you have scored 64 touchdowns in 73 career games and averaged 92.6 rushing yards, 110.5 total yards and 16.6 FPts/G over your career while remaining mostly injury free despite being the most punishing running back in the league, you don’t need to be 100% healthy to be productive. There are plenty of question marks with Peterson in 2012 but it all boils down to where do you draft him? Let’s examine the scenarios. AP could open the season on the PUP list, forcing him to miss the first six games of the season. He could be on the roster on opening day but still miss the first 2-3 games of the year. He could split time with backup Toby Gerhart for several games and then assume a larger role as the season progresses (just in time for the fantasy playoff run). Maybe the Vikings, expected to be NFC North doormats, choose to be very cautious with their franchise player in 2012. One last scenario: since the guy is basically superhuman, maybe he doesn’t need as much time to recover from a torn ACL as other players do. If you like to play the odds, you need to assume that Peterson will rate no better than an upper tier RB2 in 2012 and hopefully he gets rolling by the end of the season… and nabbing Gerhart is an absolute must.
RB Toby Gerhart
When Adrian Peterson suffered a torn ACL in Week 16 last season, it appeared that Gerhart, the Viking’s second round selection in the 2010 draft, would finally get an opportunity to strut his stuff, at least early in the 2012 season. Unfortunately for Gerhart, he suffered an MCL tear and off-season reports indicated that Peterson is ahead of schedule in his recovery and may be ready to play on opening day. Those factors combined relegate Gerhart to little more than Peterson’s handcuff – barring a setback in Peterson’s recovery. At best, Gerhart may be a useful flex option for the early part of the season until Peterson is fully recovered.
WR Percy Harvin
It was a tale of two seasons for Harvin in 2011, as he entered his 3rd year in the league. Expected to be a major component of the Vikings offense, the 2009 first round pick was marginally productive but hardly the explosive player that Minnesota needed him to be early in the season. Over his first seven games, Harvin accumulated 442 total yards (a respectable 63.1 per game) but failed to find the end zone. Afterwards, Harvin turned on the jets, finding the end zone eight times over the Vikings final nine games and notching 867 total yards, while averaging a nifty 15.0 FPts/G. What happened? Well, this one’s not rocket science, folks. Adrian Peterson missed four of the Vikings final nine games and part of another one, allowing Harvin to become the focal point of the team’s offense. Peterson returns from a torn ACL suffered in Week 16 and that will likely result in plenty of touches for Harvin, especially early in 2012. Will he get enough touches to top the 1,312 total yards and eight touchdowns he put up in 2011? Ask the Vikings. While they added little to one of the league’s worst group of wide receivers in the off-season, they also had Harvin sitting on the bench plenty in 2011 in an attempt to keep him fresh for returning kicks. We’ll take the gamble. Expect Harvin to be a mid-tier WR1 in 2012.
WR Jerome Simpson
Wonderfully talented and wildly perplexing. Meet Jerome Simpson. There isn’t much that Simpson can’t do on a football field but it’s what he has done off it that caused headlines as he approached his first year with the Vikings. Felony drug charges resulted in a suspension that will cost Simpson the first three games of the 2012 season. Simpson was signed to compete for a starting spot opposite Percy Harvin but off-season reports indicate that he has struggled to learn the team’s playbook. That, along with the suspension, put his ability to become a consistent deep threat for the Vikings in doubt. Simpson clearly has upside and could earn a prominent role in a Minnesota offense desperate for some production opposite Percy Harvin. However, banking on more than his 50-reception, 725-yard, four-touchdown performance from 2011 might be overly optimistic. Consider Simpson a WR5 with upside in 2012.
WR Michael Jenkins
With Bernard Berrian persona non grata, Jenkins started seven of the eleven games he played last season, catching 38 passes for 466 yards and three touchdowns. A torn meniscus ended his season in Week 12 and with a plethora of young wide receivers on the roster, Jenkins faces an uphill battle to retain his roster spot in 2012. With free agent addition and expected starter Jerome Simpson facing a three-game suspension to open the season, Jenkins will likely need the team’s younger receivers to underperform in training camp to remain on the Vikings roster. Even if he does, there is no point in having him on your fantasy team.
WR Devin Aromashodu
Having left the Bears after five mostly frustrating and unproductive seasons, Aromashodu was expected to challenge for a starting spot with the Vikings in his first year in Minnesota. However, he failed to earn significant playing time despite being a part of one of the league’s worst group of wide receivers. Aromashodu had three games with double digit targets but struggled to catch 13 of 36 targets in those games, finishing the season with 26 receptions for 468 yards and one touchdown. Don’t expect much more than that in 2012, provided he makes the team’s final roster.
WR Jarius Wright
The Vikings used a 4th round pick to acquire the speedy Wright and the diminutive wide receiver will provide insurance for Percy Harvin in the slot. At 5’10” and 182 pounds, he isn’t a candidate to line up outside so his playing time will be dictated by how well he plays inside compared to how well the team’s other young wide receivers play on the outside, with Harvin alternating between the two positions. Add it all up and Wright is waiver wire material in redraft leagues and a marginal prospect in dynasty formats.
WR Greg Childs
While the Vikings used a higher pick to acquire fellow rookie wide receiver Jarius Wright, it was Childs that was the more intriguing prospect. Plagued with a slow recovery from a torn patella tendon suffered close to the end of the 2010 season, Childs was a shadow of his former self last season, catching just 21 passes for 240 yards and failing to find the end zone. However, his 40-yard dash time at his pro day improved to 4.41 from the 4.55 time he posted at the combine, signaling that he had finally regained the speed that intrigued scouts after his junior season. Unfortunately, Childs suffered a devastating injury in training camp, apparently injuring both patella tendons, ending his 2012 season and perhaps his career. He is not worth owning in any formats.
TE Kyle Rudolph
Regarded as the premier tight end in the 2011 rookie draft, Rudolph was basically red-shirted last season, catching just 26 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns (all of his touchdowns were scored in his last seven games) as a backup to Visante Shiancoe. The Vikings chose not resign Shiancoe and with John Carlson brought on in a backup capacity, Rudolph will assume starting duties in 2012. He has sleeper potential given his solid size (6’6”, 258 pounds), which makes him a viable red zone option on a team that lacks size at the wide receiver position. However, it remains to be seen whether or not he can be a consistent weapon in the team’s passing attack. Consider him a TE2 with upside in 2012.
TE John Carlson
It seemed like a curious decision when the Seahawks signed Zach Miller prior to the 2011 season to compete with Carlson for the team’s starting tight end position, especially considering Carlson’s solid production during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. However, Seattle’s decision was validated when Carlson suffered a torn labrum in the preseason and was placed on injured reserve and no other team chose to sign him as a starter when he became a free agent at the end of last season. That left Carlson to sign with Minnesota as a backup to second year player Kyle Rudolph. Add it all up and Carlson is waiver wire material for the upcoming season.