QB Christian Ponder
(2012 QB Rank – #22, 16.0 FPts/G)
Two middling seasons after being taken with the 12th pick in the 2011 draft, Ponder faces a make-or-break season in 2013 with the Vikings. Entering training camp, reports indicated that the Vikings weren’t going to allow Ponder to play through the growing pains he experienced during his first two years in the league, making him a candidate to be replaced at some point during the season. While he threw for a respectable 2,935 yards with 18 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions, Ponder offered little in the way of big-play ability and had several poor performances, throwing for fewer than 150 yards five times and topping 250 yards just four times. Although the Vikings added Greg Jennings in the offseason, the team still possesses one of the worst wide receiver depth charts in the league, and that will hinder Ponder’s ability to keep free agent signee Matt Cassel nailed to the bench.
QB Matt Cassel
(2012 QB Rank – #32, 14.9 FPts/G)
Cassel’s four-year run as a starter in Kansas City ended this offseason, leaving him to sign on in Minnesota to ostensibly back up Christian Ponder. The eight-year veteran suffered through his final two years with the Chiefs, completing less than 60 percent of his passes (he failed to top that mark in any of his four years there), missing 14 games due to injury, and compiling a combined 16–21 touchdown-to-interception ratio. His reward? Perhaps the best backup job in the league, with Ponder having shown a clear inability to connect on deep passes. It won’t be a surprise if Cassel ends up starting at some point in 2013, but even if that happens, he’ll rate as one of the leagues’ worst fantasy QBs.
RB Adrian Peterson
(2012 RB Rank – #1, 19.3 FPts/G; #1 PPR, 21.8 FPts/G)
Peterson entered 2012 as the biggest fantasy question mark at RB and finished the season as the indisputable top-ranked player at his position. What a difference a year makes! AP put to rest any concerns that he would not be fully recovered from a torn ACL suffered in Week 16 of the 2011 season, coming within just nine yards of breaking Eric Dickerson’s all-time single-season rushing record. With Percy Harvin out for much of the year and the Vikings’ passing attack among the league’s worst, Peterson ran for 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns on 348 carries while chipping in 40 receptions for 217 yards and another score. It was his finest season and it left little doubt that AP is the league’s premier player at his position. Better yet, at just 28 years of age, he has a few more years of elite productivity left. If you land the first overall pick in your fantasy draft, you won’t have to ponder long over which player to take.
RB Toby Gerhart
(2012 RB Rank – #70,2.6 FPts/G; #63 PPR, 3.9 FPts/G)
When you back up the most dynamic running back in the league, you are basically the equivalent of the Maytag repairman. And that is Gerhart’s football fate in backing up Adrian Peterson. With Peterson coming off a torn ACL suffered late in the 2011 season, Gerhart was expected to get his most extensive workload last season, but those hopes evaporated as Peterson had a miraculous recovery on his way to one of the best single seasons a running back has ever had. Gerhart is a worthy handcuff but he offers no value unless Peterson is lost to injury.
WR Greg Jennings
(2012 WR Rank – #74, 7.6 FPts/G; #76 PPR, 12.1 FPts/G)
Unable to agree on a long-term contract with the Packers, Jennings chose to sign with their NFC North rival, the Minnesota Vikings. While that may hurt Packers fans, it also hurts his fantasy value, since catching passes from Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay’s high-powered offense is light years from catching balls from Christian Ponder or Matt Cassel. In Minnesota, Jennings will assume the lead receiver role left vacant by the offseason trade of Percy Harvin to Seattle. The 29-year old Jennings (30 on opening day) is coming off an injury-plagued two-year stretch in Green Bay where he failed to reach 1,000 receiving yards after topping that mark for three consecutive seasons, from 2008 to 2010. Jennings is a solid route runner with deceptive deep speed and some ability to make tacklers miss. Unfortunately, the big plays that he generated in Green Bay are unlikely to follow him to Minnesota with Ponder at quarterback. Jennings rates as a mid-tier WR3 with some upside.
WR Jerome Simpson
(2012 WR Rank – #112, 2.3 FPts/G; #106 PPR, 4.5 FPts/G)
After a disappointing first year in Minnesota, the Vikings re-signed Simpson to a one-year deal this offseason. Let’s not mistake this as an endorsement for Simpson’s ability to produce in the Vikings offense. It’s more of a stopgap signing since the team had no proven options to step into the starting lineup. A three-game suspension hurt Simpson’s ability to get on the same page as quarterback Christian Ponder last year, and he finished the season with just 26 receptions on 52 targets for 274 yards and no trips to the end zone. While Simpsons has freakish abilities, his average of just 10.5 yards per reception was a major disappointment. After five seasons of mostly mediocre, inconsistent play, there is little reason to suggest Simpson will establish himself as a solid fantasy producer in 2013, especially with Ponder throwing him the ball. Fill out the bottom of your roster with a player who has more upside than Simpson.
WR Jarius Wright
(2012 WR Rank – #89, 6.3 FPts/G; #25 PPR, 9.4 FPts/G)
While Wright may not be capable of doing everything that Percy Harvin can, he is expected to replace him as the Vikings’ main slot receiver in 2013. The Vikings’ 2012 fourth-round pick, at 5’10” and 182 pounds, Wright barely saw the field until Harvin was lost to injury. However, he made the most of his limited opportunity, hauling in 22 receptions for 310 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 14.1 yards per reception over seven games. With Greg Jennings fulfilling the lead wide receiver role and the inconsistent Jerome Simpson battling raw rookie first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson to play outside, Wright has a solid opportunity to establish himself in 2013. Consider him a potential waiver-wire pickup based on his early-season usage, especially in PPR leagues.
WR Cordarrelle Patterson
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
Looking to replace Percy Harvin, the Vikings traded into the back end of the first round to acquire Patterson. The Tennessee product has solid size at 6’3” and 205 pounds and also possesses blazing speed and excellent run-after-the-catch ability. While the Vikings lack a proven threat to play opposite free agent signee Greg Jennings, Patterson is considered a raw prospect, which limits his fantasy upside in 2013. Look for Jennings to help mentor Patterson, perhaps allowing him to take on a more significant role later in the season, but don’t expect the Vikings to throw their full playbook at him early in the year. While not worthy of a selection in redraft formats, Patterson is an excellent prospect in dynasty formats.
WR Greg Childs
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
After struggling in college while recovering from a torn patella tendon, Childs suffered a devastating injury in training camp last season, injuring both patella tendons and putting his career in jeopardy. While the Vikings’ 2012 fourth-round pick was once regarded as a solid pro prospect, the fact is that the injury he suffered is not one in which any professional players have truly recovered him. Unless the science has advanced, Childs’ career is over.
TE Kyle Rudolph
(2012 TE Rank – #11, 6.5 FPts/G; #11 PPR, 9.8 FPts/G)
After catching 53 passes for 493 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 6.5 PPG, there is a good chance that Rudolph will be getting some fantasy love in this year’s draft as a potential third-year breakout candidate at TE. We’re not buying it. While the Vikings’ 2011 second-round pick has solid size at 6’6”, 259 pounds and is a good route runner on short and intermediate patterns, he lacks the speed necessary to become a truly elite tight end. Not helping matters is the presence of quarterback Christian Ponder, who is clearly more of a game-managing check-down artist and not the gunslinger who could propel a player like Rudolph to fantasy stardom. Where Rudolph excels is in the red zone, having caught 12 touchdown passes in his last 23 games. And we all know it’s foolhardy to chase touchdowns, even if the Vikings lack a big receiver to steal Rudolph’s red zone looks. Consider him an upper-tier TE2 in 2013.
TE John Carlson
(2012 TE Rank – #78, 0.5 FPts/G; #73 PPR, 1.4 FPts/G)
Carlson enters the season coming off a concussion that ended his 2012 campaign after nine games, a miserable stretch of play during in which he caught just eight passes for 43 yards. His 2011 season, his first in Minnesota, came to a conclusion in the preseason when he suffered a torn labrum. It seems a long time ago that Seattle took him early in the second round of the 2008 draft and watched him begin his career with two promising seasons. At this point, Carlson isn’t even a lock to make the Vikings roster, given his poor blocking ability and diminishing skills as a receiver.