Minnesota Vikings 2022 Fantasy Football Sleepers, Busts
Welcome to our Fantasy Football Breakouts, Busts and Locks, a series on RotoBaller where our editors take a look at three key players from every NFL team. Today we are talking about the Minnesota Vikings.
The star of Vikings fantasy is Justin Jefferson, who we won’t discuss in this article, but only because I decided to turn the “lock” part into a chance to talk fantasy football strategy. Jefferson is awesome. It’s a high-end WR1. Write it down.
Below you will find a fantasy football candidate, a fantasy football candidate and a safe fantasy football pick for the Vikings based on the first ADPs for fantasy football drafts in 2022.
Editor’s note: Our incredible team of writers received five writing awards in total and 13 nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, the best in the industry! Congratulations to all of the winners and nominees, including Best NFL Series, MLB Series, NBA Writer, PGA Writer, and Player Notes Writer of the Year. Follow their analysis, rankings and tips throughout the year and win big with RotoBaller!
Is this finally the year Irv Smith Jr. breaks out?
Currently ranked as a mid-level TE2, Smith did not play last season due to a meniscus injury. We last saw him on the field in 2020 when he was targeted 43 times, catching 30 passes for 365 yards and five touchdowns. It was then that he shared his time with Kyle Rudolph.
As 2022 approaches, here are the tight-knit Vikings roster members not named Irv Smith Jr.: Ben Ellefson, Johnny Mundt, Zach Davidson and Nick Muse.
These four players have combined for 18 targets in the NFL.
Based on that, it’s safe to assume the Vikings expect Smith to be the full-time tight end, even if he comes out of injury.
New Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell was most recently the offensive coordinator for the Rams, who targeted the tight end position 94 times last year, the sixth-fewest number of goals at that position in the league. .
If Smith split that low volume with multiple tight ends, I’d be worried. But based on list building, it isn’t. And when Smith had a full-time workload in the last three weeks of 2020, he had a pair of touchdowns, with numbers that would average a full season at 62 catches for 680 yards and 11 affected by Professional Football Reference. In half-PPR, that’s a fantastic 165 points, which should have made him TE4 overall behind Mark Andrews, Travis Kelce and Dalton Schultz last season. The 9.7 points per game would have been sixth.
Obviously, it’s not as simple as taking a sample of three games and multiplying it. Touchdowns are the biggest thing we’d likely see a drop in this calculation. But Smith has the advantage of finishing in the tight top 10 and is currently drafted as a TE2.
Thielen is currently being drafted as a low-end WR3, which is a good place for him. But if there’s one Vikings player who’s gone down this year, it’s probably Thielen.
Thielen will be 32 at the start of the season and entering his 10th season with the Vikings. He injured his ankle towards the end of last season.
Thielen has 24 touchdowns over the past two seasons, which is… a lot, especially considering he never had double-digit touchdowns in a season before 2020.
But that high touchdown rate masks the fact that Thielen’s involvement in the Vikings offense has dwindled.
In 2018, Thielen completed his second straight 1,000-yard season and averaged 85.8 yards per game. In 2021, he was at 55.8 yards per game.
His production dropped, but his ability to find the end zone supported his fantastic numbers. Can he bear this? Will health be a problem? There are just a few too many question marks with Thielen this year. If anyone on this squad goes down (not counting any injury issues that could happen randomly across the squad), it’s probably Thielen.
Let’s talk about a fun strategy. The days of needing insurance policies for your RB1 are pretty much over because a) there are fewer guys who have full control of a backfield and b) there are fewer guys who would have control total of a backfield if the guy in front of them gets hurt.
But there’s one scenario where stacking a team’s running backs can be an extremely valuable decision, and that’s with the Minnesota Vikings.
While a new coaching staff could change things in Minnesota, I think running game success is something they should look and decide to keep fairly similar to what they had in the past.
Dalvin Cook never played a full season. It’s a pretty safe bet to assume he misses at least a few games because that always happens. Usually you might not want to sign someone with this kind of injury problem, but Cook has just been too good to ignore it when he’s on the pitch. Since 2019, he has played in 41 games and averaged 93.9 rushing yards and 26.9 receiving yards per game, with 36 total touchdowns during that span. When he’s on the court, Cook is a top-notch RB1.
And when he’s not on the pitch, Alexander Mattison is an essential player.
I switched to RotoViz to use their game filtering app, where you can break down a player’s stats by who played/hasn’t played in a game.
Mattison had gone six games without Cook. In those games, he averaged 20.38 PPR points per game, 20.17 rushing attempts, and 79.5 rushing yards. He’s not quite on Cook’s level, but he’s proven to be a fantastic reliable option whenever Cook isn’t active.
I don’t see any reason to think that’s changing, which is why pairing Cook and Mattison and making sure you get 17 weeks of top-line production from running back is my “safe” choice for the Vikings.
(Also, screen Justin Jefferson.)
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