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Kirk Cousins officially became the starting quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings when he signed a historic, ground-breaking, three-year, $84 million contract that is fully guaranteed. It was the first fully guaranteed contract in the history of the NFL.

The Vikings got their man and Cousins got paid. But how will the signing affect his fantasy value, and the value of his offensive weapons?

Let's dig in and find out.

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Kirk Cousins' Fantasy Stock

This is a great signing for Cousins' fantasy outlook. He leaves a team that had little passing game weapons and joins a team that is loaded at the position. First, they have two excellent wide receivers in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Both are upgrades over any receiver Cousins had in Washington. Second, they have a tight end who has caught 140 passes and 15 touchdowns over the last two seasons, and hasn't missed a game in three years in Kyle Rudolph. While Rudolph may not be as skilled as Jordan Reed, having him on the field for all 16 games will be a big boost for Cousins. The Vikings also boast a better backfield than Cousins ever had, with second-year talent Dalvin Cook set to return from his ACL injury, and fifth-year man Latavius Murray acting in the backup role. All he has done is score 20 touchdowns over the last two seasons.

So with all these weapons around him, Cousins' fantasy outlook should be way up right? Well, not so fast. Sure, the situation is great for Cousins, and I expect him to do quite well. The issue is Cousins was already a fantasy stud, even if the community had failed to realize it. Over the last four seasons Cousins has thrown for at least 4,000 yards, at least 25 touchdowns and no more than 13 interceptions. Over that span he has finished as QB8, QB5 and QB6. It's hard to do better than that. It's so hard, in fact, that no other quarterback has three top-eight finishes over that span. Only Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford even have two. Needless to say, Cousins has been really good for a while now.

Of course, this doesn't mean his stock is down either. Quite the contrary. If anything, going to the Vikings solidifies him as a top quarterback option for fantasy leagues in 2018. Playing on a team with this many weapons should give him a nice weekly floor while offering plenty of upside. Cousins is currently being drafted as the 10th quarterback in early best-ball drafts, and that price seems like a great value. He certainly offers much more upside than that.

 

Vikings Pass Catchers

Before we get to the pass catchers, let's compare Cousins and 2017's quarterback for the Vikings, Case Keenum. Surprisingly, on a per game basis, Keenum and Cousins had very similar numbers. Here is how the two stacked up:

Cousins: YPG: 255.8, YPA: 7.6, TD%: 5.0
Keenum: YPG: 236.5, YPA: 7.4, TD%: 4.6

While Cousins is an upgrade over Keenum, it's not a significant upgrade in terms of fantasy value. Both receivers, Thielen and Diggs, should see similar success as they had in 2017 with Keenum. If you were high on either before the Cousins signing, this should do nothing to make you worried.

The pass catcher who may benefit the most from the Cousins signing is tight end Kyle Rudolph. Last season, Washington tight ends combined for 85 receptions, 966 yards and six touchdowns. Those numbers would have been good enough for TE2 in PPR formats. In 2015 and 2016 combined, in only 26 games, Jordan Reed had 153 catches, 1638 yards and 17 touchdowns. Needless to say Cousins loves throwing to his tight ends and he inherits a good one in Kyle Rudolph. As an added benefit, Rudolph has not missed a game the last three years. The last time Rudolph had a quarterback that utilized tight ends, Sam Bradford in 2016, he finished as TE3 and caught 83 passes for 840 yards with seven touchdowns. Rudolph gets a big bump and could post top-five numbers.

The Vikings offense played at a high level in 2017 and it's hard to see them exceeding that in 2018. Still, Cousins is a very good quarterback and should keep them playing at a high level. All Vikings pass catchers should be very good fantasy options once again, with Rudolph seemingly getting the biggest bump. Cousins, who appears to again be disliked by the fantasy community, could be a screaming value come draft day.

 

More 2018 NFL Free Agency Analysis