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Minnesota Vikings 2020 Fantasy Outlook

The Minnesota Vikings have been a streaky team in recent memory. Last season, Kirk Cousins finally started to prove he was worth his hefty contract and led the team into the Superdome for an upset of the heavyweight Saints before faltering against the equally potent 49ers.

The Vikes enter 2020 as an NFC contender once again, with the Packers remaining the biggest threat for a division crown. The team also lost stud receiver Stefon Diggs after he was traded to Buffalo in the offseason. Minnesota still returns a young and talented offensive core this season, which should help their push for a playoff berth.

It will certainly not be easy, but this team has all the ingredients to be successful (on the offensive side, not defensive). You can’t go wrong by drafting some of the Vikings players in fantasy too, so let’s look at which ones might have the best fantasy fortunes.

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Since signing with the Vikings prior to the 2018 season, Kirk Cousins has proved to be a hot-and-cold type of fantasy QB. He could have a big week anytime, but he could also have an average one. Therefore, he can be a maddening player on the teams of many fantasy owners.

Here are his five most recent fantasy finishes among NFL QBs: 18th in 2019, 13th in 2018, 6th in 2017, 5th in 2016, and 8th in 2015. Since he joined the Vikings, Cousins has regressed as a fantasy QB despite technically having an upgrade in receiving weapons, which could have been rather frustrating to those owners who have started the QB the past two seasons.

Last season, the Michigan State product finished with 3,603 yards (lowest since 2014), 26 touchdowns, six picks, 10 total fumbles, 240.2 yards per game, a career-high QB rating of 107.4, 63 rush yards, and one rush touchdown. When looking at accuracy, he had a 15.5 percent poor throws per pass attempt rate.

The number of touchdowns was stellar, as he ranked tied for eighth among NFL QBs. However, the former Redskin only ranked average among NFL QBs when it came to pass yards and pass yards per game. His rushing abilities also leave much to be desired.

The Vikings now prefer to run the ball, which contributes to Cousins’ lower numbers. When evaluating his previous two seasons with Minnesota, it can be concluded that Cousins is a solid backup QB in redraft leagues who can be started if there is an inviting matchup in the schedule.


Running Back

Dalvin Cook has turned into a stud running back on the field and for fantasy owners. He finished fifth among RBs last year in fantasy and broke out in his third season. The 24-year-old finished with 1,135 rush yards, 13 rush touchdowns, 4.5 rush yards per attempt, 81.1 rush yards per game, 53 receptions, and 519 receiving yards.

He ranked 10th in rushing among NFL RBS, seventh in rush yards per game, and fourth in rush touchdowns. He had 596 total rush yards after contact and averaged 2.4 rush yards after contact per rush. In 2019, he had 62.5 percent of the team’s rushes inside the 5 and scored nine touchdowns off that. It is no question in Minnesota that Cook is the focal point of the offense, and with his high number of touches and red zone potential, he is a top-five fantasy RB who can be taken with your first selection in redraft leagues.

The team also has a solid backup in Boise State product Alexander Mattison. The rookie finished last season with 462 rush yards, one rush touchdown, 4.6 rush yards per attempt, 10 receptions, and 82 receiving yards. He averaged 2.0 rush yards after contact per rush and had a total of 196 rush yards after contact. Nevertheless, the 21-year-old doesn’t merit fantasy consideration due to Dalvin Cook’s immense role.


Wide Receiver

With former Vikings wideout Stefon Diggs now on the Bills, Adam Thielen emerges as the clear-cut WR1. The 29-year-old was hindered for most of last season by a hamstring injury, which put many fantasy owners (including myself) in a tough spot. Nevertheless, there is no denying the chemistry Thielen has with Cousins.

In Cousin's first year with Minnesota in 2018, Thielen played all 16 games and had a career year. He finished with 113 receptions (T-4th), 153 targets (7th), 1,373 receiving yards (9th), and nine touchdowns (T-10th).

Last year, the Minnesota State-Mankato product finished with 30 receptions, 48/466 targets (10.3%), 418 yards, and six touchdowns in ten games played. As long as he can stay healthy, Thielen is a top-10 WR for selection in redraft leagues and can be your WR1 in 12 teams or more leagues.

The team also drafted Diggs’ replacement, Justin Jefferson out of LSU, in Round 1 of the draft at pick 22. Bleacher Report stated the new Vikings WR2 has great hands, is a huge red-zone target, and has great speed as he ran a 4.43 40-yard dash. The comparison was made to Packers WR Davante Adams.

Jefferson had a breakout year in 2019 during his third and final season at LSU with now Bengals QB Joe Burrow. He compiled 111 receptions, 1,540 receiving yards, 13.9 yards per catch, and 18 touchdowns in what was a fantastic season that resulted in a national championship for the Tigers.

There is no doubt Jefferson can make that type of impact in the Twin Cities, though it may not be this year. The 21-year-old still needs time to develop a rapport with QB Kirk Cousins. Therefore, he should be considered nothing more than a flex piece/roster depth when drafting in redraft leagues. His status could elevate if Thielen continues to deal with injuries or he simply breaks out.

The Vikes still lack receiver depth behind Thielen and Jefferson. They brought in former Titan Tajae Sharpe this offseason, but the 25-year-old has not been very effective in his three-year career thus far. He finished with 25 receptions, 329 yards, 13.2 yards per catch, and four touchdowns and has no reason to be on fantasy rosters unless he proves otherwise.


Tight End

Tight end is a tricky spot on the Vikings because there is the 30-year-old veteran Kyle Rudolph and now second-year player Irv Smith Jr. out of Alabama. Both had staggeringly identical numbers last season too. Rudolph compiled 39 receptions, 367 yards, 9.4 yards per catch, six touchdowns, and 48/466 targets (10.3%). Meanwhile, Smith had 36 receptions, 311 yards, 8.6 yards per catch, two touchdowns, and 47/466 targets (10.1%).

The only major difference between the two players was touchdowns. It’s not like Smith is a rookie, so he is a candidate to improve this season considering he has built chemistry with Kirk Cousins. However, the usage of both on this offense naturally lowers both of their values. Either is worth drafting in redraft leagues, but just as a backup or second tight end unless one of them breaks out as the clear-cut TE1 on the team.

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