The Vikings fantasy football output will look very different this year compared to last. I am sure many are wondering what they can project for Vikings skill players in fantasy football in 2019, without drinking too much of the “Kool Aid.” There are a lot of things to consider.
With the hiring of Kevin Stefanski, as well as the addition of Gary Kubiak and his crew, this Vikings offense is going to look different, especially the running game. Adding the likes of Josh Kline, other depth pieces such as Dakota Dozier, and draft picks Garrett Bradbury, Dru Samia, and Oli Udoh, this offensive line should be much improved as well. The change in scheme projects to be to the advantage of this position group’s skill set and athletic traits.
To come up with these projections, I looked at many different things. From past years statistics under Zimmer, the last 3 games coordinated by Stefanski in 2018, offenses ran by Kubiak, as well as offenses that use the same Kubiak/Shanahan philosophies.
Let’s dive in.
Average Draft Position: PPR- 13.01 Standard- 13.01
Everyone knows that last season there was more to be desired from this Vikings team, and a lot of the blame fell on the shoulders of their newly acquired quarterback. They fell short in the win column, but statistically, Cousins did put up good numbers.
Last season Cousins finished with 30 TD’s, 10 INT’s, and 4298 passing yards. Although not much of a threat running the ball, he did squeak out 123 rushing yards and a rushing TD as well. He posted a career high in TD’s, completion percentage, with his lowest INT total in 4 seasons.
Improving the offensive line, having two elite wide receivers, one of the leagues top tight ends, and a running back with breakout potential should make for an even better year, right? Not so fast.
Last season John DeFilippo controlled the offensive scheme for all but 3 games, in which Stefanski took over the offense as the interim offensive coordinator. JDF’s offense was very pass heavy. This contained a 2:1 pass to run ratio, which tied for the 4th highest pass to run ratio in the league. Mike Zimmer has always echoed that his team is a run first team, even with stars at the receiver position. When we have seen the Vikings play a run first style, they have had success.
When Stefanski took over, we saw the pass attempts per game go down from 40 attempts per game, to 27. The Vikings also went 2-1 in those three games after the JDF firing. This season we will see a number much closer the the 27 attempts per game from Stefanski’s offense, than the 40 that we averaged with JDF.
Cousins will be running a rush first offense and taking his shots when he has his chances. Last season Cousins posted his lowest mark in rushing TD’s since 2014, so expect him to increase in that category as well.
2019 Projection: 396/562, 3964 Yards, 29 TD’s, 8 INT’s, 40 Carries, 125 Rushing Yards, 3 Rushing TD’s
Average Draft Position: PPR- 2.06 Standard- 2.03
There is a serious outlier to Dalvin Cook’s 2019 season, and that is staying on the field. From watching Cook at Florida State, he has the skill set and athletic ability to be not only a top 5 fantasy back, but one of the top backs in the league.
Through his two-year career, Cook has only appeared in 15 games. More than a year removed from his ACL tear, as well as an offseason removed from last year’s nagging hamstring issues, Cook looks to be on track to be fully healthy heading into 2019.
As we had seen in his rookie year, and 2018, when Cook is healthy, the workload is his, and it very well should be. Cook is the type of back that you want to put the ball in his hands as many times as you can, because he could break one off to the endzone at any time. His speed, cutting ability, and vision is some of the best in the league.
With the offense transitioning to a rush first scheme, utilizing a zone blocking scheme, should fit Cooks “find the hole and go” rushing style. He will also be good in the screen game.
As you can see, I am giving Cook very high praise. He has all of the tools to be a top fantasy back, depending on his health.
Being that he has had serious issues with his health two seasons in a row, he will be a late 2nd, early 3rd round pick (in a 10-man draft). While many have waited for Cook to pay off for their team in fantasy, this is going to be the season.
2019 Projections: 270 Rushing Attempts, 1269 Rushing Yards, 8 Rushing TD’s, 56 Receptions, 428 Receiving Yards, 3 Receiving TD’s
Average Draft Position: PPR- 11.06 Standard- 11.07
As mentioned above, the Vikings offensive scheme will see a shift this year. There is also going to be a lot of carries up for grabs with Latavius Murray now sporting a Saints uniform.
Murray’s impact was very underrated over the last two years. He worked well as a “ying” to Cook’s “yang” running style. Then, with Cook facing injury concerns, Murray stepped in, ready to perform. Many Vikings fans were surprised when the team selected a running back in the back of the third round of this years draft.
Having a back to spell Cook at times, and give him a chance to catch his breath, will be important. It is also important to have a between the tackles runner on the team, like they had with Murray. Also, worst comes to worst, we must be realistic with the injury concerns Cook has shown over his short NFL career and prepare for the worst.
Mattison has decent top end speed, but his real talent is staying on his feet and fighting through contact. Mattison averaged 4.9 yards per carry throughout his career at Boise State. He also had a serious nose for the endzone, with 17 rushing touchdowns in his final college season.
Being a big bodied back, and between the tackles runner, will surely make some Cook owners upset this season when Mattison is called into the game to push the ball across the goal line. He will garner some touchdowns because of his short yardage skill.
There has been some discussion about the battle for the RB2 position on the depth chart, but due to draft position alone, it would be safe to assume that Mattison has a head start for that job. It also does not hurt that Roc Thomas has been cut from the team and Mike Boone has a similar rushing style to Cook.
Mattison might not be a bad guy to either snatch late in the draft as a handcuff or watch the waiver wires as the season moves along.
2019 Projections: 72 Rushing Attempts, 302 Rushing Yards, 3 Rushing TD’s, 10 Receptions, 87 Receiving Yards
Average Draft Position: PPR- 3.12 Standard- 4.04
There has been an internal dispute among Vikings fans for a long time to which of their two stud wideouts was the more elite prospect. My answer to that, is Stefon Diggs. Not by much, but not many players have the footwork and route precision that Diggs has. He will go toe to toe with any defensive back in football, and most times can make them look silly.
Diggs is the walking home run threat that the Vikings need. He will work well in this play action heavy scheme. There were multiple occasions last season that we saw Cousins miss Diggs after burning his defender which would have lead to more touchdowns. Their second year together should help with the timing.
The main thing that has always been an issue with Diggs, is that he has yet to play a full 16 game season. 2018 was his closest attempt, playing in 15 games.
Diggs should have another productive year, and would be a great flex player for any fantasy team. In PPR formats, Diggs is even more valuable, as he has averaged almost 6 receptions through his career, and about 64 yards per game. You throw in his touchdown totals from the last two seasons, and you have the recipe for another great season coming from number 14.
2019 Projections: 91 Receptions, 1019 Receiving Yards, 9 Receiving TD’s, 9 Rushing Attempts, 44 Rushing Yards
Average Draft Position: PPR- 3.03 Standard- 3.09
Adam Thielen broke onto the scene a few years back for Vikings fans, but really caught a lot of national attention last season. Since fantasy football and gambling has brought a lot of attention and popularity to today’s game, Thielen’s 2018 season was a big one.
I had the chance to draft him in two leagues last year, and regretted not doing so for many weeks (I do have a “No Vikings” rule in my personal fantasy). After seeing him break the record for consecutive games with 100+ receiving yards to start the season, I am sure many were regretting not drafting number 19 in their leagues.
Thielen has put up the reception and yardage numbers for three seasons in a row now, but 2018 he found the end zone 9 times as well. Last season showed a career high in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. He continued to take a step forward.
Teams started to gameplan for Thielen later in the season, giving him the respect he deserves. There is no reason to think he should not have another stellar season under the new offensive direction. Some of the offensive production might not match his 2018 career highs, but he will still have a respectable season and be a weekly starter in fantasy.
2019 Projections: 93 Receptions, 1152 Receiving Yards, 7 Receiving TD’s, 2 Rushing Attempts, 14 Rushing Yards
Average Draft Position: PPR- 13.12 Standard- 14.07
This offseason was a different one for Kyle Rudolph. With the Vikings tight salary cap situation, and the need of a restructured contract from a veteran to even sign their large rookie class, the spotlight was on Rudolph. This was a light that he had never been under before. With the 2nd round pick being a highly touted Alabama tight end, the trade speculation started to surround the veteran tight end.
Eventually a restructure was agreed upon, and Rudolph can move past the rumors and speculation into the new season.
Rudolph continues to show that he can be trusted with sure hands as a safety valve for his quarterback. He finished at the seventh best tight end in football last year, and has finished top ten at his position in most categories for most of his career. Having a down year in touchdowns in comparison to 2017, I expect those numbers to go back up.
2019 Projections: 56 Receptions, 548 Receiving Yards, 6 Receiving Touchdowns
Irv Smith Jr.
Average Draft Position: Waiver Wire Pickup
In his rookie season, Irv Smith Jr. has an opportunity to play some meaningful snaps. Smith is a player that I have been watching all year, thinking that he would look great in purple. On draft night, I let out a slight cheer when the second-round pick was announced.
Many thought the drafting of Smith Jr. could mean the end of Rudolph in a Vikings uniform, but I think that using them together is even more dangerous.
Smith Jr. was lined up all over the field at Alabama. He saw time at tight end, full back, slot wide receiver, and on the outside. His athleticism allows him to be able to have such flexibility on the field.
I see Stefanski using the tight end groups in different ways than we were used to last season. Smith Jr. can get yards after catch and break tackles, a skill that we have not seen much of from Rudolph in his career.
Although I am very excited at the potential of Irv Smith Jr., I do not see him having a big fantasy season, but an injury could change that.
2019 Projections: 22 Receptions, 286 Receiving Yards, 2 Receiving Touchdowns
The Vikings do have some serious aspirations this year, and with a new offensive coaching staff and proven scheme, Vikings skill players should pay dividends to managers that draft them, as long as they are taken in the correct rounds.
I, myself have usually followed a personal rule of “No Vikings” on my fantasy rosters. I do not like watching a game in which I see Thielen score a touchdown and I am slightly happy but really just cheering for Diggs because he is on my roster. I want to be happy when any player scores on my favorite team and try not to mix my gambling with my home team.
This season could be different. Depending on how far Cook falls in drafts, I believe he will have a breakout season and help carry a team into a playoff run. Every year there is a player that outperforms their draft position, and Cook is a perfect candidate for that this season. That is considering him having his first full healthy season, as well as the scheme and play style benefiting his qualities.
There are obviously other skill players who will get targets and garner fantasy points, but I decided to make this piece on the players that could be big pieces on people’s lineups.
Like last season, there were Vikings players who had great fantasy statistics, but that did not directly lead to wins and team success. Let’s hope that changes this year.