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Vikings Must Wait on Rewards from Risky Free Agents

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    Joe Johnson
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    Written by Joe Oberle

    Vikings Must Wait on Rewards from Risky Free Agents

    A question potentially facing fantasy football team owners is whether or not to take a chance on a player who is either injured or already suspended for part of the season. The Vikings have shown a willingness to do just that in acquiring free agent running back Latavius Murray (who is still rehabbing his surgically-repaired ankle) and free agent wide receiver Michael Floyd—who is suspended for the first four game of the season.

    Why take the chance that an injured player never recovers or the suspended player can’t stay out of trouble? Because the upside for each player is high, and the Vikings see them as contributing significantly to the team in areas where they need it.

    Each player has the opportunity to contribute, but right now that is difficult to do from the sidelines. Murray has not taken the field with his teammates; rather he is spending his time working on his rehab in the training room or off another field during practice. Asked when he could return, Murray couldn’t put a date on it. Originally, shortly after surgery, it was speculated he would be ready for training camp, but that hasn’t materialized.

    “No timetable [on a return to practice],” Murray said. “Right now I am just taking it day-by-day. You have good days and bad, and I’m just trying to make more of the good days right now and continue to work and get back as soon as I can.”

    Head coach Mike Zimmer reiterated that unknown time frame, and whether he was more frustrated with the question or the absence of his running back on the field, he appear exactly happy about it at his Monday presser.

    “I don’t know. He hasn’t gotten the okay yet [to return],” Zimmer said. He was then asked if, as a vet, Murray could pick up things quickly. “He is a smart guy, but he has to get out there.”

    Hopefully that happens well before training camp ends, because the Vikings are a new team for Murray and that means a new offense to learn. The coaching staff has said that Murray would get the short yardage and goal line carries (something the team struggled with last season), but things won’t improve for the Vikings in this regard unless Murray can take the field with him teammates and start to get the plays and timing down.

    Floyd, on the other hand, has been on the field since he reported to camp. He won’t be available to them for the first four regular season games, but he does have the opportunity to learn the offense and get in a rhythm with his quarterback.

    “Things are going well. I am catching up more on the offense,” Floyd said. “Things are coming more easily to me now. That’s with all the reps and the meeting time that we have—to store it all my brain. The first couple days have been going well, so I’ve just got to keep it rolling.”

    And while Floyd has had the opportunity to practice, he has made the most of it. He lit up social media with a touchdown grab at one of the team’s padded practices over the weekend, and he has occasionally been able to make a few moves on the Vikings secondary (including the team’s brand new $70 million corner Xavier Rhodes) and catch some passes behind them. He is tantalizing the fans in attendance at camp, even though it must be tempered with the reminder that he will miss a quarter of the regular season.

    But, like Murray in short yardage and goal line situations, Floyd is being counted on by the Vikings. They picked him up despite his DUI arrest and then stuck with him when he failed a couple of tests while under house arrest. Clearly, the Vikings feel that the talented former Cretin Durham Hall receiver can help stretch the field for a team that didn’t pass downfield much in 2016.

    “I think Coach [Pat] Shurmur puts in you great positions,” Floyd said. “There could be play calls that are going down field or Sam [Bradford] could see something different and then we have a ball that’s going vertical. Shurmur’s doing a good job. I like what the offense is doing. I like going vertical, but I also like the intermediate routes, too. So, Coach Shurmur puts you in a position to be successful.”

    So, there are two deficiencies from last season to be fixed by two players who may not yet be able to do anything for the team in the early going. The Vikings shouldn’t hustle Murray back from his injury, and Floyd can’t come back quick enough. It was a risk for the Vikings to take on each player, as they generally knew the status of them before they were signed.

    Were they good risks to take? Are the upsides high enough to make them worth that risk? When you consider the roles to be played by these two players once they suit for the Purple, the answer is yes. Both have plenty to add to the Vikings offense. And we all can’t wait for it to happen.

    So, the next question is whether you think their potential is great enough to take the chance on them for your fantasy football team. There certainly is less at stake for you, but the question is somewhat similar. What do you do?

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