The Vikings finished second in the NFC North with a record of (10-6), and made it to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. The team did so with an offense that ranked 8th in points scored. This Viking offense ranked 6th in the league in rush yards per game, while only ranking 23rd in pass yards per game. This should tell you the philosophy that head coach Mike Zimmer likes to utilize, and that is a run first approach. The team loses Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski to the Browns, who he is now head coach for. This will thrust offensive advisor Gary Kubiak into the role for 2020. This offense will figure to be more of the same in 2020, as we can expect a heavy dose of 12 personnel. The team ran the fewest snaps in 11 personnel then any team in the league in 2019. Kubiak is a very good play caller and will likely get creative in using the personnel to his disposal, especially a guy like Irv Smith Jr.
Kirk Cousins (QB) – Cousins has been one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL over the last number of years. Over the last five seasons as a Pro Cousins average completion percentage is 68.1%. His completion percentage since joining the Vikings is 70.1% in 2018 and 69.1% in 2019. The thing we have to be concerned with Kirk is his pass attempts. In 2018 Cousins attempted 606 passes which were 162 more then he attempted in 2019. This drop in attempts amounts to 10 less attempts a game, which can be attributed to the team’s commitment to the run. So with the drop in attempts it should be no surprise that we see a decrease in yards from his first year as a Viking to his second year, 4,298 to 3,603. The touchdowns dropped as well, but not to significantly as he compiled 26 passing touchdowns down slightly from the 30 in 2018.
Fantasy Spin: Kirk Cousins is a solid backup quarterback for a fantasy team, or a nice QB2 in two quarterback leagues. The pass attempts will likely be around where they were in 2019 so similar production can be assumed. We have Kirk ranked as our QB21 in redraft and QB20 in dynasty leagues entering 2020.
Dalvin Cook/Alexander Mattison (RB) – Dalvin Cook last year put together his best season as a pro. He led all running backs in average total yards per game with 118.1. Despite missing two games Cook still finished top five in total yards at the position. The only knock on Cook since entering the league has been his inability to stay fully healthy. He missed the majority of his rookie season with a torn ACL in 2017. In 2018 he missed 5 games with a hamstring issue. Then last season he missed two games due to a AC joint sprain. Alexander Mattison has been regarded as the backup to own the last two seasons due to this injury concern to Cook. Mattison was the teams 3rd round pick in 2019, and through his rookie season looked good when given chances. Mattison was used only a handful of times during games to spell Cook and keep him fresh. Mattison rushed 100 times and compiled 462 yards, which came out to a healthy 4.62 yards per carry. He also added ten receptions for an additional 82 yards. However, much like Cook injury plagued Mattison down the stretch causing him to miss the end of 2019.
Fantasy Spin: In terms of fantasy Cook finished as the second ranked back in fantasy points per game in 2019. In 11 of the 14 games Cook played he put up over 15 fantasy points. This production is the reason we have Cook ranked as our 5th running back in redraft and 8th in dynasty entering 2020. The injury concern will always be there, but the talent and upside alone makes the early pick a no brainer. Mattison is the hand cuff of all hand cuffs to own in fantasy entering 2020 especially with Cook threatening to hold out. Mattison could offer stand-alone value in this offense as well, as he looked good when given the opportunities. Mattison comes in as our RB58 in redraft, and RB51 in dynasty leagues.
Adam Thielen/Justin Jefferson (WR) – when looking at this receiving corps there really is two guys that stand out. The first is Adam Thielen who is primed for a big year in 2020 being the lead dog in this passing attack. Thielen is coming off a disappointing 2019 due to a lingering hamstring injury that kept him off the field for most the year. This injury then had an obvious effect to his game when he returned as well, until the playoffs. When looking at the numbers of Thielen’s last 40 healthy games it’s pretty impressive in terms of fantasy production. Adam Thielen averaged in those 40 healthy games 16.8 fantasy points per game (PPR). This number would have him ranked as the WR6 over the last 3 seasons, just behind the elite players at the position such as AB, D-Hop, Julio, Adams, and Mike Thomas. In addition Thielen ranks as the 9th receiver in yards per route ran, 6th in receiving yards a game, and 7th in receptions per game. Thielen will be joined by Justin Jefferson who comes in to fill the Diggs role on the outside. This is a bit of a question mark entering 2020 because Jefferson profiles as a polished slot receiver and hasn’t played outside since 2018, when LSU used him there a little. There is concern that Jefferson will struggle to win outside against the NFL level cornerbacks. However Kubiak has stated he will be utilized from the slot quite often in year one.
Fantasy Spin: The connection that Thielen and Kirk have will be a huge factor in terms of target share in this low volume passing attack. With the rookie and Kirk likely needing time to connect Thielen figures to see in the neighborhood of 145 targets, as he will need to be force fed the ball in this passing attack. Thielen is ranked as our WR9 in redraft rankings as his upside puts him in the WR1 conversation. The recent injury history and the run heavy attack is what have most a little hesitant to put him there in their rankings, but not us. In dynasty Thielen’s age pushes him down our rankings as he is now hit that 30 years old mark, he comes in as our WR35 in that format. Jefferson enters 2020 with a bit of uncertainty, as we are worried how he will fare as an outside receiver in the NFL. The team feels he will be fine in the position so time will tell. We view Jefferson as a WR5 in redraft as he ranks as our 54th wide receiver. In Dynasty he ranks significantly higher as our 38th wide out, putting him in the WR3 territory.
Irv Smith Jr./Kyle Rudolph (TE) – this Viking team ran a lot of 12 personnel last season and figure to do so again in 2020. This means both Irv Smith Jr. and Kyle Rudolph will be on the field a lot this season. The tight end we are most interested in for fantasy purposes is Irv Smith Jr. Irv Smith will be the key to everything this Viking offense does in 2020. Irv Smith has movement ability and will be used outside at times as a wide receiver, as the team did a couple times in 2019. This movement to the outside shouldn’t be surprising because he looks and plays like a big receiver. The target share should be there as he figures to be a top three in looks behind Thielen and Cook.
Fantasy Spin: Irv Smith Jr. is the fantasy tight end to own in Minnesota. We have him ranked as a backend TE2 as our 21st tight end entering 2020 in redraft. His upside is through the ceiling this season however which could push him into the high TE2 range. In Dynasty formats he ranks as our 14th tight end entering year two. Kyle Rudolph comes in as our tight end 31 in redraft and tight end 39 in dynasty leagues.
Defense – this defense was tough to score against in 2019, as they ranked as the 5th best in this category. The Vikings were ranked 13th in rush yards allowed per game, proving to be a top defense in the run stopping department. The Vikings were a little more susceptible to the pass ranking only 15th in pass yards allowed per game. Historically Zimmer runs a base 4-3 defense, but he brings in a senior advisor in Dom Capers who historically ran a 3-4 defense. This could be telling us that the unit will be more hybrid. The addition of Michael Pierce who played for the Ravens in a 3-4 scheme suggests this could be the plan. Pierce also has experience in a 4-3 so fits both defensive scheme needs. Mike Zimmer has been in the league a long time and knows every year coaches and game plans are evolving, and he too needed to do the same on the defensive side of the ball. By the coaching hires and personnel acquired and released it’s obvious Zimmer is looking to evolve the defense.
Fantasy Spin: Coming into 2020 the Vikings defensive unit ranks 15th for us in fantasy. The defense was good against the run and lacked against the pass. The team was good in points allowed per game so does offer value as a streamer, borderline weekly starter.
Strength of Schedule
The Vikings wide receiver corps will face the 9th easiest schedule this fantasy regular season. Their playoff schedule will be the 15th easiest during weeks 14-16. The backs will be looking at the 6th easiest schedule during the fantasy regular season. The back will then have the 3rd toughest schedule during the fantasy playoffs. Cousins will face the 5th easiest schedule during the fantasy regular season, and the 16th easiest during weeks 14-16. The tight ends will face the 15th easiest fantasy regular season schedule and will face the 13th toughest playoff schedule from weeks 14-16.