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AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn

2022 Fantasy Football Preview: Minnesota Vikings


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Player Outlooks (2022)

 

QB Kirk Cousins: Cousins was clearly a major reason for former Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell taking the Minnesota job, and a new offensive system—which he surprisingly said he’s basically learning from scratch—can provide a jolt for the Vikings. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen being one of the league’s top receiving duos is an obvious positive for Cousins, too, and the emerging offensive line shouldn’t be overlooked with left tackle Christian Darrisaw and right tackle Brian O’Neill having the potential to be the best bookend pairing in football. It’s a very crowded group of QB2 options, but Cousins is a top-15 option.

 

RB Dalvin Cook: Durability continues to be a factor when discussing Cook—who missed four games in 2021—and it’s interesting that Minnesota added another running back in the fifth round (Ty Chandler from North Carolina) to join Alexander Mattison and Kene Nwangwu as backfield depth. Still, Cook is a top-five pure runner in the league, and the young offensive line should be a strength for the Vikings this season. We’ll see how an increased reliance on 11 personnel affects Cook, but there is reason to be optimistic about increased efficiency as a pass-catcher in O’Connell’s system coming off a season in which he averaged just 4.6 yards per target.

 

RB Alexander Mattison: The history of production from Mattison when stepping in for Cook makes him perhaps the top handcuff in the league—in four starts last season, he averaged 19.3 fantasy points per game. But as a pure understudy, Mattison has far less appeal, and he enters 2022 with more competition for touches behind Cook. Boost him in best ball formats, but in terms of redraft value, Minnesota opening the year with improved run defenses of the Packers and Eagles could even have Mattison on the wire by Week 3 for impatient owners.

 

RB Kene Nwangwu: Nwangwu only had 150 offensive touches across four years at Iowa State and is still developing as a running back, but his natural speed/explosiveness should give him a chance to earn a role if Minnesota goes with more of a committee to keep Dalvin Cook fresh. The second-year back was one of the best returners in the league last season with two touchdowns on just 18 kick returns.

 

RB Ty Chandler: Chandler was a somewhat surprising selection by Minnesota in the fifth round, but he is an all-around back that can contribute in the passing game. As a 24-year-old rookie that started his college career at Tennessee in 2017, we’d imagine the team is expecting contributions from Chandler as a rookie.

 

WR Justin Jefferson: The clear favorite to give Cooper Kupp a run for his money as the overall WR1 is Jefferson, as he’ll now be playing the same role in Kevin O’Connell’s offense—and one he should be extremely comfortable in based on his domination as a featured player out of the slot at LSU. In addition to heavy projected volume, Jefferson brings the downfield skillset to get open deep on a double move, which can help carry your team in any given week. He’s worth considering as a top three-to-five pick in full PPR formats and a no-doubt first-rounder in all leagues.

 

WR Adam Thielen: Quietly tied for third in the NFL in receiving touchdowns over the past two seasons (24), Thielen has overcome a drop in targets with both usage and efficiency in the red zone as a favorite of Kirk Cousins. Overall, Minnesota’s No. 2 wideout has caught 27-of-32 targets in scoring territory since 2020, and the presence of Jefferson is a big reason for it, as Cousins trusts Thielen to make plays in single coverage. Assuming he doesn’t lose a step entering his age-32 campaign, Thielen should be an excellent WR3.

 

WR K.J. Osborn: In seven games with at least 65% of the snaps played last season, Osborn averaged 11.3 fantasy points per game while scoring in five of those outings. Ihmir Smith-Marsette flashing in limited action (5/116/2 line on six targets as a rookie) makes it a potential battle to potentially watch, but Osborn should have the edge based on what he showed last year—and could be vaulted into the WR3 ranks if Thielen misses time again.

 

WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette: As just stated, Smith-Marsette made the most of his limited opportunities as a rookie, and he could be a sneaky candidate to have a decent role—even if it’s as the No. 4 wideout—if the offense features wide receiver runs like the Rams. At Iowa, Smith-Marsette notably rushed 34 times for 274 yards and four touchdowns in his career.

 

WR Bisi Johnson: A torn ACL suffered last summer ended Johnson’s season before it got started, and he’ll now have a more crowded path to playing time after a year off the field. The former seventh-round pick might need an injury to get a shot at meaningful snaps in 2022.

 

WR Albert Wilson: Wilson returned from a COVID-19 opt-out in 2020 to a limited role with the Dolphins last season (213 receiving yards in 14 games), and he’ll now hope to rebuild his value with Minnesota. We’d say the odds are against him ever reaching the level he did in 2018 when he averaged 11.2 yards per target in seven games before a hip injury ended his season.

 

WR Jalen Nailor: A sixth-round pick out of Michigan State, Nailor shouldn’t be overlooked as a player selected by the current regime—particularly for the future. Last season, Nailor averaged 18.8 yards per reception for the Spartans, and he showed he can get behind the defense despite just 4.50 speed.

 

TE Irv Smith Jr.: Smith Jr. should be 100% well in advance of the opener, and it’s notable that the former Alabama standout was a popular breakout candidate this time last year (we had him ranked as a top-12 option). Over his final six games of the 2020 season, Smith Jr. scored five touchdowns, and the Vikings losing Tyler Conklin in free agency leaves a huge hole at tight end. The position is stronger than usual, but Smith Jr. has a good chance of working himself into the low-end TE1 ranks.

 

TE Zach Davidson: Minnesota’s depth at tight end is very thin, but Davison was a fifth-round selection last year and could be a good complement to Smith Jr. in a six-foot-seven frame. At Central Michigan, Davidson caught 18 touchdowns on just 51 receptions and averaged 22.2 yards per reception.

 

Other Notes

 

Best 2022 value: WR Adam Thielen (FantasyPros ECR: WR34)

Some might be concerned about Thielen being too reliant on touchdowns, but they’ve proven to be a big part of his game (i.e. a skill), and increased passing under a new coaching staff can only help his value. We believe the veteran should at least go a couple of spots higher than WR34 in best ball formats because of the weekly touchdown potential.

 

Best dynasty investment: RB Kene Nwangwu

You can’t go wrong starting a dynasty team with Justin Jefferson, but finding a value on the offense (compared to ADP) is more difficult from a dynasty perspective. Because Nwangwu could be getting downgraded folowing the Ty Chandler selection, now is a good time to invest in a twitchy athlete that might have a sizable change-of-pace role if Dalvin Cook goes down.

 

Stat to know

In 12 games with Dalvin Cook in the lineup last season, Alexander Mattison rushed 48 times for 135 yards (2.8 YPC) and one touchdown.