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Player Outlooks (2023)
QB Kirk Cousins: Cousins will turn 35 next month and has expressed a desire to remain in Minnesota as he enters a contract year, but it’s a different dynamic than usual with the Vikings feeling like a team in limbo that might decide to get younger at the position in 2024. The situation shouldn’t have an impact on Cousins’ production entering Year 2 in Kevin O’Connell’s system, and first-round pick Jordan Addison being added as another support piece around Justin Jefferson should give Minnesota plenty of firepower. Plus, Cousins will be protected by one of the NFL’s top offensive lines—making him a very stable QB2 option.
RB Alexander Mattison: The release of Dalvin Cook opens the door for Mattison to have a workhorse role in 2023, and he’s typically thrived when given significant touches. Further helping his case is the lack of proven depth at running back, but how should he be valued compared to other low-end RB2 options such as Cam Akers and David Montgomery? Minnesota’s new starter has averaged 3.7 yards per carry over the past two seasons, and there are still some quality free agents available for the Vikings to possibly target that would take work away from Mattison.
RB Ty Chandler: A fifth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Chandler rushed six times for 20 yards in limited action as a rookie, and he’ll now battle for the backup job. There could be a path for Chandler to be a big-play complement to Mattison that sees more and more work if he shows well with his early touches, and the backfield depth will be worth monitoring closely in camp.
RB DeWayne McBride: If there is a late-round or undrafted running back that will emerge this year, McBride is as good of a bet as anyone after combining for 2,084 rushing yards and 32 rushing touchdowns over the past two years at UAB. Overall, the rookie is a power runner that averaged 7.3 yards per carry in college, and he could be the top handcuff despite five career receptions.
RB Kene Nwangwu: A second-team All-Pro kick returner last season, Nwangwu shouldn’t be counted out from an offensive role after a couple of years learning behind Dalvin Cook—and the strength of the offensive line can create rushing lanes that he’s able to slip through. Nwangwu showing well as a receiver and pass protector this summer would be key to earning the coaching staff’s trust.
WR Justin Jefferson: The natural progression of Jefferson—with steady increases in receptions (88 > 108 > 128) and receiving yards (1,400 > 1,616 > 1,809) through three seasons—could have him push for 2,000 yards this year with another uptick, and he’s the current favorite to be taken with the No. 1 pick in most fantasy drafts. The fact that Jefferson hasn’t drawn much heat for some low-floor games (including in the fantasy playoffs) just shows how unstoppable he usually is, and he’s ranked as our top wideout for the second year in a row.
WR Jordan Addison: Addison is a ready-made NFL receiver having played with 2022 first-rounder Kenny Pickett at Pittsburgh and projected 2024 first-overall pick Caleb Williams at USC, and with the Vikings, he steps into a perfect situation across from Jefferson in a role that is sure to draw plenty of single coverage. The pure ability as a route runner is reminiscent of Calvin Ridley, and the rookie should consistently be in the right place at the right time to quickly build trust with Kirk Cousins. Addison should be an immediate FLEX option.
WR K.J. Osborn: Osborn was quiet for much of the 2022 season, but he went off down the stretch, which included a heroic effort in the historic comeback over the Colts in Week 15 with ten receptions for 157 yards and a touchdown. The 26-year-old won’t simply hand the No. 2 job over, and he seemed to earn more and more looks in the red zone that often went to the departed Adam Thielen with a score in four of the final six games in 2022 (including playoffs).
WR Jalen Reagor: Somehow still just entering his age-24 season (he won’t turn 25 until January), Reagor still carries theoretical upside as a dynasty prospect, but it’s just difficult to see it happening in 2023 without an injury to the target-soaking Justin Jefferson or someone else. In his first year with the Vikings, the former first-rounder caught eight passes for 104 yards and a touchdown.
WR Brandon Powell: Powell saw a decent amount of involvement last year for the Rams (24 receptions and 17 carries), and he could slide right in with a “gadget” role in a similar offensive system after signing with Minnesota. That said, the fantasy value doesn’t projected to make him a redraft option—particularly for a star-centric passing attack.
WR Jalen Nailor: Nailor drew some buzz in OTAs, and he was a quality deep threat in a limited role as a rookie—catching nine-of-13 targets for 179 yards (19.9 yards per reception) and one touchdown. We’ll see if he can have a big summer to earn an expanded role, but the situation between him and Jordan Addison might be similar to Bisi Johnson and Justin Jefferson back in 2020.
TE T.J. Hockenson: Kirk Cousins and the Vikings wasted no time getting Hockenson integrated into the offense when acquired last fall, as he caught nine passes in his first appearance and saw 9.4 targets per game (excluding the season finale, which was treated as a preseason game). The question is whether the opportunities—with a 17-game pace of 161 targets and 111 receptions—will be impacted by the additions of Jordan Addison and Josh Oliver, and the upside of Dallas Goedert and Darren Waller might be more alluring if you’re spending an early pick at tight end.
TE Josh Oliver: Minnesota surprisingly signed Oliver to a three-year, $21-million deal this offseason, and the team clearly feels there is upside to be unlocked for a guy that’s caught 26 passes since entering the league in 2019. Even if there is more production unlocked as a pass-catcher, Oliver’s primary contribution is expected to come as a blocking tight end for an offense that wants to rely on more 12 personnel.
Best IDP value: LB Jordan Hicks
Hicks racked up 129 total tackles, 3.0 sacks, ten passes defended, one interception, and one fumble recovery in his first season with the Vikings, and he should be at the center of everything for new defensive coordinator Brian Flores. We’d certainly expect the more aggressive scheme to result in more tackles for loss (two last season after a combined 30 TFLs in the previous three years), and Hicks has started 66-of-66 possible appearances over the past four seasons.
Stat to know (via draft guide)
Through three years in the league, Justin Jefferson has been limited to lines of 3/26, 6/58, and 1/15 in the second divisional matchup versus the Packers—with two of the games coming in Week 17; Minnesota will face Green Bay in Week 17 of this season.