At first glance, the Vikings’ 19th-ranked defense might not appear to be much to write home about. However, there’s more than a little young talent on that defense that’s of keen interest to fantasy owners who play in IDP leagues.
The Vikings turned more than a few heads in the spring of 2014 when they not only let Jared Allen walk but also signed defensive end Everson Griffen to a five-year, $42.5 million contract extension. It was Griffen who spent the rest of the season turning heads, racking up 57 tackles and 12 sacks en route to a forth-place finish among defensive linemen in fantasy points. The 27-year-old is a solid choice as an IDP DL1 who should be available a bit later than the so-called “elite” options up front.
After playing sparingly as a rookie, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd showed some of the potential that made him a first-round pick in 2013 last season, piling up 42 stops and 4.5 sacks. Assuming Floyd continues to develop, the former Florida star should be a serviceable low-end starter in IDP leagues that require his position.
The Vikings looked to upgrade their linebackers in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft with the selection of UCLA’s Eric Kendricks. It was a pick that met with the approval of the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah. “I think we can say with certainty that the Vikings like linebackers from UCLA.” Jeremiah said. “They drafted Anthony Barr last year and now they take Eric Kendricks. His instincts are outstanding; he can get through the trash. He will team nicely with Barr.” A likely three-down starter at MIKE from Day 1, Kendricks is worth a look as an upside IDP LB2.
Barr didn’t just impress from an NFL perspective as a rookie last year. Over the first 13 weeks of last season (before an injury cut his season short), Barr was the 12th-ranked fantasy linebacker. His value gets a bump in leagues that favor big plays, but even in balanced scoring systems Barr has value to fantasy owners as a risk/reward LB2.
Of course, the ascension of these young players means that longtime Vikings IDP stalwart Chad Greenway may find himself left out in the Twin Cities cold in 2015. The 32-year-old suffered through an injury-marred mess of a 2014 season. If Greenway can hang onto subpackage snaps this season the 10-year veteran could be a solid value pick late, but those nickel snaps are far from a sure thing.
No defensive back in fantasy football racked up more fantasy points a season ago than fourth-year pro Harrison Smith, who tallied 92 tackles, three sacks and five interceptions. Head coach Mike Zimmer told Brian Murphy of the Twin Cities Pioneer-Press that he’s been impressed with Smith’s continued development as a player. “Honestly, the thing I’ve been impressed with Harrison — and I’ve been around a lot of good safeties throughout my career — he has really improved his coverage ability,” Zimmer said.
Smith is the top-ranked IDP DB of 2015 – with a hefty price tag to match.
Looking for a potential weekly starter in the secondary who doesn’t carry Smith’s lofty sticker price? Consider strong safety Robert Blanton, who actually had more tackles (106) than Smith a year ago. Granted, Blanton doesn’t have Smith’s fantasy ceiling, but he’s a relatively high-floor DB2 option who won’t break the bank on draft day.