Taken in the 1st round of last year’s NFL Draft, Bridgewater enjoyed a solid if unspectacular rookie season, throwing for 2,919 yards with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, starting 13 games. While those numbers are respectable, it was his performance over the final four games of the season that has Vikings management excited. During those games, Bridgewater completed 86 of 119 attempts (72.3%) for 1,092 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions. Entering 2015, we are cautious optimistic on his fantasy prospects. First off, his cast of receiving weapons is much improved due to the emergence of Charles Johnson over the 2nd half of last season, the free agent signing of Mike Wallace and the return to health of tight end Kyle Rudolph. Second (and more importantly) is the return of running back Adrian Peterson whose presence will open up the play action passing attack. Third, Bridgewater brings some fantasy points to the table with his rushing ability, gaining 209 yards and a score last season. While we can’t endorse Bridgewater as a QB1 as he enters his 2nd season in the league, he does rate as a mid to lower tier QB2 with upside as well as a solid dynasty prospect.
At 30 years of age and with just under 2,300 regular season touches in eight seasons while coming off a season in which he appeared in just one game, most running backs wouldn’t warrant much consideration as an option on your fantasy squad other than as a backup. Adrian Peterson isn’t like most running backs. With a career average of 5.0 yards per carry despite facing a plethora of eight and nine player fronts during his illustrious career, and having come within eight yards of eclipsing Eric Dickerson’s NFL single season rushing record, who out there doubts that he will return with a vengeance in 2015? We don’t. With Norv Turner running the show, Peterson should approach 350 touches and the Vikings plan is to balance out his workload by increasing his usage in the passing game. We like the sounds of that since it should reduce his risk of injury and keep him fresh for later in the season. We wouldn’t object to anybody grabbing him with the 1st overall pick in their fantasy draft.
Taken in the 3rd round of last year’s draft, McKinnon produced a solid rookie season, appearing in 11 games and gaining 538 yards on the ground while averaging a solid 4.8 yards per carry and catching 27 passes for 135 yards. However, his role in 2015 will be reduced as Adrian Peterson returns to the lineup. At 5’9″ and 209 pounds, McKinnon isn’t likely to assume a Peterson-type role in the event the Vikings lead back is injured. More likely, McKinnon would handle 12-15 touches a game with Matt Asiata spelling him and handling the goal line work. And that is why he rates as a lower tier handcuff in standard scoring formats as he produced no touchdowns as a rookie. While we like McKinnon’s overall skill set, the truth is that fantasy owners likely won’t be riding him to a championship if Peterson goes down. And if Peterson stays healthy, McKinnon will spend most of his time holding his helmet rather than wearing it.
Although devoid of playmaking ability, Asiata emerged as a solid fantasy option in 2014 courtesy of his nine rushing touchdowns while splitting time with Jerick McKinnon due to Adrian Peterson’s absence. Asiata is a straight ahead runner with little shake and bake and no long speed, as evidenced by his 3.5 yards per carry average (570 yards on 174 totes). In 2015, he has no fantasy appeal barring a Peterson injury.
Having worn out his welcome after two years in Miami, Wallace finds himself in Minnesota for the 2015 season. Long considered one the league’s fastest players as well as one of its most inconsistent, Wallace replaces the disappointing Greg Jennings as the Vikings most accomplished wide receiver. With 67 receptions for 862 yards and ten touchdowns last season, Wallace had a productive final season in Miami although it was hardly worthy of his exorbitant contract. In addition, Wallace has now failed to top the 1,000 yard receiving mark for three straight seasons. With the Vikings, he will operate primarily as a deep threat and while it is easy to expect his touchdown count to decrease, it is worth noting that he has scored 47 times during his six-year career. The man can produce big plays. And that is why he is in Minnesota as the Vikings will look to establish their play action passing attack with Adrian Peterson back in the lineup. Consider Wallace as a mid to lower tier WR3 with upside.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Johnson emerged as the Vikings leading wide receiver over the 2nd half of last season, catching 25 passes for 415 yards and a pair of touchdowns over his final seven games. At 6’2″ and 215 pounds and possessing solid speed, Johnson fits in well with Norv Turner’s offensive philosophy, and he will likely handle a large portion of the intermediate work playing alongside speedster Mike Wallace. Johnson’s production last season makes him a dark horse breakout candidate provided Wallace continues to operate mainly as a deep threat and Cordarrelle Patterson continues his struggling ways. We rate Johnson as a low end WR3 who could surprise in 2015.
Taken in the 1st round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Patterson regressed in a fairly meaningful way during the 2014 season, catching less than half of his targets and finishing the season with just 33 receptions for 384 yards and a touchdown. Projected as a potential breakout candidate last season, he heads into 2015 more likely to continue on his path as a major bust than to breakout. Now stuck behind Mike Wallace and Charles Johnson at the outside wide receiver positions, and ill-suited to the slot where Jarius Wright lines up, Patterson isn’t expected to fulfill a major role for the Vikings during the coming season. Considered one the league’s top playmakers when the ball is in his hands, Patterson remains a raw prospect unable to gain much separation. He rates as little more than a late round flier or waiver wire material in redraft formats and his dynasty stock is plummeting quickly.
A 4th round pick in the 2012 draft, Wright has had modest success as a slot receiver for the Vikings, improving his production for three straight years. He had career highs in targets with 62, receptions with 42 and yards with 588 a year ago but could be in line for fewer targets in 2015. Tight end Kyle Rudolph’s injury issues (he appeared in just eight games) allowed Wright to play a bigger role in Minnesota’s offense as did the struggles of fellow wide receiver Cordarelle Patterson. With Rudolph healthy, the emergence of Charles Johnson and the free agent signing of Mike Wallace, Wright won’t see enough targets to be useful other than in deep PPR leagues, even though he has shown some playmaking ability having never averaged fewer than 14.0 yards per reception.
Last year, we wondered whether Rudolph’s name would be added to the long list of tight ends that have flourished in Norv Turner’s offense. Unfortunately, a sports hernia caused him to miss six games starting in Week 4 and he missed Week 16 and 17 with knee and ankle injuries, finishing the season with 24 receptions for 231 yards and a pair of touchdowns. While he is apparently healthy heading into 2015 and has a stranglehold on the starter’s role, a few things are worth noting. Rudolph has appeared in 15 games over the past two years. His career highs are 53 receptions, 493 yards, nine touchdowns (just eight in his other three seasons). While Turner’s tight ends have done well, we should point out that Jay Novacek caught balls from Troy Aikman and Antonio Gates had Philip Rivers at quarterback. Rudolph doesn’t compare to either Novacek or Gates and Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has a ways to go before he should be compared to Aikman or Rivers. We’re more or less okay with you grabbing Rudolph as your TE2 but there are better options out there.