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Sleeper Spotlight: Minnesota Vikings

As part of the premium content package, we’re not only releasing exclusive team capsules (complete with commentary), but also focusing on one sleeper from all 32 teams in the NFL.

These sleepers all have varying levels of “sleeperness,” but all merit a little more talking about than we had room for in the dynasty capsules for each team. Some of these players are deep dynasty sleepers who could merit a spot on your bench in a deep league, while others are players who may contribute a little faster than the deep prospects, but deserve more attention than they may be getting. By definition, a sleeper could mean something a little different to everyone, but we’re simply doing the best job we can to unearth one player from each team who fits the category in some way, shape or form.

We’ll just never insult you with a comprehensive list of “sleepers” that includes such names as Demaryius Thomas, Ryan Mathews or even someone like Stevan Ridley. You’re all too good for that.

While many of these players will undoubtedly fizzle, we figure there’s value in looking more closely at these deeper prospects and players. We invite you to keep an open mind and even re-assess your value on those who may be rostered in your league. You may even consider adding a few of these deeper prospects we focus on this summer who are free agents in your league – after all, some are destined to pan out, too.

Jerome Simpson, WR
Age: 26 (2/4/86)

While some NFL teams produce five or more players on the offensive side of the ball that belong on rosters in pretty much all leagues, there are some teams, like the Minnesota Vikings, that struggle to produce more than two. In other words, there are better sleepers on other teams. Getting back to the Vikings, we all know about the running game featuring a truly special player in Adrian Peterson. We also all know about the leading receiver in Percy Harvin. There are also a few young guys with some promise in Christian Ponder and Kyle Rudolph. I’m going to dig a little deeper, though. Outside of Harvin and Peterson, if I had to pick a Vikings player to produce at a starting level for my fantasy squad this year and possibly beyond, it would be Jerome Simpson.

When I mention Simpson’s name, one of two things probably come to mind. You either remember the fact that he was charged with felony drug possession in January, or you remember him making all of the highlight reels with one of the most athletic touchdowns of the year. The former landed him in the Commissioner’s office where he was given a three game suspension. If you didn’t see the latter, you can see the video here:

These are two of the reasons he is on the sleeper list.

Normally, when we think of players being suspended, it has a very negative effect on their dynasty worth. I tend to look at it in a little different light. I view suspensions as a sign that there might be an increase in their value because I can get them at a drastically reduced rate. The drug incident was the first run in with the law in Simpson’s career, which leads me to believe that he isn’t a major risk of a repeat offense. The three games, while annoying, isn’t a major deal for a guy that is just a flier anyway. It does mean you can make a very cheap trade for him or more likely just put in a wavier claim for him. His contract is just a one year “prove it” deal, so restoring his reputation and showcasing his ability should give him plenty of motivation to work hard and stay out of trouble – that’s well worth the risk.

The flip shows off Simpson’s athleticism. He checks in at 6’2” and 190 pounds. While his weight is a bit lower than I prefer, the rest of his measurables are very nice to look at.  He ran a 4.47 40 yard dash, posted a 37.5” vertical leap, and had a 136” (11’ 4”) broad jump. That makes him a better athlete than the majority of NFL wide receivers and on similar ground, from a combine workout standpoint, to guys like Dez Bryant. It isn’t just his combine numbers that show he has the physical tools. If you look back at his college production, he owns majority of the single game, season, and career school records when it comes to receiving for his Alma Mater, Costal Carolina. He also recorded 11 multi-touchdown receiving games during his college career over the course of 38 starts.

Not only does Simpson have the ability to be a starting NFL WR, but he also has the opportunity to do so this year. The Vikings have managed to put together one of the league’s least impressive receiving corps behind Harvin. It includes the likes of Michael Jenkins, Greg Childs, Jarius Wright, Stephen Burton, and Devin Aromashodu.

Jenkins is 30 years old and struggling to come back from a knee injury. His contract is currently set at 2.5 million for the 2012 season, which is way more than he is worth.

Childs is a rookie I actually like quite a bit; however, he is more of a player for down the road. He had some major injuries in college but is talented. He is still a rookie and will need some time to adjust.

Wright is another rookie that will need some time. Plus, he is a slot receiver and not competing for the same role as Simpson.

Burton is much more of a camp body than anything else. He’s a former seventh round pick that spent the majority of last year on the practice squad.

Aside from competing with T. J. Houshmandzadeh for having one of the most fun last names to say in the NFL, Aromashodu hasn’t done a whole lot to impress over his career in the league. He only had 26 catches last year with the Vikings and was relegated to more of a blocking wide receiver by the end of the season. When you look at the competition, it is hard not to like Simpson to play a major role this year!

So, what is the argument against Simpson?

I already mentioned the three game suspension to start the season. The next argument is probably the team he plays for. This isn’t the Randy Moss/Cris Carter Vikings anymore. We are talking about a team that ranked 28th in passing last season with only 185 yards per game. We know that Harvin and Peterson will get their points, but that doesn’t leave much for everyone else.

Simpson’s production will be directly tied to the progress that Ponder makes in his second year.  If Ponder can improve and get the Vikings up to the 220-250 passing yards per game, it means Simpson could put up solid WR3 numbers on a weekly basis with the upside of WR2 numbers. Don’t expect much more than that, though. The Vikings’ offense just isn’t good enough in the passing game to push Simpson higher.

The third argument against Simpson is that this will be his fifth year in the league, and he hasn’t done a whole lot yet. I’ll counter that by saying he never really had a chance until last year. He was a part of the Chad Johnson/Ochocinco, Houshmandzadeh, and Chris Henry receiving group. Last year, he rotated into the spot opposite AJ Green, putting up a line of 50/725/4 with a rookie quarterback throwing him the ball. It isn’t a great line, but it is enough to show some potential there. He was inconsistent last year, but that is to be expected for any player during their first year of starting.

Simpson isn’t going to win you the championship single handedly. There are sleepers with higher upside out there, but also much lower floors. He is a guy that you can pick up for free in many leagues who might turn into a solid contributor or decent trade bait down the road. As long as you have realistic expectations for him, he is well worth the flier. If Ponder continues to progress, I can see Simpson giving you 4-6 catches a game with 45-75 yards as a floor. Throw in the occasional long touchdown or 100+ yard game (he had three of them last season) and you have a nice little sleeper that could be a fantasy free agent right now.

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Kevin Dummer
10 years ago

Man I miss the Moss/Carter days…. Hopefully Ponder can bring back some passing relevance to the Vikes.

I can’t say it doesn’t hurt to hear the truth -> “The Vikings have managed to put together one of the league’s least impressive receiving corps behind Harvin.”

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