As part of the premium content package, we’re again unveiling dynasty capsules for every team in the NFL leading up to free agency and the NFL Draft. This year, we’re also going to do a follow-up on all the teams after all the free agency and NFL Draft movement to assess the impact of any players teams have gained or lost. Since these capsules are always done as a simple snapshot in time, we figured that was the best way to tackle the off-season and provide ultimate value for our subscribers. All in all, we’ll have close to 500 player profiles found in these capsules over the off-season.
The Minnesota Vikings surprised many fans and analysts alike with their 2012 season when they won ten games after managing only three victories in the 2011 season. Some of this increase was due to playing a last place schedule, but a lot of it was due to the development of some of their young players.
In his second year in the league, Ponder did show some improvement. His completion percentage increased from 54.3% up to 62.1%, his TD:INT ratio improved from 1:1 up to 1.5:1, and his quarterback rating climbed as well. Not only that, but he managed to stay on the field for all 16 games (though he missed the playoff game), which is something he struggled with as a rookie and in college. That’s the good, or at least better news. The bad is that he managed a rather anemic 6.08 yards per attempt, which is second to last out of all starting quarterbacks this season. In other words, the vast majority of Ponder’s throws were check downs, screens, or other passes right around the line of scrimmage – this didn’t go unnoticed by fans, media, and opponents.
Many fans and media in Minnesota are starting to question if Ponder is truly the quarterback of the future he was billed to be when he was drafted #12 overall. Personally, I think it is too early to give up on a quarterback who just finished their second season, but I think Ponder can be largely ignored in the fantasy community. With ten games under 200 yards passing or with no touchdowns, he isn’t producing much. In fact, he’s even a risky play in two quarterback leagues due to his inconsistency.
He will likely still be the starter in Minnesota in the 2013 season, but he belongs on the wavier wire in all but the deepest of leagues. Even with one of the best running games in football to keep the pressure off of him, he still can’t get the ball downfield with any kind of regularity.
Many in Minnesota have very fond memories of the Tuesday (yes, Tuesday) night game the Vikings played back in 2010 when Webb led the Vikings in an upset over the Eagles. The thing is that was two years ago. Webb really hasn’t developed much as a passer, which was clearly on display in the playoff game against the Packers this year. He posted a rather putrid 11-for-30 effort with only 180 passing yards, 50 of which came on one play. He did manage to chip in 68 rushing yards, but it was still a less than stellar effort.
Some claim Webb can fit into the Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, and Colin Kaepernick mold, but I just don’t see it. The primary issue is Webb just doesn’t have the ability to pass like those players. He has the speed and rushing ability, but he just can’t pass the ball well enough and can’t make all of the throws to keep defenses honest. He isn’t a long term starter for the Vikings or anyone else.
There isn’t really anything I can say about Peterson you don’t already know. I could spend hours talking about how amazing it was for him to get 2,000 yards within a year of shredding his knee, but that would be a little redundant. We all know he very simply isn’t like the rest of us or even the rest of the players in the NFL. Over his career he has proven to be faster, stronger, tougher and just plain better than everyone else on the field with him. When you add in what seems to be near super human healing to his incredible work ethic, you get the formula for one of the all-time greats. Being a Bears fan, my favorite will forever and always be Sweetness, but Peterson is making a very strong case that he should be considered the second best to ever play the game.
Some people out there are a little worried about the fact that Peterson will turn 28 years old near the end of March. The general, mostly accurate perception is that running backs entering their age 30 season tend to see a drop off. Here’s the issue with that. It isn’t really the case with the truly special athletes. The best of the best often break this rule. Walter Payton, Curtis Martin, Barry Sanders, and many of the all-time greats all produced at an elite level either during or after their age 30 season. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Peterson is still a top five back three years from now. What more could you ask for from the guy?
Just to make sure we are all crystal clear, Peterson just doesn’t miss time. He plays the vast majority of snaps each game and when he does get hurt, he comes back faster than anyone else in the NFL. With that said, backing up Peterson has made Gerhart a very popular handcuff with people working under the assumption that if Peterson were to go down, Gerhart would be an instant RB1. I have my doubts. The upcoming year will be his fourth year in the league and his final one on his rookie contract. While there is a chance that he might look to greener pastures in 2014, there really isn’t a whole lot on his resume that should create a ton of excitement for a major role this year or next.
In his three seasons in the league, he has amassed 240 carries for 1,022 yards and three touchdowns. While that is a respectable 4.26 yards per carry, the lack of touchdowns is a bit of a concern. However, the bigger concern is the fact he has lost five fumbles over that time frame. If he were a feature back, that would mean he was losing a fumble every 2-3 games. Another way to look at it is that he’s fumbling about twice as often as he is scoring – that just doesn’t work for someone in a featured role and is something he’ll need to work on in 2013 if he is looking to earn more playing time on a new team in 2014.
His biggest strength is that he actually possesses a three down skill set. While he isn’t overly fast nor shifty, he is very good in pass protection, catching the ball out of the backfield, and does run well between the tackles. That versatility means he could be worked into the mix on any number of teams that will be looking for running back help. If nothing else, he is worth a long term gamble in deeper leagues as his price is pretty cheap right now.
Matt Asiata & Joe Banyard
The Vikings boast one of the most top heavy backfields in the league in terms of production, usage and talent. Behind Peterson and Gerhart there is literally nothing. Asiata and Banyard, while listed as the third and fourth running backs saw a grand total of 3 carries during the 2012 season. Both of them are undrafted free agents and more practice squad types than anything else. Look elsewhere.
Harvin is one of the most electric receivers in the game right now. Unfortunately, he is also one of the most disgruntled as well. Last off-season was filled with drama surrounding Harvin’s pay, playing time, usage, and just about anything else you can imagine. The current off-season is looking like it is going to be taking on a very familiar tune.
There is no denying Harvin’s talent. In his four years in the league, few wide receivers have shown better ability to move with the ball in his hands. He has a dynamic skill set and was easily a top 10 if not top 5 PPR receiver during the first part of this year. If you expand his stats from the healthy games this year, he would have finished with 110 receptions, 1,200 yards, and five touchdowns. Then you can add in another 200 rushing yards with two scores as well as 1,000 return yards and two more scores – that’s a whole lot of production.
The downside on Harvin always has been and still is staying on the field. At 5’11” and 184 pounds, he is on the smaller side for a pro player. Combine that with his physical style and you get a lot of injuries. Only once in his four years has he played all 16 games, and several of those games each year were questionable tags due to injuries.
Currently seeking a major contract instead of playing out the final year of his rookie deal, Harvin’s team for 2013 is a bit up in the air. The Vikings definitely want to keep him, but they tend to hesitate to pay market value. Not only that, but with Harvin still under contract for one more year, they might try to make him play it out, which could led to a holdout. The only other option is to trade him. Regardless of where he goes, he’s a WR1 (especially in PPR leagues) anytime he takes the field.
Behind Harvin, the Vikings have one of the weakest receiver groups in the league. The only player currently on the roster who seems to have anything close to promise is Wright. Sometimes billed as a poor man’s Percy Harvin due to their similar size, even that comparison might be a little generous. He has great speed and burst, but he isn’t near the skill set of Harvin.
That isn’t to say that he isn’t worth your time.
While filling in for an injured Harvin, Wright notched 22 receptions for 310 yards and two touchdowns. That isn’t anything special, but Wright will continue to grow and should Harvin leave in the next year or two, Wright will definitely see an opportunity to step up and earn a starting role, competing against a free agent and/or a high draft pick. If Harvin stays, I don’t see Wright having much of a role.
Jenkins will turn 31 before next season and is due a fairly sizable roster bonus. Chances are that he will need to restructure his deal or he’s going to be cut. His production this last season was lackluster at best with 40 receptions for 449 yards and two touchdowns. He doesn’t have a place on fantasy rosters.
Jerome Simpson and Devin Aromashodu
Both of these guys were semi-high profile signings in previous years and carried the hopes of being fantasy sleepers. Neither of them have panned out in their time in Minnesota and both are currently free agents. Regardless of where they sign, don’t get your hopes up. Simpson definitely has talent, but he hasn’t been able to translate that into production in Cincinnati or Minnesota. Aromashodu is a fringe talent with a great name at best.
Childs was one of my favorite draft picks the Vikings made last year. I felt he was an early round draft pick by talent, but injury concerns pushed him lower. Unfortunately for Childs, those concerns came to fruition. Back in training camp, he managed to not just tear one, but to tear both of his patellar tendons. He also tore his right one back in college. If he can ever get healthy and avoid the injury bug, he could be the sleeper wide receiver on this team. He isn’t worth a roster spot at this point, but he is a name to watch.
Also known as the Pro Bowl MVP, Rudolph is a very intriguing player. He has the size and skill set to be a very solid (if not great) tight end in the NFL. This looks even nicer when you look at the lack of pass catching talents on the Vikings. This led many to project Rudolph as at least a TE1 this year if not a top five player. Unfortunately, probably for several reasons, that just didn’t happen.
That isn’t to say Rudolph had a terrible year – he was a major target in the red zone and hauled in nine touchdowns, which pushed him into the top 15 in most leagues. The downside is he had just 53 receptions for 493 yards. He didn’t top 70 yards in a single game, and was held without a catch in three of his games with only two catches in three other games. In other words, he was extremely inconsistent and only produced quality numbers when he caught those touchdowns.
The talent is definitely there, but I think his ceiling is going to be limited by the game planning and the development of Ponder. He does have the upside of a top seven tight end, but if and when he gets there is out of his hands at this point. If someone is willing to sell him on the cheap and you have time to wait, now might be the time to buy.
Signed to a contract worth $25 million last off-season, Carlson was used as little more than a blocker this season. In fact, he only had eight catches on the entire season. Chances are fairly high the Vikings will try to restructure his deal or just eat the money and cut him. The productivity just isn’t worth the investment. Even if they keep him, he just isn’t going to see the usage or the role that he saw back with the Seahawks in 2008 and 2009.
The 2012 fourth round pick of the Vikings is a bit of a tight end/fullback hybrid. My guess is that if Carlson gets cut, Ellison will step up to be the primary blocker to allow Rudolph to continue to be more of a pass catcher. Ellison lacks the speed and agility to be a strong pass catcher, but he might get the occasional reception. Should Rudolph and Carlson be unavailable, expecting anything more than a handful of catches would be too optimistic. He shouldn’t be on fantasy rosters.