The desperation of the Minnesota Vikings forced an unbelievably rare move that was a no-brainer when you consider all that’s at stake. Having lost their starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a horrendous knee injury this week, the team sent a 2017 first and a 2018 fourth round pick to the Eagles for Sam Bradford, who was on borrowed time in Philadelphia.
The revealing nature of this deal should be an eye opener to us all. By now we’ve heard just how devastating Bridgewater’s injury was. Reports state he narrowly escaped amputation due to “arterial strangulation”, but was saved due to the quick response of the Vikings medical staff. Ultimately, he came away with a complete tear of his ACL, and dislocated knee cap.
Reading between the lines, the Vikings willingness to surrender a first round pick signals serious doubts about whether they believe Bridgewater can return in time for next season. There could even be a fear he may not ever be the same player, forcing the team to pull the trigger on a type of trade we rarely ever see in this league, to acquire a starting caliber player.
With the Vikes opening a brand new stadium this season, their Hall of Fame running back playing what could be his final year in “Purple & Gold” and a defense primed to make a run at the NFC Title, it would have been difficult for the team to sit on it’s hands, and let the loss of Bridgewater void what could be a very successful 2016 campaign. Eagles General Manager, Howie Roseman, ever the opportunist, struck a deal with Vikings GM Rick Spielman this morning, and the fortunes of both teams have taken a dramatic turn on a day we thought would be dominated by news of teams cutting down to their final 53 man rosters. Let’s explain how the key Dynasty option on both teams will be affected.
[am4show have=’g1;’ guest_error=’sub_message’ user_error=’sub_message’ ]
Adrian Peterson has an $18M cap hit for 2017, with zero dead money. It’s possible he could be traded, released, or restructured, but in any case there is enough reason to be concerned about his future. Jerick McKinnon, a third year running back, is an extremely athletic talent waiting in the wings for Peterson to falter or move on. This season will be a barometer of how much the team trust McKinnon’s ability to handle the feature back role.
Dynasty coaches who own Peterson should already have McKinnon on their rosters. The question of whether they should ‘sell high’ with A.P. will be answered in the coming months. His 2014 effort of 327 attempts, 1,485yds and 11tds was as elite as ever. There’s very little reason to think he will fall off, but these things happen quickly, and Fantasy owners need to be prepared. If you don’t have McKinnon in hand, make that happen now, before his price goes up. Jerick McKinnon has marginal value in the meantime, with potential for a third down role as a pass catcher out of the backfield a best case scenario barring an injury to Peterson.
The Bridgewater injury was a massive blow to the fantasy hopes of Stefon Diggs and Laquon Treadwell. The team’s most forgotten weapon could be Charles Johnson. He received first team reps all preseason long, yet you won’t find him on most ADP listings for wideouts. With Treadwell currently behind Johnson, Diggs and possibly Adam Thielen on the team’s depth chart, fantasy players may want to give some early season consideration to Johnson, who could hold value while Treadwell gets acclimated to the NFL.
For his part, Theilen is another waiver wire prospect who receives rave reviews for his play on special teams, but is gaining respect and snaps on the offensive side of the ball as well. Keep him in the back of your mind as Bradford begins to take hold of the offense, with Sam’s propensity to work the football to his underneath receivers, rather than push it downfield with regularity. Overall, this trade is a win for the receiving corp, and bolsters their season long value from what it may have been under Shaun Hill.
The tight ends may be among the biggest beneficiaries of the Bradford deal. As we mentioned above, Sam Bradford is efficient at delivering the football underneath. He plays with an aversion to risk, and turnovers, which leads him to rely on his tight ends and slot receivers, almost to his detriment. Kyle Rudolph finished as the TE14 last season on 73 targets, catching 49 balls for 495 yards and five scores. It’ll be interesting to see how MyCole Pruitt is integrated into this scheme once he returns from an MCL sprain in two to four weeks.
I would be willing to target Rudolph as the second tight end in a streaming combination, and expect to get good production by starting him against teams who struggle to defend the position. Like Adam Theilen, and Charles Johnson, MyCole Pruitt is another who should remain on your radar this season. With Bradford coming in, having no familiarity with this receiving group, there is no way of telling which of these receivers will end up being his favorite targets. He could latch on to any of them and make them a PPR-darling. This is a very fluid situation.
Through training camp with the Eagles this year, the most common observation among beat reporters was how unwilling Bradford was to push the football downfield in comparison to the other quarterbacks on the roster. This won’t be a problem for Vikings coaches, who kept Bridgewater’s exposure to the deep ball relatively minimal over the past two seasons. Bradford will take his shots, but under the guidance of offensive coordinator Norv Turner, you can expect those throws to be calculated calls, especially in play action. Ultimately, Turner’s offense has always been a vertical one, that challenges secondaries with the deep pass. I expected the Vikings to give Bridgewater a little more slack on his leash this season, and I think they will encourage Bradford to be aggressive as well.
Sam should be the week one starter given how much the Vikings paid to get him. Intelligence being one of his biggest strengths, he should have no problem picking up the offense. The question of whether this situation is a better fit for Bradford than his prospects looked in Philly is a multi-faceted one. He was holding a place for Carson Wentz with the Eagles, and may not have played an entire 16 games. That won’t be a problem in Minnesota. In fact, having given up a 2017 first round pick, we have to wonder if he could stay around to challenge Bridgewater in 2017. This could be a real sign that the Vikings have reservations about Bridgewater’s ability to return from this devastating injury. Lastly, expect the sleeves on Bradford’s jersey to be four-five inches too long.
For 2016, this trade could be a big hit to the Eagles offensive weapons should Chase Daniel wind up as the team’s starter out of the gate. For one, it’s unknown just how far along Carson Wentz is in his recovery from a rib injury he suffered in week one of the preseason. He has resumed some light throwing at practice, but may not be in game shape for some time. Once given a clean bill of health, there’s the question of just how ready he will be to assume the starting role. The team stated he would not play in 2016 when Bradford was on the roster, but this trade obviously changes everything.
Dynasty owners likely won’t have to wait long though. Throughout the preseason, Chase Daniel has been abysmal. He has the ability to play a “dink and dunk” game, with receivers underneath, and has moved the ball efficiently at times, but lurking around every throw is the sense of impending doom, as his decision making- coupled with the lack of true NFL arm strength and accuracy- lead to interceptable passes. Once healthy, it will not take long for Wentz to take his spot as the franchise quarterback, possibly as early as week one.
The little we’ve seen from Wentz gives us plenty of reason for optimism, however. In the two quarters of action he played against the Buccaneers, Wentz displayed the mobility to escape pressure, and decision making to hit the open man. His accuracy was decent, despite a tendency to throw high on occasion, which analyst have dubbed a “correctable mechanical flaw”. Unlike Bradford, Wentz is more than willing, and more importantly, more capable of driving the football downfield.
Keeping in mind that Head Coach Doug Pederson spent his entire coaching career alongside Andy Reid, we should hope a few of Reid’s best traits carry over to Pederson’s coaching repertoire. Reid was always able to get the most from his quarterbacks, knowing how to call plays that fit the players strengths as a passer. Reid was also adept at fostering cohesion in his offensive lines- with patchwork units that started the season in disarray, taking shape, and becoming effective, if not dominant as the year went on. This latter skill will be one Pederson must master with the team losing tackle Lane Johnson for ten games due to a PED suspension, and starting a rookie at right guard next to Johnson’s apparent replacement, Allen Barbre, who struggled as a starter in 2015.
Wentz may succumb to turnovers and the like in his rookie season, but for our purposes as Dynasty owners, his long term projection is a healthy one. He will augment his passing stats with rushing yardage, and be more aggressive with the football than we’ve seen Alex Smith operate in a similar scheme for Reid in Kansas City. However , the time to acquire him is now, as his Dynasty price is climbing as we speak due to this trade.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
With two players rumored to be key targets for this Eagles offense, Rueben Randle and Chris Givens, among the first victims of “THE TURK” (the man responsible for delivering news of their release to the players), This receiving corp will look much different than many projected, even just one month ago. Before Roseman maxed out his value in this Bradford trade, he managed to fleece the Titans out of Dorial Green-Beckham, Tennessee’s 2015 second round pick, in exchange for a back-up swing tackle, who the Eagles had already decided wasn’t in their plans.
Green-Beckham has played well in limited action thus far. He gives Wentz a massive target in the red-zone, and could realize some portion of his immense potential in Philadelphia. The combination of Wentz’s deep passing ability, with DGB’s size/speed ratio, is the single most exciting prospect for this team offensively, moving forward. The relationship between quarterback, and deep threat will be in it’s infancy in 2016, but is worth watching develop over the next two seasons. DGB gives the team the downfield threat it has lacked since releasing DeSean Jackson in 2014.
Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz take initial hits to their fantasy value for as long as Daniel is at the helm. You should prod your opponents in dynasty leagues, however, to see if they are willing to part ways with either player at a discounted price, for fear of the present uncertainty. Their long term value will be higher with Wentz at quarterback than it would have been with Bradford. Each being solid starters for your team, who should exceed their past performances in fantasy scoring.
While both Josh Huff and Nelson Agholor have struggled with drops and consistency so far in their young careers, each remains on the roster as of the time of this article (note: it is 1pm on Cut Day as I type… ). Their price should be discounted at this time, making them options if you’re in desperate need of receiving talent. Wentz’s comfort level with each remains to be seen. The switch from Bradford could be a fresh start for both receivers, as Sam Bradford was the victim of the most dropped passes in the NFL in 2015, many at the hands of Huff and Agholor….no pun intended. This has an effect on the confidence of both quarterbacks and receivers over time. The injection of Wentz in to the line-up could provide the spark each needs to jump-start their career. As of now, this remains speculation, and neither is worthy of being drafted in fantasy leagues.
Two unsung players who could have a big impact in Philly’s passing attack are Trey Burton and Paul Turner, each stating their case for playing time with their work in the middle of the field this preseason. Burton is a “Swiss Army Knife”, listed as a tight end. He’s been making his bones on special teams the past few seasons, and can line up anywhere from tailback, to on the outside as a receiver. Under Peterson, he has seen a big increase in usage with the first team this preseason from his status under Chip Kelly. He could wind up as the fourth or fifth most targeted player for the Eagles this year, but an injury to Zach Ertz makes him an instant must own with real bust-out potential. He will also be a free agent at season’s end, who could have Delanie Walker type appeal should he find a starting gig.
Paul Turner has been hands down the best receiver the entire preseason, and could be a very special story. We await news of him making the 53 man roster for certain today, but if he does, his play has warranted a spot in the starting rotation alongside Green-Beckham and Matthews, and ahead of Huff and Agholor. A virtual unknown, he’ll be a steal off the wire.
The choice of which quarterback plays for Philly could have a profound effect on this running back group from a play calling stand point. With Daniel under center, it’s likely we see a more conservative approach, with an increase in carries for Ryan Mathews, and Kenjon Barner, as well as more check downs across the board, a win for owners of these players in PPR especially. The other prospect with Daniel is defenses stacking the box and daring the Birds to throw downfield. With a questions at offensive line already, this a prospect that hurts the team’s run game tremendously. With Wentz in the game, teams will need to respect the deep ball on every down and distance.
Darren Sproles best case scenario for 2016 sees him used in similar role to the one Danny Woodhead was utilized in last season for San Diego, under then Chargers, now Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich. Yet it remains to be seen whether Reich or Pederson- himself the former OC for the Chiefs- will handle the play calling duties.
Ultimately, this trade is a blockbuster, if not for the “player for draft pick” exchange, then for the effect it will have on the two teams. Long term, it raises the dynasty prospects of all the skill players involved. Initially though, it make take a few weeks for all of those chips to fall into place.