2019 Summer Sleeper: Minnesota Vikings

Ryan Miller

In our annual 32-part Summer Sleeper series, DLF scribes identify a lightly-touted player on each NFL roster who may be worthy of your consideration. Our subjects all have varying levels of “sleeperness,” but each merits a bit of in-depth discussion here in the Premium Content section.

To help everybody along, we are going to be categorizing our sleepers under one of three headings:

Super Deep Sleepers – Players who aren’t roster-worthy in 12-team leagues, but are still worth keeping an eye on.
Deep Sleepers – An end of the roster player who is more often than not on the waiver wire in 12-team leagues.
Sleeper – A likely rostered player who makes for a good trade target. Their startup ADP puts them out of the top-175 or so.

Because we aren’t going to give you the likes of mainstream sleepers, most of these players will undoubtedly fizzle. All we are asking is for you to keep an open mind and perhaps be willing to make room for one of these players on your bench. You never know when the next Adam Thielen is going to spring up. Feel free to add your own thoughts about our choice for the designated sleeper, or nominate one of your own in the comments below.

The Minnesota Vikings have been one of the most perplexing NFL teams in terms of roster talent versus win-loss record in each of the past three years. Despite having an extremely talented core of Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Danielle Hunter, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Harrison Smith, Riley Reiff, and Mike Hughes all signed under contract through 2021, the Vikings have only posted one nine-win season since 2015.

A lot of this can be blamed on poor injury luck and a lackluster offensive line, which can both be put to rest at this point in the off-season. The team’s receiving corps is among the tops in the NFL, and when combined with breakout candidate Dalvin Cook, there remains very little to go around on the rest of the Vikings roster.

The team is looking to make some changes to their running back and wide receiver depth, and with that in mind, there are going to be some players on the roster who will get the chance to prove themselves and possibly move up the depth chart.

Dillon Mitchell, WR

Category: Super Deep Sleeper

The Vikings took Dillon Mitchell in the seventh round of the 2019 NFL draft. Although his draft capital is not promising, Mitchell was electric during his collegiate career at Oregon. With Laquon Treadwell continuously letting down dynasty owners since 2016, Mitchell has the athletic profile and the prior production to push Treadwell right away for work in 3WR personnel.

Kyle Rudolph, TE

Category: Sleeper

A former TE1 mainstay, dynasty owners have been extremely down on Kyle Rudolph ever since Irv Smith Jr. was selected in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, as his ADP has dropped from 125 to 171 overall. In my opinion, this makes Rudolph a screaming dynasty buy as a cheap, short-term tight end with legitimate top-six upside at the position.

As a whole, we know rookie tight ends usually do not produce much in their rookie seasons, since tight end is arguably the hardest position to learn when making the leap from college to the NFL. Secondly, Kyle Rudolph recently signed a four-year extension with the team that will likely take him to the end of his career, solidifying the confidence coach Mike Zimmer (and quarterback Kirk Cousins) has in Rudolph as a difference-maker.

For these reasons above, I would not be investing in Rudolph as a dynasty tight end for more than one year, but the situation for tight ends in Minnesota is ideal for fantasy football, and Rudolph makes for an excellent one-year contribution for contenders looking to round out all phases of their roster.

Last season, the Vikings ranked 12th in the league in terms of yards per attempt to tight ends, as well as 14th in red zone target rate to tight ends. Digging one level deeper and checking to see Minnesota’s success rate when targeting tight ends (per Sharpfootballstats.com), their 63% success rate was first in the NFL!

With that being said, whoever ends up getting the majority of tight end snaps will be stepping into one of the most fantasy-friendly offenses for tight ends, which makes all the difference for a position that can be as lackluster as tight end. Any edge you can find at the position is a major game-changer.

In addition to the situation in Minnesota, it is equally important to be sold on the player. Rudolph caught 78% of all passes thrown his way last season, while also posting 9.9 yards per catch (7.7 yards per target) and over 600 yards. His touchdown total (four) was extremely disappointing, but this screams for positive touchdown regression heading his way in 2019. His career touchdown rate has been 10.62%, and he only posted a 6.25% rate in 2018. Compared to other tight ends who finished in the same range as Rudolph (Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle, Trey Burton), each of the others exceeded their career touchdown rate in 2018, which further points regression in Rudolph’s favor next year and makes his value nearly irresistible at his current price tag, even if only for one season.

Rudolph ranks ninth all-time among all Vikings in receptions and receiving yards, and he has started 104 of 112 possible games over the course of his career, making him a reliable fantasy asset in an oft-injured position. The Vikings utilized tight ends exceptionally well in the last three weeks of the season under new offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, and even as he approaches his thirties, the tight end position is bleak enough to trade a middling WR5 for him in dynasty.

Irv Smith Jr. is the definite successor, but don’t expect Rudolph to go away quietly. His play deserves as much playing time as he can put out.

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