2012 Team Outlook: Minnesota
QB Christian Ponder, MIN - Quality Backup
The rookie QB from Florida State (12th overall pick) had his ups and downs in his first season with Minnesota. The Vikings O-line didn't do him any favors and a limited WR corps was also partially to blame for Minnesota finishing 28th in passing offense. Ponder finished with a mediocre 13:12 TD-to-INT ratio, 168 YPG and a 55% completion rate in 10 appearances (nine starts). Ponder has above average mobility and the offseason additions of first round pick Matt Kalil (LT) and free agent signing Geoff Schwartz (OG) could go a long way in bolstering the Vikings' pass protection. WR Percy Harvin and TE Kyle Rudolph will likely be Ponder's two go to weapons in 2012. The Vikings also added TE John Carlson, WR Jerome Simpson (suspended for 3 games) and rookie WRs Jarius Wright and Greg Childs. Consider Ponder a lower end QB2 and nothing more than a matchup play for 12-14 team leagues early in the season. However it is worth noting that if RB Adrian Peterson ends up on the PUP list (ACL surgery), the Vikings might be forced to open up the playbook more than they'd like to when it comes to the passing game.
RB Adrian Peterson, MIN - Solid/Safe Pick
A disastrous season for the Vikings got much worse when franchise player RB Adrian Peterson tore his ACL/MCL in a week 16 win over Washington. Peterson has shown remarkable recovery from the injury, but is still a candidate for the PUP list (miss the first 6 games). AP recently finished first in a wind sprint competition with teammates, but his ability to cut has still not been tested. He has averaged 80+ YPG in each of his first 5 NFL seasons while eclipsing 100 yards in 27 contests. Peterson is a red zone beast amassing 64 TDs on the ground in his career. His pass catching ability has also improved (averaged nearly 40 receptions in 2009/2010), but his fantasy value does take a small hit in PPR leagues. For now AP is best drafted as a higher end RB2 in the RB15-RB20 range. However his value could crack the top 10 if he shocks the world and is ready for week 1.
UPDATE: The resisting arrest charge from a July incident in Houston should be a non-issue (a fine is possible). Head coach Leslie Frazier has suggested that the Vikings will limit AP's workload if he's able to avoid the PUP list and is in uniform for the week 1 game against Jacksonville. A time share with Toby Gerhart is a very real possibility during the first month of the season as the Vikings look to play it safe with their franchise player in what appears to be a rebuilding season.
RB Toby Gerhart, MIN - Quality Backup
The Stanford alum averaged 20 touches and 99 yards in five late-season games and could be the Vikings' starting RB for the first 6 games of the season if AP lands on the PUP list. In two seasons, he has just two rushing TDs and lacks break away speed to be considered a solid fantasy starter except when the matchup is favorable. Gerhart still struggles in pass protection, which could limit his snaps and makes him best drafted as an RB3 if Peterson is forced to miss the early portion of the season.
UPDATE: Gerhart participated in Vikings minicamp and showed no signs of the MCL injury suffered in week 17 (no surgery was needed). Gerhart has averaged 21 touches per game in his five starts with AP on the sidelines.
RB Lex Hilliard, NYJ - Not Draft Worthy
After three seasons in Miami, the versatile Hilliard signed a 1-year contract with Minnesota and could receive some goal line options (especially if AP is sidelined early in the season). At 5-foot-11, 240 pounds he has a skill set to play fullback and RB, but is not worth owning unless AP and Gerhart are sidelined. He has totaled just 39 carries in three seasons with a subpar 3.3 yards per carry.
WR Percy Harvin, SEA - Solid/Safe Pick
The Vikings need to get the ball in the dynamic playmakers hands as much as possible. Despite playing only 58% of offensive snaps, Harvin set career-highs in receptions (87), receiving yards (967), and rushing yards (345) and finished 2nd to Wes Welker in yards after the catch (616). Injury concerns continue as the migraine issues and offseason shoulder surgery are worth monitoring, but Harvin has only missed 3 games over his first three NFL seasons. Harvin is a borderline WR1/ high end WR2 that is well worth taking in rounds 4-5 of most drafts. Harvin very well could be the focal point of the Minnesota offense if AP is forced to miss the early part of the season.
UPDATE: Despite contract extension demands, Percy Harvin fully intends to be on the field when training camps start in late July. He has reported that he will not suit up next season if a long term deal is not worked out. The Vikings front office appears apprehensive to dish out a long term deal until Harvin proves his durability.
WR Jerome Simpson, MIN - Gamble (high risk)
If your league awards bonus points for arrests then Simpson would be a first round pick. The former Bengal signed a 1-year prove it contract with Minnesota and will be suspended for the first 3 games of the season on a Marijuana arrest. Simpson was a non factor in his first three NFL seasons, but emerged as the starter opposite AJ Green in 2011 finishing with 50 catches for 725 yards and 4 TDs. He's likely to lineup as the starter opposite Percy Harvin once he returns from suspension and his downfield ability makes him worth taking a flier as a WR4/WR5.
UPDATE: Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave singled out Simpson as a standout in OTAs (made multiple circus catches). He's likely to fly under the radar based on the early season suspension, but could pay dividends (especially in deeper PPR leagues).