Fantasy Stud — Adrian Peterson, RB
Peterson has to be the near-consensus number one overall pick at this point. Unless your league favors one position over another, I think Peterson is inarguably the best player in the league right now offensively, and is capable of completely dominating a game. In fact, the Vikings were the only team in the league last year that had to rely so much on their running back to get them to the playoffs. Of course, teams like Houston rely on Arian Foster quite a bit, but I would say that last year, especially with Percy Harvin being injured, Peterson truly carried the team on his back all the way to 10 wins and a playoff appearance.
Last year, Peterson admitted to having “sat out” the first five games, with only one 100+ yard performance and two touchdowns. Peterson then exploded, rushing for over 100 yards in nine of the team’s last 10 games. He was the most dominant and reliable fantasy running back in the league, and I remember last year how afraid people were to pick him after his big knee injury, probably rightly so.
I don’t mean to brag, but I had Peterson in almost every league, and I wasn’t afraid to snatch him up early either. The leagues that I didn’t have Peterson in were the ones where I had the highest picks, but any time I picked seventh or later, Peterson always seemed to be there, even dating back to fantasy mock drafts.
This is a guy who is once again going to carry his team. Literally. Percy Harvin is gone, and who knows what will happen with Christian Ponder? We all know Ponder’s best play is to turn around and hand it off to number 28.
Fantasy Risk — Greg Jennings, WR
Jennings could be huge, or Jennings could be a total bust. He signed a big deal with the Vikings this offseason, a much bigger deal than I or most people probably anticipated he would sign, and he is now the #1 target for Christian Ponder and the passing game. But that’s precisely why he’s such a risk.
I am not sold on Ponder, even though he possesses all the tools you’d look for in a QB prospect nowadays. He is still far too inconsistent, and Jennings showed last year that his health at this point in his career is not a sure thing. Jennings has played in just 21 games the last two seasons, catching 13 touchdowns with four total 100+ yard games.
I tried picking up Jennings on the waiver wire last year when the team that had him finally got fed up and cut him, but it didn’t amount to anything. It’s hard to say where you should draft Jennings, but you should be able to get him in the later portion of your draft unless you’re playing with a lot of Vikings fans.
Jennings has top end WR2 potential but he could also catch 55 passes for 800 yards and 4 TDs, not blowing anyone away. This is Adrian Peterson’s team, and the offense will flow through him. Ponder has also built a good chemistry with TE Kyle Rudolph. Jennings is an intriguing player to watch.
Fantasy Sleeper — Kyle Rudolph, TE
Rudolph is entering his third year in the NFL, and he’s now got the chemistry thing down with Christian Ponder. Last season, Rudolph proved to be an elite threat in the red zone, catching nine touchdowns. Overall, he finished with a solid 53 catches for 493 yards, only averaging about 31 yards per game, but I think Rudolph could see even more targets this season and become a more potent offensive threat.
This is a guy with a huge catch radius and strong hands, and at 6’6″ nearly 260 pounds, Rudolph is a major mismatch. There were three games last year where Rudolph had ZERO receptions, but I don’t foresee that happening again this year. The Vikings will find ways to get him involved.
Rookie to Watch — Cordarrelle Patterson, WR
I know the concerns about Christian Ponder, but Patterson is an extremely talented rookie who was considered by some to be the best receiver in the draft coming out this year. He is a big play guy who can give this offense a lot of what Percy Harvin did, just with a little more size. He can make plays after the catch, and he can also be an effective return specialist if the Vikings want him to be.
Patterson is really raw, and he will take some time to adjust to the NFL speed, but he is the type of player who could bust out and make some big plays. Among the rookies the Vikings have, this is a guy worth keeping an eye on. If he wins a starting job out of training camp, the Vikings will certainly get him plenty involved in the offense.