Purple Dreams: Fantasy Football Outlook for our Minnesota Vikings Receivers
As the football season – mercifully – approaches, the folks here at TVG thought it would be fun to take a look at what the experts say about our beloved Minnesota Vikings fantasy football outlook. Naturally, Kyle approached me for this endeavor as I’ve won his fantasy football league two years running (much to his chagrin). TVG is a grid-iron site first and foremost and that’s not going to change, but it’s always fun to look at what others are saying about our players in purple and gold.
In a series of articles I’ll be taking a look at each major position group on the Vikings and seeing what ESPN, PFF, and Fantasy Pros have to say. After taking a brief look at what they have to say about the Vikes I’ll offer my own thoughts on the fantasy outlook for each position group.
Be sure to check out our first piece on the running backs. With that prelude out of the way, let’s dive right in!
2. WIDE RECEIVERS
There are almost no superlatives too extreme to describe Justin Jefferson’s incredible rookie season. Historic. Meteoric. Game-changing. None of these terms over-state how incredible Jefferson was last season. He shattered the all-time rookie record for receiving yards, had 7 (seven!) 100+ yard games, and – despite being the fifth receiver off the board in the 2020 draft – easily outshone all other rookie receivers, with nearly 500 more receiving yards than the next best rookie. He also finished second in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting behind the surprisingly electric Justin Herbert of the Chargers.
The kid’s good is what I’m saying. Like, really good.
But where does one good season (mind you, it was a really good season) put Jets on the experts’ fantasy big boards? I was pleasantly surprised how highly he was ranked by the big fantasy sites. I thought they may have held the fact that it was just one season, the uncertainty at the Vikes’ QB position due to COVID, and the fact that there are only so many touches to go around in an offense that leans heavily on Dalvin Cook against him, but PFF, ESPN, and Fantasy Pros all have him ranked pretty fairly. After just one season in the NFL all these sites have Justin Jefferson ranked as a top-10 fantasy wide receiver, and rightly so. ESPN and Fantasy Pros have him as their 8th ranked receiver, while PFF has him ranked 7th.
On all 3 sites it seems to come down to whether you have him ranked above or below A.J. Brown of the Titans. Personally, with the addition of Julio Jones to the Titans roster I’m giving Jefferson the edge. But it’s hard to argue that he should be higher up the list than that. Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, and DeAndre Hopkins have all been at least as productive and have been doing it consistently for years. D.K. Metcalf is another young receiver, but he has been unstoppable since the Seahawks stole him in the 2019 draft. Vikings fans may still be having nightmares about Metcalf from the end of the week 5 game last season.
Any chance of a sophomore slump? Don’t count on it. Here he is absolutely torching a DB in camp this year.
Don’t forget about the old dog. Despite being 31 this season, Adam Thielen is still a legitimate threat. In 2017 and 2018 he went to the Pro Bowl and he has only netted under 100 targets in 1 of the last 4 seasons (his injury shortened 2019). It’s clear that Kirk Cousins trusts Thielen and this led to him being a red zone menace last season, netting a whopping 14 TD receptions.
Does the emergence of Justin Jefferson hurt Thielen’s target share? Yes, a little. But don’t forget the numbers Thielen was putting up with Stefon Diggs on the squad. In 2018, the most recent year Thielen made the Pro Bowl, Diggs had over 100 receptions. Despite the emergence of Jefferson, I still expect Cousins to look Thielen’s way a lot. I’m expecting another 100+ targets this season, and probably 80 or so receptions. I don’t know if he’ll be able to keep that insane TD number as high, and I’m not sure he’ll hit that 1,000 yard mark, but I think he’ll be over 900 yards receiving just like last year. He may even get a bit more space as teams adapt to Jefferson’s status as a bona fide WR1, while still trying to devote significant resources to slowing down Dalvin Cook.
So where does all this put the Minnesota Vikings veteran receiver on the fantasy football big boards from around the web? Both PFF and ESPN have him as their 15th ranked receiver in fantasy this season, while Fantasy Pros has him at 19. His vaccination status (or lack thereof) is concerning, but even if he’s forced to miss time this is a QB and an offense he’s very familiar with.
This may get me accused of being a homer, but I’m a bit more bullish on Thielen than the big fantasy sites. Looking at the big boards I really think Thielen is going to have a better year than Robert Woods (despite the upgrade at the QB position) for the Rams and Allen Robinson for the Bears. I think that Justin Fields is going to be an amazing QB and will look like an absolute steal for the Bears in a few seasons, but as of now they’re still committed to starting Andy Dalton. I also know that there really aren’t any other legitimate receiving options on the Bears, but I’m expecting an RB-heavy, checkdown heavy offense from them to start the year with Dalton under center.
THE REST OF THE ROSTER
Like last week, once you get past the big names on the roster there’s really nothing to be had for fantasy football value in the Minnesota Vikings receiver room. I know Kyle likes Chad Beebe and thinks he has more to show, and I personally think K.J. Osborn will surprise people in a couple of seasons, but neither should be anywhere near your fantasy roster. No matter how talented these players are, there are just only so many touches to go around and the trio of Cook, Jefferson, and Thielen are going to eat up the lion’s share, while I expect TE Irv Smith to gobble up whatever’s left, but more on that to come.