Purple Dreams: Fantasy Football Outlook for our Vikings Running Backs
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 Vikings and their outlook in fantasy football, so we begin with the running backs. 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.
With that prelude out of the way, let’s dive right in!
1. RUNNING BACKS
Let’s start with what will probably be the least controversial position group in this series: running back. The Vikings have a pretty good one and everybody knows it. As every Vikings fan, and surely NFL fan at this point, knows Dalvin Cook is an absolute stud and his position in fantasy football rankings among other running backs reflects this reality. He’s ranked as the #2 overall player by both ESPN and Fantasy Pros, while PFF has him at #3 overall.
This is one I think they got just right. Despite injuries derailing last season, Christian McCaffrey is undoubtedly the top dog in all fantasy football formats. I have Cook number 2 on my list, but it’s hard to fault PFF for having him behind Derrick Henry who broke the mythical 2K yards barrier last season. The question, as it always seems to be with football, comes down to injury. You can’t go wrong with the talent of any of the top 3 players, so it’s just hoping they stay healthy.
The big debate in fantasy this year is whether you take Henry or Cook if you have the number 2 overall pick. With the emergence of Justin Jefferson alongside Adam Thielen and a (hopefully) larger role for Irv Smith, it’s going to be hard for teams to completely commit to shutting Cook down. His hands and versatility out of the backfield also make him nearly impossible to completely negate. If you have a chance to draft him you take him as one of your running backs, set the Vikings star in your week 1 lineup and don’t worry about the position for the rest of the fantasy season.
Opponents of the Titans will likely commit to shutting Henry down better than they did last season (good luck!), but as with the Vikes they have a revitalized receiving corps and added some guy named Julio Jones in the offseason. Jones and A.J. Brown – like Thielen and Jefferson for the Vikes – demand that opposing defenses devote effort and resources to shutting them down rather than just completely committing themselves to stopping Derrick Henry.
For me, Alvin Kamara rounds out the top tier of running backs. All the other top RBs are a tier below these 4 to me due to uncertainty, injury, and suboptimal situations. Saquon is coming back from a brutal season-long injury on a team that’s kind of a mess, Nick Chubb is going to continue having some of his touches leeched by Kareem Hunt (who had 850+ yards last season), and Zeke had a disappointing season last year.
THE REST OF THE ROSTER
In terms of the rest of the running backs on the Vikings roster, there’s really nothing to be had in terms of fantasy value and none of them should be picked up except on waivers. That being said, if you pick Cook early, it’s probably worth burning a late-round pick on Alexander Mattison to make sure that if anything happens to Cook (we’re all praying it doesn’t, obviously) your season isn’t completely tanked. Both myself and Kyle really like Mattison and wish he would get a few more touches in the Vikings offense, both to increase the chance of keeping Cook fresh and healthy for the entire season, and because we think he’s legitimately a talented football player.
Ameer Abdullah is another talented back who has flashed in the past, but he likely won’t get enough touches to move the needle at all in fantasy as he’s stuck behind both Cook and Mattison. Fullback CJ Ham is not worth taking in fantasy though I love him as a player.
* There may be a small amount of chagrin.