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NFC North Preview: Minnesota Vikings

We are headed as north as north gets with the Minnesota Vikings today. After what was ultimately a disappointing 2018 campaign, the Vikings look to bounce back in 2019. This is a team that has a ton of fantasy potential, but also brings up quite a few questions. The biggest question: what will first time offensive coordinator, Kevin Stefanski's offense look like? Jump on board, enjoy to complimentary peanuts, as we dive deep into Skol Country.


KIRK COUSINS


We have to start with Captain Kirk, as the Vikings will go as far as he takes them, and potentially, so will your fantasy season if you choose Cousins. In starting with Cousins, this is where we'll start peeling apart Stefanski's offensive scheme. Stefanski has actually been with the Vikings organization since 2006 as an assistant coach to Brad Childress. Childress and the offensive coordinator at the time, Darrell Bevell, had a huge impact on Stefanski's development as a play caller and scheme developer. Bill Musgrave, Norv Turner and Pat Shurmur have all influenced Stefanski over the years, but at it's core, the offense Stefanski will be running is a West Coast offense with touches of Air Coryell. Gary Kubiak is also in Minnesota, and will help with the offense as well.


What does this mean for Cousins? It actually means a more balanced offense than what we saw with the Vikings the first 13 weeks of 2018. Head Coach Mike Zimmer prefers a balanced offense, hence the firing of John DeFilippo after week 13. Zimmer is a defensive guru, so the likelihood of shootouts happening again in 2019 is slim. Which is bad news for Cousins as a fantasy asset.


With that said, Cousins is going to be a better real life quarterback this season than a fantasy one. I have Cousins finishing outside the top 12 QBs this season. Fantasy Football Calculator has Cousins currently being drafted as QB21. This is right around where I have him. There is no need to draft Cousins unless you're in a 2QB or Super Flex league. There are better options out there for 2019.


Brief note on Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen: I still like both of them, as they'll be eating up a majority of the targets, but do believe they're being drafted just a smidge too high currently.


DALVIN COOK


With the passing game taking a step back, I am all over Dalvin Cook this year for fantasy. IF, and that's a big if, Cook can stay healthy, he could very well be a league winner in 2019.


Going back to dissecting what Stefnski's offense will look like, I'm projecting he's going to want to run the ball an average of 29 times or more per game. Going back to Childress, Kubiak, and the other offensive coordinators that have influenced Stefanski, the lead running back usually carries the ball 63% of the time. So rough numbers would have Cook rushing the ball upwards of 290 times, which is a very healthy number.


Another big part of these offensive schemes is the running back's involvement in the passing game. On average, these offenses target their running back 13% of the time, and usually have 16% of their team's receptions. Luckily for the Vikings, in his brief time on the field, Cook has proven to be a top tier pass catcher out of the back field.


The other reason I really like Cook this year is because this is his backfield. He's not sharing it with anyone, and he is going to be a true bellcow when it comes to usage. The Vikings drafted Alexander Mattison, who will be there to spell Cook, not to be in a timeshare. Mattison will have value if Cook gets injured, so make sure to handcuff Cook in case he goes down again.


Currently, Cook is going as the 10th RB off the board. I see him finishing inside the top 10, but due to his injury history, this is an appropriate draft position for him. As I mentioned earlier, he has some of the biggest upside in fantasy this year, and a nice schedule against the run too.


VIKINGS DEFENSE


Yes, the Vikings Defense! Since 2014, when Mike Zimmer became head coach, the Vikings Defense has been in the top 12 every season. This defense has been a model of consistency, and will be a great fantasy asset for you in 2019.


The Vikings did lose a couple of guys to free agency, but the key pieces are still on the team, specifically All-Pro cornerback Xavier Rhodes and linebacker Anthony Barr. This defense gets after the quarterback, and typically generates a lot of turnovers. In 2018, the Vikings were top 5 in yards allowed, top 10 in points allowed, top 3 in defensive touchdowns, but were uncharacteristically low in sacks and interceptions. I expect that to bounce back. Add that the Vikings should be in far less shoot outs this year, and you'll have yourself another top 5 defensive showing from the Vikings.


Currently, their ADP is the 6th defense off the board. Don't reach for a defense, but if they fall to you in a late round where there aren't a lot of upside players, go ahead and snag them. Streaming defenses has become very popular, but having a consistent defense you can count on will ease a lot of stress during the fantasy season.

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