Today’s 2021 NFL offseason fantasy football preview highlights the Minnesota Vikings. As we’re doing for this series of articles, we’re covering each team’s fantasy-relevant players based on average draft position in a 12-man fantasy league.
The Minnesota Vikings totaled six players that are expected to be selected this upcoming fantasy season, so here’s our take on the outlook for each of these players and whether or not we’re comfortable selecting them at their current ADP.
(ADP: QB18; 12.09)
We’re now entering year four of Cousins being a consistent but unsexy fantasy option as the quarterback for the Vikings. He’s finished as the QB11, QB19 and QB13 over the course of the last three seasons, so his average draft position as the 18th quarterback off the board seems pretty damn accurate. It’s unfortunate that Cousins hasn’t found more fantasy success throughout his time in Minnesota. He’s managed to keep two receivers fantasy relevant each season (between Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs), but yet he only has one top-12 fantasy finish to show for it as a member of the Vikings. As we all know, Cousins provides next to nothing in regards to rushing numbers, and the Vikings’ commitment and success to the running game with their actual running backs caps Cousins’ ability to consistently produce weekly QB1 numbers. If the majority of your league rosters two quarterbacks and you opt to as well, Cousins will suffice as a quality backup. However, you’re not going to find many people going out of their way to land the Vikings’ signal caller this upcoming fantasy season.
(ADP: RB2; 1.02)
I fall in line perfectly with Cook’s ADP as he’s my RB2 (behind Christian McCaffrey) as well as my No. 2 overall fantasy player heading into the 2021 NFL season. The only true knock on Cook is his injury history, as he’s never played a full 16-game season, but he’s put together back-to-back seasons playing in 14 games, which is the most he’s played in his four-year career. Despite missing two games in both of the last two seasons, Cook still finished as the RB2 in 2020 and the RB6 in 2019. He’s one of the true bell-cow running backs in the league and he’s seen 117 targets in the passing game over the last two years. Cook shows no signs of slowing down as he enters his age-26 season and remains a surefire bet to be selected in the top five of 99% of fantasy leagues. We’ve seen numerous NFL teams take the committee approach at the running back position, but Minnesota once again projects to load Cook with touches, making him one of the safest players you can select in the top five who also has plenty of week-winning upside. As I mentioned earlier, the only thing that’ll derail Cook from fantasy success in ’21 is injury, and while I can’t promise you he’ll be active every week, I will go out of my way to tell you that you shouldn’t hesitate to make him the second-overall player taken in your fantasy draft.
(ADP: RB47; 11.12)
Despite being a fan of Mattison and believing that he can succeed in the NFL with a larger workload, he’s really not someone that you’re going to target this fantasy season unless you’re securing your handcuff for Cook, or you’re simply adding late-round depth at the running back position. The benefit of taking a chance of Mattison is simple. If/when the injury bug creeps up on Cook, Mattison is in line for a large workload and immediately steps into a starting role for most fantasy squads. However, if Cook remains healthy, my money would be on Mattison not receiving near enough touches to be considered fantasy relevant, even if you’re in a pinch due to bye week/injury. Mattison will still be selected in nearly every 12-man fantasy league this season, but I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to secure him unless you’re handcuffing Cook.
(ADP: WR7; 2.11)
I’m not going to break any news to you here… Justin Jefferson is really good at football and you should draft him on your fantasy team if you have the chance. Jefferson saw action in all 16 games last year and proceeded to dominate the stat sheet posting 88 receptions for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns en route to finishing as the WR6 in both standard and PPR leagues. It may be a challenge to repeat his stellar numbers from a season ago, but even if he captures 80% of what he produced last year, he’d still post a 70-1,120-5 stat line. I personally ranked Jefferson as my WR8, just behind A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf. It’s my belief that we’re still going to see Minnesota as one of the top rushing attacks in the league behind Cook, but when the ball’s in the air, there’s a high percentage chance that it’s going to Jefferson or Adam Thielen. Not only was Jefferson a consistent option at WR in 2020 – posting below 10 PPR points just three times following his Week 3 breakout – but he also posted more than 20 PPR points five times, including two games with more than 30. If you opt to select a receiver near the end of the second round/early third round, no one’s going to call you crazy if Jefferson’s your pick.
(ADP: WR18; 4.10)
Despite finishing behind Jefferson in both receptions (74-88) and yards (925-1,400), Thielen doubled Jefferson’s touchdown output posting 14 scores in 2020. His numbers were good enough to finish as the WR7 in standard leagues (WR10 in PPR), marking the third time in the last four seasons he’s finished as a top-10 (PPR) fantasy receiver (he missed out in 2019 after playing in just 10 games). Thielen turns 31 this season, which is the age range where we typically see players take a bit of a step back, but he carries relatively low mileage as this year will be just the sixth season he’s seen significant playing time. It’s pretty clear that Jefferson is the future at the wide receiver position for the Minnesota Vikings, but Thielen’s presence will definitely be noticed for at least another year or two. Thielen and Jefferson accounted for 233 of the team’s 516 targets last season (45%), so I don’t imagine Cousins and the Vikings’ offense turning their back on Thielen at this point, especially since the team didn’t add much to the position over the course of the offseason. I personally have Thielen as my WR17 so I’m very close to where the majority of fantasy players are currently selecting him. If you go running back heavy in the first few rounds of your fantasy draft, selecting Thielen as one of your starting WR’s in the late fourth/early fifth isn’t a bad way to go as I’d anticipate him producing fantasy numbers that’ll warrant this type of draft capital.
Irv Smith Jr.
(ADP: TE14; 12.06)
We’ve finally reached a Vikings’ player that I’m a bit lower on than the consensus. Smith Jr is my TE17 heading into the 2021 season while his ADP has him as the 14th tight end off the board. The departure of Kyle Rudolph appeared to remove the final hurdle standing between Smith Jr and fantasy relevancy, however, head coach Mike Zimmer spoke fairly openly earlier this offseason about the situation and said that he doesn’t see Smith Jr’s role expanding following the departure of Rudolph. This could 100 percent be coach speak as a motivational tactic used by Zimmer in an attempt to maximize his effort and production, but I’m leaning towards letting one of my league mates select Smith Jr this season as I sit back and see how things unfold. In two seasons with the Vikings, Smith Jr has combined to post 66 receptions for 676 yards and seven touchdowns. While I understand that he hasn’t been the focal point at the position up until this point in his career, I’ll still take my chances with a different late-round tight end while being a casual Irv Smith observer so that I can make an accurate assessment for next year.
Be sure to check out my positional rankings as they’ll continue to be updated leading up to the 2021 fantasy football season: