2020 Minnesota Vikings Team Preview: Dalvin Cook & Co. Want to Build Upon 2019 Success

SI Fantasy's Team Preview series from high-stakes legend Shawn Childs aims to break down the Minnesota Vikings to evaluate the offense, defense, coaches and everyone in between with a fantasy-slanted analysis.
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Coaching Staff

Mike Zimmer will run the Minnesota Vikings franchise for the sixth year. He has a career 57-38-1 record with three playoff appearances (2-3). Over the previous six seasons, Zimmer was the defensive coordinator for the Bengals. He has 20 years of experience coaching while helping the Cowboys win the Super Bowl in 1995. Minnesota has ten wins or more in three of his last five seasons.

After working as the assistant head coach and offensive advisor for the Vikings in 2019, Gary Kubiak adds offensive coordinator to his job title this year. He’s been a head coach in the NFL for ten seasons (82-75), which included a Super Bowl title in 2015. Kubiak has been coaching in the NFL since 1994.

In 2019, the Vikings moved to eight in points scored (407 – 19th in 2018) despite minimal growth in yards gained (16th – 20th in 2018).

Minnesota will use Andre Patterson and Adam Zimmer to run the defense in 2020 with Dom Capers overseeing the action as the defensive assistant. Patterson is in charge of the defensive line, and Zimmer will handle the linebackers. Bost coaches ran the same part of the defense since 2014.

Their defense allowed 303 points (5th), an improvement of 38 points from the previous season. Their downside came in yards allowed (14th), which was ten spots lower in the standing from 2018.

Quarterbacks

Kirk Cousins (RANK - ADP)

Dalvin Cook stole the wheels off of Cousins’ passing bus in 2019. After ranking 10th in QB scoring (21.46 FPPG) in 2018 and averaging 37.9 passes per game, his passing opportunity fell by almost 22 percent last year (29.6). Most of his regression came over the first four games (98/1, 230/1, 174/1, and 233/0).

Over his next eight games, Cousins regained his previous form (2,297 passing yards and 20 touchdowns) highlighted by his run from Week 5 to Week 7 (306/2, 333/4, and 338/4). His only other game of value came in Week 11 (319/3).

Cousins struggled to make plays over the final five games (242/1, 207/1, 122/1, 242/1, and 172/1), including the playoffs.

He played most of the year without his top WR (Adam Thielen), and this year Stefon Diggs is no longer on the roster. More of a matchup play in 2020 while needing incoming rookie WR Justin Jefferson to fill the void created by the loss of Diggs.

His ADP sits at 143 as the 22nd quarterback drafted in late June. I have him projected 3,975 combined yards with 28 TDs and ten Ints. Over his previous four full seasons, Cousins passes for over 4,000 yards each year while averaging combined TDs.

Nate Stanley (RANK - ADP)

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Running Backs

Dalvin Cook (RANK - ADP)

Cook helped many fantasy teams to the playoffs after an electric start over the first ten weeks (1,315 combined yards with ten TDs and 40 catches). His season ended with two missed games due to a right shoulder injury.

Over the first ten games, Cooks gained over 100 combined yards in eight games. He scored over 24.0 fantasy points in PPR leagues in seven of those outings with his best value coming in Week 10 (183 combined yards with one TD and seven catches.

From Week 11 to Week 15 over four games, he gained only 239 combined yards with three TDs and 13 catches) while rushing for 3.1 yards per rush.

The Vikings had him on the field for about 70 percent of their plays over the first 11 weeks. Cook hasn’t played a full season in his three years in the league (19 missed games).

He averaged 21.8 touches per game over his 16 games (including the playoffs) while finishing sixth in RB PPR scoring (second in fantasy points per game – 21.03).

Top tier back, but I don’t view him as slam dunk based on his career injury risk and his expected holdout this summer.

With a full 16 games of action, I have Cooks projected for 1,806 combined yards with 14 TDs and 62 catches. Fantasy owners have him priced as the fourth-best choice at running back in the early draft season with an ADP of five.

Alexander Mattison (RANK - ADP)

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Wide Receivers

Adam Thielen (RANK - ADP)

Thielen was on the upward path after success in 2017 (91/1276/4) and 2018 (113/1373/9). Last year he played well in Week 5 (7/130/2) while scoring six TDs over his first seven games.

After six weeks (26/366/5), Thielen was on pace for 69 catches for 976 yards and 13 TDs.

His season went awry after suffering a hamstring injury in Week 7. He finished with only 30 catches for 418 yards and six TDs on 48 targets over ten games while only posting one other strong outing in the postseason (7/129).

Thielen is a great route runner with the hands to catch tightly contested balls. Look for a push back over 90 catches for about 1,100 yards and eight TDs. His early ADP is 46 as the 16th WR drafted in PPR leagues.

Justin JeffersonTajae Sharpe, Bisi Johnson

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Tight Ends

Irv Smith (RANK - ADP)

After one season of success at Alabama (44/710/7), Smith worked at the TE2 spot. He was drafted in the second round in 2019. He finished with 36 catches for 311 yards and two TDs on 47 targets.

Minnesota had him on the field for plenty of plays (620 of 1,038), but he fell short of expectation as far as stretching the field (8.6 yards per catch).

Smith came into the NFL with a raw skill set with questions with his route running and blocking. He runs well with the strength and quickness to threaten a defense in the deep passing game.

This season he may be the receiver most rewarded with an increased opportunity. Last year his top output was 11.0 fantasy points (twice). Smith is a potential breakout player TE2 with a favorable ADP (177). I have him projected for 42 catches for 491 yards and three TDs, which is on the conservative side.

Kyle Rudolph (RANK - ADP)

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Defense

Minnesota pushed to 13th in rushing yards (1,728) with eight TDs and only five runs over 20 yards. They allowed 4.3 yards per rush with 25.3 carries per game.

They fell to 15th in the league in passing yards allowed (3,737) with 23 TDs and 17 Ints, QBs gained only 6.8 yards per pass attempts while being sacked 48 times.

In the premium outlook, on defense you'll find write-ups for DE Danielle Hunter, DE Ifeadi Odenigbo, DT Michael Pierce, DT Jalyn Holmes, LB Anthony Barr, LB Eric Kendricks, LB Eric Wilson, CB Mike Hughes, CB Jeff Gladney, S Harrison Smith & S Anthony Harris.

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Team Defense Outlook

Before researching the Vikings’ defense, I had a sense of regression based on their offseason losses. Their defensive line has one impact player and a proven run stopper. Minnesota grades well up the middle with young talent at cornerback. Overall, this defense has an intriguing combination of veteran players and developing players and could be a viable top-10 defense.

Free Agency, Draft, Offensive Line, Offensive Schedule & Defensive Schedule

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