NFL free agency started on March 18th, but technically does not end until the end of the season. However, after a firehose of news the first week, and another run the second week, things quiet down to a trickle. There are still big names out there, but it’s going to take some time to get them signed, sealed and delivered.
With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at where teams stand after the early rush of free agency and what it means for fantasy football. We’re going to take a look at the skill positions, breaking down what the starting lineup and reserves will look like to assess fantasy value heading into August drafts.
Today, we’re taking a look at the Minnesota Vikings roster. This offseason they traded away disgruntled wide receiver Stefon Diggs and lost CB Trae Waynes, DT Linval Joseph, DE Stephen Weatherly and CB Mackensie Alexander, while adding DT Michael Pierce and WR Tajae Sharpe.
Starter: Kirk Cousins
Backups: Sean Mannion, Jake Browning
Cousins continues to be good enough to win, but not good enough to go deep in the playoffs. Last season he was extremely inconsistent as a fantasy quarterback, but had a great stretch from Week 5 through Week 11, where he averaged 288 yards passing while throwing 18 touchdowns to one interception. These are games he can put together with frequency, but then just falls off the map.
Unfortunately, he now will be without Stefon Diggs, which is a big blow to his upside. So far, the Vikings have added Tajae Sharpe from the Titans, but he’s not someone who can fill Diggs’ shoes in the offense.
Starter: Dalvin Cook
Backups: Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah
Dalvin Cook finished the 2019 season as RB6, but was second only to Christian McCaffrey in fantasy points per game, as he missed the last two games of the regular season. Cook’s injury history remains a concern, but he played a huge role in 2019 and held up pretty well for his fantasy backers.
Cook also had an increase in receiving work when Thielen was out last season. Now, with Diggs gone, I expect Cook to be on the higher end of his target projections in 2020. He should have no trouble getting a workload that will boost him up into the top tier of fantasy rankings this season.
Alexander Mattison is a strong backup and worth a handcuff in deeper leagues. He has some standalone value in deeper leagues as well, but would need a Cook injury to truly unlock his RB1 fantasy status.
Starters: Adam Thielen, Olabisi Johnson, Tajae Sharpe
Backups: Chad Beebe, Alexander Hollins, Dillon Mitchell
With Diggs moving on to Buffalo, Adam Thielen is set up for a monster fantasy season. Even with Diggs available, Thielen saw around 26 percent of the targets. A full season without Diggs could get him up into DeAndre Hopkins territory. A hamstring injury that he returned too soon from hurt him last season, but there isn’t much to keep us from drafting Thielen early and often.
After Thielen, there is an open question as to how the targets will go. Dalvin Cook will see a bump and both tight ends should as well, but after that, we’ll need to see who, if anyone, comes out ahead between Sharpe and Johnson if the team doesn’t get another wide receiver.
Starter: Kyle Rudolph
Backups: Irv Smith Jr.. Tyler Conklin
Rudolph is likely starter in name only, as rookie Irv Smith Jr. saw 47 targets to Rudolph’s 48 last season and we could see Smith move ahead of Rudolph this year. Rudolph isn’t going away, but Smith’s offensive ability projects to be better than Rudolph’s and an uptick in work could give him fantasy value this season.