Wednesday, June 29, 2016

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In this four-part series leading up to training camp, I’ll be profiling the Vikings you should target in your fantasy football leagues this year. Look for new additions every Thursday and Friday the next few weeks and stay tuned for a bonus selection at the end!

 Charles Johnson, WR — Minnesota Vikings

You know the story of Charles Johnson — practice squad player-turned-Vikings’ No. 1 receiver. The 6’2″, 225-pound Johnson spent one year under Norv Turner in Cleveland, and after tearing his ACL, landed on the Browns’ practice squad. Turner knew Johnson’s talents and abilities, and the Vikings signed him last September with the offensive coordinator’s urging.

Johnson started the season slow, hauling in six catches for 60 yards and zero touchdowns in his first five games with the Vikings. But in Minnesota’s final seven games, Johnson led the team with 47 targets, 25 receptions and 415 receiving yards. In addition to his two touchdown receptions, the offense’s scoring increased from 16.4 points per game in Weeks 5 to 9 to 24 points per game in Week 10 to 16.

Heading into 2015, Johnson is Teddy Bridgewater’s go-to guy and “far and away” the team’s best receiver. When asked about Johnson’s impact this offseason, Turner heaped nothing but praise on the 26-year-old receiver, per Mark Craig of the Star Tribune:

“Part of that was we started playing Charles Johnson, which gave us a different guy on the outside to attack,” Turner said. “It created some differences in how people defended us. I think we became a much more efficient offensive football team and put ourselves in position to win games. We won some and there were some that a year from now, put in the same situation, we’ll be ready to handle it and be ready to win.”

Now, Johnson is the team’s starting X/Split receiver, a position formerly held by Cordarrelle Patterson. He’ll work opposite Mike Wallace and Jarius Wright in the slot, and if last year’s second-half trend continues, his numbers will climb thanks to a healthy relationship with Teddy Bridgewater. The hype isn’t limited to Minnesota, though — ranked Johnson 20th on their “Making the Leap” countdown this offseason.

According to Marc Sessler, Johnson played in 94.9 percent of the team’s snaps over the final six games last year. As the X receiver, he’ll run second fiddle to Wallace, but Wallace’s deep speed will likely open opportunities up for Johnson, Rudolph, and Wright in the slot. In analyzing every Norv Turner offense since 2002, Sessler found that receivers in Johnson’s role averaged 40.5 catches for 633 yards — numbers I expect he’ll surpass in 2015.

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This week’s question was Brett‘s idea, and we love it! Each writer was asked to rank Bridgewater in the pool of NFL quarterbacks and to include five spots both above and below for context. 

Andy: No. 16
11. Philip Rivers
12. Cam Newton
13. Matt Ryan
14. Carson Palmer
15. Ryan Tannehill
17. Colin Kaepernick
18. Matthew Stafford
19. Eli Manning
20. Sam Bradford
21. Jay Cutler

Teddy’s at that odd stage in his career where it’d be better to leave him off a quarterback ranking list and give him a “to be determined” grade. He’s shown flashes of brilliance and also cratered a few times in his rookie season, but trended upwards at the end of the year enough to make Teddy the apple of most analysts’ eye (except Andy Benoit, but who cares what he thinks) headed into 2015.

Potential is hard to quantify though, especially since static rankings don’t necessarily convey projection very well, so I put Teddy as dead center as possible: Number 16.

Above him are are group of established but haven’t won anything veterans (Rivers and Palmer) and three youngish quarterbacks on their second contracts who kinda… “Are who we thought they were.” All three still have potential to move into the top-10 (possibly through attrition & retirements), but would it be outlandish to label Ryan, Newton, & Tannehill as career second-tier signal callers? Probably not.

Below Teddy is a gun slinger who fits in the young, big extension, but could be meh mold in Colin Kaepernick along with four dumpster fire veterans who are basically differing levels of hot garbage. Matt Stafford is essentially Jeff George and will be exposed for the third-tier quarterback he is after Megatron is finally put up on blocks. Eli is on lifetime scholarship because David Tyree had a stickum helmet and Mario Manningham was the flexible dude from The Fantastic Four for 3 seconds of his life. Sam Bradford is the deep fried funnel cakes of NFL quarterbacks. He could be really good if he was healthy, but he’s not so who cares. And Jay Cutler is a terrible NFL quarterback despite being vaccinated.

So that’s where Teddy is. He’s the Mendoza Line of decent for this season. After he beats down 2015 like it owes him money, I can’t wait to put him in the top-10 next season. Right behind Andrew Luck & some dude who wears #12.

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Training camp begins in exactly 10 days. I repeat, training camp begins in exactly 10 days. No need to pinch yourselves — we’re so close to the start of the season!

Now’s the time to buy your Bridgewater jerseys, purchase tickets to the most exciting home games, and plan out your tailgates before football takes over. Come Saturday of next week, the team will be in Mankato and coach Zimmer will be whittling his roster down to the 53 best players. Once we get into the thick of training camp, there’s no turning back.

For now, enjoy the calm before the storm and soak in some of the best new Vikings stories from your favorite Vikings site and the rest of the web:

Earlier today, Lindsey wrote about her trip to Children’s Minneapolis Hospital, where Chad Greenway is making a positive impact through his Lead the Way foundation.
Last night, Vikings Territory debuted its More Than Words page, where you can learn about “Chad’s Lockers” and donate to help children in need.

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    Jaimie Senger has been a patient at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota for a little over three years… but she’s been a Minnesota Vikings fan her whole life.

    “We’re huge Vikings fans,” Senger tells me. “My dad is a big-time fan. He and my uncles and a couple of their buddies bought one of the bricks and put their names on it for the new stadium […] We watch all the Vikings games together.”

    One of Senger’s favorite players to watch is linebacker Chad Greenway—but she loves him for a lot more than his on-field performance. Senger is just one patient that benefits on a daily basis from Greenway’s Lead the Way Foundation and more specifically, the Chad’s Locker program.

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    When the Vikings re-signed 34 year old long snapper Cullen Loeffler to a one year deal this offseason, and then signed free agent long snapper Kevin McDermott to a two year contract, it was fairly easy to draw some conclusions implying that the Vikings are searching for Loeffler’s replacement.

    Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer essentially confirmed that Loeffler will have to win a competition if he wants to spend a 12th consecutive season on the Vikings roster. Loeffler and McDermott will essentially face off in one of the least sexy, but somewhat important, training camp battles of 2015.

    “I think he wore down a little bit as the season wore on last year and I think he came back strong,” Priefer said of Loeffler to the Star-Tribune. “You know, Cullen is a great guy and he’s very competitive and he’s very passionate about what he does and he’s got a great work ethic.”

    Priefer also spoke highly of McDermott, however, and revealed a plan to split snaps equally between his two long snapper options well into the preseason action.

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