Saturday, July 2, 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!

Adrian Peterson, RB — Minnesota Vikings

Adrian Peterson hasn’t had the best luck with quarterbacks. Since being selected 7th-overall in the 2007 NFL Draft, Peterson’s starting quarterbacks include (in chronological order): Tarvaris Jackson, Gus Frerotte, Brett Favre, Christian Ponder, and Matt Cassel. Save Favre’s magical 2009 season, Peterson has succeeded in the face of terrible quarterback play, rushing for 10,190 yards and 86 touchdowns in his eight-year career.

With such a lack of talent at the position, it’s no surprise that defenses stacked the box with eight, and even nine defenders at times. According to Pro Football Focus, Peterson faced an eight man box on 34.48% of his attempts in 2013, his most recent 16-game season. Despite the odds, Peterson finished the year with 1,266 yards on the ground while averaging 4.6 yards per carry (slightly lower than his 5.0 career average).

What’s missing in this discussion is the quarterback situation TODAY. Peterson hasn’t taken a regular season snap with Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota’s prodigal son and quarterback savior. After the first game of the 2014 season, Peterson was suspended and missed an opportunity to line up behind Bridgewater, who went on to cement himself as the team’s starting quarterback. The rookie finished the year with 14 touchdowns, a 64.4 percent completion percentage, and an above-average quarterback rating of 85.2.

The newfound success at the position opens up opportunities in the running game, as outlined by’s Alex Gelhar in an article published following Norv Turner’s hiring:

“Turner runs a version of the Air Coryell offense, which tries to force the defense to defend the entire field through a combination of mid- to deep-range passing routes and a power running game. The offense sends players in motion to create space and allow them to avoid being jammed at the line of scrimmage so their deeper routes have time to develop. Ideal personnel include a fast receiver able to win deep jump balls, a pass-catching tight end capable of stretching the middle of the field, and a power back able to grind out yards between the tackles and catch the ball in space.”

Peterson fits the bill of a “power back able to grind out yards between the tackles”, but he’s never been known as a pass-catcher. In his eight seasons, Peterson’s career-highs receiving the ball are 43 catches (2009), 436 yards (2009), and 1 touchdown (multiple years). When Turner was hired to be the Vikings’ offensive coordinator, he made it clear he wanted to get Peterson involved in the passing game. “I would expect Adrian Peterson to catch 50/60 balls next year,” he told KFAN. Although the plan didn’t come to fruition, it should be a goal in place for a coach whose running back units have averaged 104 receptions per season and totaled 31 receiving touchdowns.

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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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