Start or Sit: Week One Vikings Fantasy Football Preview
We’re just days away from the Minnesota Vikings first meaningful football game since January. If you want to get really technical, you could argue that it’s the first meaningful game since last December. We could go back and forth all day long over when the last meaningful Vikings game took place, but that’s not the point. The point is the Minnesota Vikings are back, and because you’re a diehard fan, you want to start as many of their players as you can in your fantasy league. So today, we’re going through the list to find which players you start, and which ones you should sit during this opening weekend.
Say what you want about the Vikings QB1, but unless he gets hit with Covid in the next couple days, he should have a pretty solid day against the Bengals. That said, I believe the Vikings will do their best to be a run-first offense against Cincinnati. There will be a bigger discussion on that later on, but for now, let’s just say the run defense shouldn’t inspire a ton of hope in Bengals fans.
As for this choice to sit Cousins, the Bengals did make an effort to improve their secondary this offseason. They brought in Mike Hilton and Chidobe Awuzie in free agency, and Trae Waynes returns after a torn pectoral muscle kept in him sidelined in 2020. At safety they have one of the better safeties in the game in Jessie Bates III alongside Vonn Bell. Sure, it’s not a scary pass defense by any means, but they don’t have a ton of holes.
This is where the majority of Minnesota’s offense will come this weekend. Dalvin Cook has proven over the past couple years that he is a top-tier running back in this league, and he will start the season fabulously. There are a number of reasons for my thinking here.
First of all, the Vikings interior offensive line should be much improved in 2021. I wrote an article back in March breaking this all down, but the 2020 o-line combined with Minnesota’s run scheme did not do Cook any favors. Specifically, Riley Reiff and Dakota Dozier were terrible run blockers, and those are the players leaving the o-line.
The Bengals defense was also terrible against the run in 2020, and they may be just as bad this year. Despite adding Trey Hendrickson, it is yet to be seen how he will perform on a defensive line that doesn’t also include Cam Jordan, Sheldon Rankins, and David Onyemata. The Bengals allowed 5.1 yards per carr in 2020, and that is also what Cook averaged in 2020. Not to mention, if Minnesota’s defense can hold Cincy’s offense in check (they should), the Vikings may be playing with a lead, thus leading to more carries for Cook.
Last we saw Adam Thielen, he was limping off the field in the final preseason game. Luckily, the injury wasn’t serious, and he should be set to go in the season opener. Some may still have concerns about his lack of reps, but let me quell any of these doubts.
I mentioned that it’s probably not worth starting Cousins at QB due to Cincinnati’s decent secondary, but they have not been very good in the red zone. Of course, this is where Thielen thrived last season, catching 13 TDs in this area of the field. With Irv Smith Jr. out and Kyle Rudolph no longer in town, Thielen may get even more red zone targets this season. For the touchdown potential alone, he is worth a start.
Surprisingly, this is the one I’m least convinced of right now. That said, it’s hard to think it’s best to sit one of the best young receivers in the game. Jefferson set records all over the place during his 2020 campaign, and he should find similar production in 2021. However, week one may be a bit of a down week for him with a lot of touches going to Cook, and Thielen likely being the top target in the red zone.
During the 2020 season, the Bengals gave up 6.9 yards per pass attempt, making them a team that was much more liable for allowing big passing plays. Despite the aforementioned improvements to the secondary, I’m going to guess Jefferson breaks free for at least one or two big receiving plays this weekend. If he can do that, his production should be worthy of a start.
These first few weeks may be a period where the Vikings feel out what they have at this tight end position. We got to see a lot of Conklin down the stretch of 2020, but Brandon Dillon is virtually unknown and Chris Herndon could have a big impact in this offense. The Vikings have typically used their tight ends in the red zone, but Conklin was not able to make much of a presence in that area of the field last season. That could change now that he’s TE1, or one of the other options could step up. Time will have to tell, and while we wait for answers, it’s probably best to sit him.
This is certainly dependent on the kind of options available in your league, but I feel like this is a week where the Vikings defense could play well, and still score low in fantasy. I’m assuming the Vikings will jump out to a commanding lead in this game, which will turn the Bengals offense to pass-first very quickly. The Bengals also have Joe Burrow and one of the better group of young receivers, highlighted by the likes of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. If the Vikings end up playing prevent defense for parts of the fourth quarter, this team could rack up yards pretty quickly. I’d lean towards sitting the Vikings defense this week.