QB Christian Ponder (Minnesota)
Christian Ponder should start 16 games this year. Unlike last year, he’s the week 1 starter and unlike last year, he has a capable blindside protector so he’s less likely to miss time with injury. As a team, the Vikings passed 510 times last year. That seems about right for Ponder, who should improve upon his 6.4 YPA from last year as he goes into his 2nd season.
He’ll also have better protection, which will allow him to throw downfield better. 6.8 YPA over 510 throws is 3468 yards. The Vikings as a team threw for 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions last year (13:13 for Ponder). That sounds about right for Ponder in 2012. He also adds value as a runner as well. He’s a QB2 with upside.
Projection: 3470 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 250 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown (217 pts standard/257 pts in 6 pt TD leagues)
RB Adrian Peterson (Minnesota)
7/1/12: The good news is that Peterson will probably be back for week 1. The bad news is that he may be Toby Gerhart’s backup when that happens, in an effort to ease him back in. I wouldn’t take him in the first 2 rounds, despite his upside, and if I did take him, I would make sure to grab Gerhart as a handcuff.
Adrian Peterson tore his ACL late last season, but he’s making a remarkable recovery and could play week 1. He put himself at 50/50 for Training Camp and it’s definitely a situation to monitor because of how good Peterson is when healthy. It wouldn’t be unheard of for Peterson to be back week 1. Wes Welker did the same in 2010 with a shorter recovery period. However, even if he plays all 16 games, I expect a career worst season for Peterson, as was the case with Welker in 2010. The Vikings won’t want to overwork him and will give some carries to Toby Gerhart, a former 2nd round pick. He could also average a career low YPC.
Projection: 200 carries 840 rushing yards 8 total touchdowns 21 catches 160 receiving yards (148 pts standard/169 pts PPR)
RB Toby Gerhart (Minnesota)
7/1/12: Gerhart could be the Vikings’ lead back even if Peterson is healthy to start the season. I don’t know how long that would last, but he’s a capable back and the definition as a mid round sleeper at his current ADP in the 9th round. He’s a value handcuff for Peterson owners as well.
Any loss of carries by Adrian Peterson this season will be Gerhart’s gain and he’ll start and get the majority of the carries in any games Peterson misses this season because they don’t have another back. He rushed for 431 yards and 1 touchdown on 85 carries in 5 starts last season. The upside is there late and he’s an incredibly valuable handcuff for Adrian Peterson owners.
Projection: 140 carries 630 rushing yards 6 total touchdowns 28 catches 220 receiving yards (121 pts standard/149 pts PPR)
WR Percy Harvin (Minnesota)
7/1/12: Harvin expressed frustration with his playing time in 2011 and could get more as a result. Harvin was actually 2nd on his own team in snaps played at receiver last year behind the mediocre Devin Aromashodu. Harvin has real fantasy value early in drafts. He was the #8 scoring fantasy football receiver last year and in his last 11 games, he had 69 catches for 784 yards and 6 touchdowns, good for 100 catches for 1140 yards and 9 touchdowns over 9 games.
He could even exceed those numbers if he plays more and with Christian Ponder playing his 1st full season as a starter. On top of that, he rushed for 345 yards and 2 touchdowns on 52 carries. He could easily be a top-5 fantasy football wide receiver this year. He’s currently the 19th receiver off the board based on average draft position because people don’t pay attention to his rushing ability. If he even matches what he did last year, he’s a steal at his current ADP and there’s definitely upside.
Percy Harvin could have a career best season in 2012 with improved quarterback play, a better offensive line to protect the quarterback, and still very little competition for targets from other receivers. He’s a really underrated right now. He rushed for 345 yards and 2 scores last year, which helped make him the #8 fantasy receiver. He could easily improve on that this season, but he goes in the 4th or 5th round (19th receiver) on average because people overlook his rushing ability.
Projection: 100 catches 1170 receiving yards 45 carries 250 rushing yards 9 total touchdowns (196 pts standard/296 pts PPR)
TE Kyle Rudolph (Minnesota)
8/7/12: Kyle Rudolph is a 2nd year tight end having a very strong Training Camp. Meanwhile, #2 tight end John Carlson could miss a large portion of the preseason. If he had even the 70 targets than Visanthe Shiancoe, the incumbent starter who is gone, had last season, he would have had 47 catches for 450 yards and 5 touchdowns. Heading into his 2nd season in the league, with possibly improved quarterback play, he could exceed those numbers and end up being the 2nd leading receiver on a weak receiving corps. He’s a high-end TE2 with upside.
Projection: 48 catches 620 receiving yards 5 total touchdowns (92 pts/140 pts PPR)