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USATSI

The VIkings offense was a lot more pass-heavy last season, as expected, and it helped lead to a 13-4 regular season record. But it wasn't enough to push the Vikings to the next level in the playoffs.

That next step is going to have to come from the defensive side of the ball, though there are still a few questions on offense, especially after the release of Dalvin Cook

2022 review

Record: 13-4 (4)
PPG: 24.9 (8)
YPG: 361.5 (7)
Pass YPG: 263.8 (6)
Rush YPG: 97.7 (27)
PAPG: 39.5 (3)
RAPG: 23.8 (28)

2022 Fantasy finishes

QB: Kirk Cousins QB6
RB: Dalvin Cook* RB10, Alexander Mattison RB52
WR: Justin Jefferson WR1, Adam Thielen* WR31, K.J. Osborn WR45
TE: T.J. Hockenson TE2
*No longer with team

Number to know: 61.2%

That was the Vikings' rate of called pass plays last season, the fifth-highest in the NFL. That was in part a function of a defense that couldn't stop anyone, but it was also a clear philosophical change with Kevin O'Connell taking over as head coach; the Vikings were 24th in defensive scoring the year before and their pass rate was 58.5%. The Vikings went from running a lot of two-RB and/or two-TE sets under Mike Zimmer to running the fifth-most three-WR sets in 2022, and that's a trend I expect to continue. That's good news for Jordan Addison, the first-round rookie who should be on the field for nearly all of their snaps, whether he plays inside or outside. It makes this one of the best landing spots for any of the rookie wide receivers, even with Justin Jefferson around. The Vikings pretty badly needed a second playmaker to step up after Thielen's decline and Osborn's failure to launch. Addison fits in perfectly as a No. 2 in this high-volume passing game, and he could be a must-start Fantasy WR starting in Week 1. 

2023 offseason

Draft picks 

1. (23) Jordan Addison, WR
3. (102) Mekhi Blackmon, CB
4. (134) Jay Ward, SAF
5. (141) Jaquelin Roy, DT
5. (164) Jaren Hall, QB
7. (222) DeWayne McBride, RB

Additions

DL Marcus Davenport, CB Byron Murphy, TE Josh Oliver, DL Dean Lowry

Key departures

DL Dalvin Tomlinson, RB Dalvin Cook, DE Za'Darius Smith, WR Adam Thielen, CB Patrick Peterson, TE Irv Smith

Available opportunity 

97 carries, 48 RB targets, 84 WR targets, 24 TE targets 

Rankings and projections

Award
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Jamey Eisenberg
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Dave Richard
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Heath Cummings
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Chris Towers
Kirk Cousins13131415
Alexander Mattison17151517
Ty Chandler5353NR
Justin Jefferson1111
Jordan Addison36332732
T.J. Hockenson3433

Chris Towers' projections

QBKirk CousinsPA: 637, YD: 4460, TD: 29, INT: 14; RUSH -- ATT: 42, YD: 147, TD: 2
RBAlexander MattisonCAR: 251, YD: 1056, TD: 9; TAR: 38, REC: 29, YD: 230, TD: 1
RBTy ChandlerCAR: 105, YD: 440, TD: 4; TAR: 38, REC: 31, YD: 245, TD: 1
WRJustin JeffersonTAR: 178, REC: 124, YD: 1753, TD: 10
WRJordan AddisonTAR: 121, REC: 73, YD: 908, TD: 6
WRKJ OsbornTAR: 89, REC: 58, YD: 591, TD: 4
TETJ HockensonTAR: 134, REC: 88, YD: 839, TD: 6

Biggest question

How does Alexander Mattison fare as the lead back?   

The Vikings released Dalvin Cook in early June, which means we're going to see Mattison get his first chance to be a full-time lead back. Mattison has averaged 20.4 PPR points per game in six games that Cook has missed in his career, but we've never seen him asked to fill that role for more than a week or two at a time. If he can stay healthy as a legitimate three-down back, Mattison has top-12 upside, and that might be underselling him. He could be one of the make-or-break players of this Fantasy season.

One sleeper, one breakout and one bust

Sleeper
MIN Minnesota • #3
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
2022 NCAA Stats (11 games, USC)
REC
59
REYDS
875
TD
8
FPTS/G
17.7

Addison is a bit undersized, but he thrived as a clear alpha wide receiver at Pittsburgh and was still the best receiver at USC despite being an upperclassman transfer. His landing spot might have been the best of any rookie wide receiver for 2023, at least, because this is a high-volume passing offense that is pretty wide open after Justin Jefferson. He could definitely step on the field and earn a 20% target share immediately, though Addison was cited for a speeding violation just before training camp that does throw a bit of a wrench in things, potentially. Addison may face some discipline from the league -- he was going 140 in a 55 mph zone -- but if not, he'll likely be the No. 2 option in this passing game and could very well be a must-start Fantasy option as a rookie. There's plenty of upside worth chasing here. 

Breakout
MIN Minnesota • #2
Age: 25 • Experience: 5 yrs.
2022 Stats
RUYDS
283
REC
15
REYDS
91
TD
6
FPTS/G
5.2

Mattison has played six games with Dalvin Cook inactive in his career, and he's averaged 20.4 PPR points. That's elite production, obviously, though so much of it came under a different coaching staff that I don't think you can just project him for that moving forward. Not to mention there's a big difference between being able to handle that kind of workload for a game or two versus doing it for 17 weeks, every week. Still, Mattison looks like the clear lead back here after returning to the Vikings as a free agent this offseason, and it feels safe to project north of 200 carries and a decent workload in the running game. Names like Ty Chandler, Kene Nwangwu, and DeWayne McBride could figure in, but Mattison looks likely to get the first chance to be a three-down back, and there's significant upside there if he stays healthy and takes advantage. 

Bust
MIN Minnesota • #87
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
2022 Stats
REC
86
TAR
129
REYDS
914
TD
6
FPTS/G
12.7

I don't really think there's much risk in Hockenson's profile, given how much they threw to him after the trade last season. The issue here is that there might be a lack of upside here. He's never shown the ability to do much to make plays down the field, and has never had more than six touchdowns in a season. He's a fine possession-type receiver, and at tight end, that and 120 targets makes you a must-start Fantasy option. But Hockenson is getting pushed up in drafts to the fourth round in NFC drafts, 16 picks ahead of George Kittle, and nearly 30 ahead of Kyle Pitts and Dallas Goedert. He's a safer bet than those types for, say, 12 points per game, but it's hard to see Hockenson put up a truly elite Fantasy season. Which is to say, while he's unlikely to bust, you may not end up with the difference maker you're hoping for.