2014 Outlook: He's baaaaack. As All Day again reclaims his place atop the fantasy world, he does so with a host of worthy challengers -- and more than a few bumps and bruises. Peterson has missed significant time down the stretch in two of his past three seasons and just passed the ominous 2,000-carry plateau. But this wouldn't be the first time Peterson defied conventional wisdom. He has scored double-digit TDs in each of his seven NFL seasons and finished below 1,400 total yards only once. Trust us: He won't fall off a cliff in his age-29 season. Take him first overall with confidence.
2014 Outlook: After one season, Patterson's special-teams prowess is already legendary in NFL circles. He averaged more than 30 yards per kick return and took two the distance from 100-plus yards. But on offense, Patterson had only seven catches of at least 20 yards and averaged an underwhelming 10.4 yards per reception. The reason? His 1.53 vertical targets per game ranked 92nd in the NFL. That's an inexplicably low number for a guy with Patterson's speed. We're betting that changes in 2014 -- and when it does, watch out.
2014 Outlook: Even before he broke his left foot in Week 9, Rudolph was a fantasy disappointment. A season after scoring 9 TDs, he had 3. Even worse, he posted only one game with more than five catches or 51 yards receiving. Rudolph is a giant human who runs well; his limitations have been his QB and an offense that hasn't focused on him. Enter Norv Turner, the Vikings' new offensive coordinator, who has a history of creating star tight ends. He was a crucial part of Jordan Cameron's breakout in Cleveland last year and Antonio Gates' development in San Diego. Fully trusting Rudolph, who's never topped 500 yards in a season, is tough. But he does have breakout potential.
2014 Outlook: You think Jennings misses Aaron Rodgers? In his inaugural season with the Vikings, Jennings had nine games with 50 yards or less. And he wasn't getting into the end zone much either. Outside of the three games in which he scored touchdowns, Jennings averaged 3.4 fantasy points per week. Jerome Simpson, who was re-signed by the Vikings in the offseason, had more vertical targets last year (52 to 36), and Cordarrelle Patterson will vie to move ahead of Jennings in that category in 2014. With Minnesota's QB situation in flux, Jennings is a late-round pick up at best.
2014 Outlook: The Vikings aren't exactly the 2013 Broncos, but they did score touchdowns on 21 percent of drives last season. That gave Walsh ample opportunity for PATs, with 43. The problem was that he ranked near the bottom on long-distance field goals. He converted only seven of 11 boots of 40-plus yards -- including only two of five on kicks from 50-plus yards. In his astounding 2012 rookie year, Walsh drilled 10 of 10 from 50-plus. So after a bit of a sophomore slump, which Walsh will we get in 2014? It's probably not worth trying to figure out -- the Vikings will play home games outdoors this year.
2014 Outlook: At Georgia Southern, McKinnon swapped back and forth between QB and RB and rarely had to pass-protect. While that could hinder him as an NFL rookie, there's a vacancy in the Minnesota backfield now that Adrian Peterson's former backup, Toby Gerhart, resides in Jacksonville. That's why it's worth keeping tabs on McKinnon. He's on the short side (5-foot-9), but he has legit athleticism and impressive short-area explosiveness. If he can quickly learn the finer points of blocking, we'd strongly favor him over any other RB on the Vikings' roster to back up AP.
2014 Outlook: Simpson showed off his big-play ability early last season, posting 22 of his 32 fantasy points on vertical throws. Things went south after that, as he compiled only 22 such points over the season's final 12 games. Cordarrelle Patterson is partly to blame for the decline; his emergence as a rookie moved Simpson into a backup role, which he still occupies. New O-coordinator Norv Turner is a master at using vertical pass catchers, but keep in mind that Simpson could be facing a suspension after his Nov. 9 arrest on a drunken driving charge.
2014 Outlook: The thought of owning a Vikings QB understandably makes owners cringe, but that might change this season as fantasy whisperer Norv Turner takes over the offense. With Adrian Peterson's rushing, Kyle Rudolph's savvy and Cordarrelle Patterson's speed, Cassel has a bevy of weapons at his disposal. The question is whether he can take advantage of them. Vertical passing has never been a Cassel specialty; heck, he fell short of posting a double-digit vertical ypa when throwing to Randy Moss in his prime. But his 10.6 vertical ypa last year was a career high, and Turner specializes in that part of the playbook. If Cassel wins the starting role over first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater, he can progress to fringe QB2 status.
2014 Outlook: Bridgewater is as cool as a cucumber when blitzed: Last season at Louisville, he tallied a 70.1 percent completion rate (second in the nation) and averaged 11 yards per attempt when opponents sent five or more pass rushers. His 0.3 percent BDR against BCS conference foes was simply phenomenal. And don't buy into the talk that he's undersized. His 6-foot-2 frame is equal to that of Aaron Rodgers, and at 214 pounds he weighs more than Drew Brees (209). It remains to be seen just how much playing time Bridgewater gets in Minnesota, but he's capable of being a QB2 in redraft leagues and should be highly valued in dynasty formats.
2014 Outlook: New coach Mike Zimmer brings a reputation for defensive excellence, so it wouldn't shock us to see a Vikings turnaround. With stellar DTs Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd, this has all the makings of an elite run-stuffing front. But other than rookie Anthony Barr, the linebackers underwhelm, and if Minny thinks newly signed CBs Captain Munnerlyn and Derek Cox will rescue the secondary, it'll be disappointed. This group should be good for above-average sacks and perhaps turnovers. But we're afraid it will be easy to score against the Vikings again; in 2013 they allowed 30 points per game, the most in the NFL.
2014 Outlook: Ponder has been firmly below average in his three NFL seasons, netting 178 passing yards and around 1 TD/INT per game. His fantasy ceiling is frighteningly low; he has nearly four times as many single-digit fantasy games (15) as he does 20-plus-point performances (four) in his career. Norv Turner is a great offensive coach, but he's not a miracle worker. Some guys are what they are. Given Ponder's mediocre talent -- and his spot on the depth chart behind Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater -- it's hard to justify wasting a roster spot on him in any format.