2006 Team Report: Minnesota Vikings
Starter: Brad Johnson
Backup(s): Mike McMahon, Tarvaris Jackson [R], Brooks Bollinger
Starting QB: The Vikings have undergone a major metamorphosis, and there have been major changes from the owner's box through management, coaching staff, and player personnel. With Daunte Culpepper carted off to Miami, Brad Johnson assumes the role of starting QB. Johnson had a three to one TD to interception ratio - a dramatic improvement compared to Culpepper (at least last year), and Minnesota went 7-2 after Johnson took over. His résumé includes two Pro Bowl selections and a Super Bowl title, and the Vikings brass thought highly enough of him to trade Culpepper and have not brought in anyone to compete for the starting job. Johnson ranked in the QB15-20 range when he was in the lineup and should be considered a solid fantasy QB2.
Backup QB: The Vikings backup situation remains in flux. Entering camp, it was presumed that Mike McMahon would be the QB2 while 2nd round draft pick Tarvaris Jackson would be the QB3 and intern from the sidelines. But Jackson's surprising play has made it tough for the team to not consider him as Brad Johnson's backup. Furthermore, McMahon's play has made it difficult to justify keeping him on the roster. McMahon spent several years as the backup in Detroit and last season took over for an injured Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia. He led the Eagles to a 2-5 record, but by the time he was inserted into the lineup the wheels had already started coming off for Philadelphia. Further clouding the picture was the late August acquisition of Brooks Bollinger from New York. Bollinger, who played at HC Brad Childress' and OC Darrell Bevell's old haunting ground at Wisconsin, was a fill-in starter in New York last year despite being viewed by most league talent scouts as a career backup type. Bollinger could push for the QB3 role in place of the disappointing McMahon and J.T. O'Sullivan.
Starter: Chester Taylor
Backup(s): Mewelde Moore, Ciatrick Fason, Joe Echemandu
Fullback(s): Tony Richardson, Joey Goodspeed
Starting RB: The Vikings said, "Adios, Muchachos" to Michael Bennett, Moe Williams, and Onterrio Smith over the off-season and signed Chester Taylor to be the featured back-at least that's how they're talking about him. Taylor backed up Jamal Lewis for the Ravens and showed some flashes of being productive in his 4 years in that role. He is still relatively unproven and no one really knows if he can handle the rigors of an extensive workload. But he should be in a good situation running behind Pro Bowlers Matt Birk, Steve Hutchinson, and Tony Richardson. Taylor could be this year's Lamont Jordan, as he should see his share of receptions out of the backfield.
Backup RBs: Mewelde Moore seemed to be the likely candidate to take over as the starting RB but the team went another direction in signing Taylor. Over his brief career, Moore has averaged 123 total yards in the 11 games that he's had at least 10 carries. If he can stay healthy, he should still contribute in the passing game and would be extremely capable of being productive if Taylor got hurt. Despite Moore's obvious talents, it's 2nd year Ciatrick Fason who looks to break camp as the RB2. Fason overtook Moore in mid-August and may get a larger workload than expected. Fason is an inside runner who stays low and makes yards after contact, a great complementary option to Chester Taylor potentially.
Fullback: Two-time Pro Bowler Tony Richardson was signed away from Kansas City and should be an excellent lead blocker and occasional ball carrier and receiving target. The team also signed Joey Goodspeed who is now on his 5th team in as many years. He was placed on injured reserve after suffering a torn ACL.
Starters: Travis Taylor, Troy Williamson
Backups: Marcus Robinson, Todd Pinkston, Billy McMullen, Chris Jones
Starting WRs: The Vikings WR corps is in a state of upheaval. After losing Nate Burleson in free agency, the team rewarded Koren Robinson with a long-term contract and planned on featuring him alongside either Troy Williamson or Travis Taylor. Unfortunately, Robinson couldn't fend off his demons and was arrested in mid-August for DUI and several other offenses. Robinson was subsequently released; which means that 2nd year Troy Williamson will be the go-to guy whether he's ready or not. New HC Brad Childress has been mum on the other starter, but odds are it will be Travis Taylor.
Backup WRs: Brad Childress certainly believes in bringing in former players that know his system. Two of the Vikings backup receivers fit that bill in Todd Pinkston and Billy McMullen. Both played for Childress in Philadelphia. McMullen is no bet to make the final roster, but Pinkston could possibly start if he's healthy enough. Pinkston was signed immediately after being released by the Eagles and brings a keen understanding of Childress' playbook with him; along with blistering speed and a serious case of alligator arms. Marcus Robinson should see a fair amount of playing time. Robinson has had back-to-back 30/500/5 seasons and some people would be surprised that he ranked as the #34 and #49 fantasy WR in those years. The other WRs currently on the roster have a combined total of three career receptions and should be considered non-factors unless there are major injury issues.
Starters: Jermaine Wiggins
Backups: Jim Kleinsasser
Jermaine Wiggins has averaged 70 receptions the past two seasons and is an excellent mid- to later-round selection in fantasy PPR leagues. He's a borderline starter in 12-team standard scoring leagues but should be available after many other TEs are off the board. Kleinsasser was mostly used as an H-back in the old scheme but should fill a more traditional blocking tight end role should aid Chester Taylor. With Wiggins serving as the primary receiving TE, Kleinsasser's fantasy value is limited.
: The Vikings finally landed a free agent whom they hope will end their recent instability at the kicker position. Longwell has a nine year career average of 81.6% on FGs, which is not too bad considering half his games were played at Lambeau Field. He’ll be adjusting to another new holder, which is often a source of irritation to him throughout his career. Longwell ranked in the top ten in kicker scoring in six of his years with Green Bay. Minnesota has not ranked in the top ten since Gary Anderson’s perfect season in 1998.
Kick and Punt Returners
Kick Returners: Koren Robinson; Mewelde Moore; Kevin Kasper; Dovonte Edwards; Troy Williamson; Ciatrick Fason; Chester Taylor; R.J. Cobbs
Former Seahawk WR Koren Robinson joined the team last year and did a very solid job on kickoffs (47 returns, 26.0 avg., 1 TD), finishing as the 13th ranked fantasy returner in the NFL. The team would prefer to let him focus on being a starting receiver, however if he remains their best KR option he'll probably keep that job also. Backups include WR Troy Williamson (12 returns, 16.0 avg.), RB Mewelde Moore (4 returns, 18.0 avg.), and RB Ciatrick Fason (2 returns, 2.0 avg.). WR Kevin Kasper has experience returning kickoffs with Arizona, Denver, and New England. The team is giving DB Dovonte Edwards a look on KRs, although he did not return any last year, nor any in college at NC State. Free agent acquisition RB Chester Taylor has experience returning kickoffs from his years with the Ravens, including 12 returns with a 21.1 avg. last year. Versatile undrafted free agent RB/WR/CB R.J. Cobbs returned both kickoffs and punt while at the University of Massachusetts.
Punt Returners: Mewelde Moore; Koren Robinson; Travis Taylor; Tank Williams; Charles Gordon; R.J. Cobbs
Mewelde Moore took aver the lead punt returner role, and scored a TD on one of his 21 returns. His 11.7 yard average ranked 8th in the league. Koren Robinson is available as a backup, although he had zero yards on his two returns last year. Two other options have only one return each on their NFL resume: WR Travis Taylor had one for no gain last year, and SS Tank Williams had one for nine yards with the Titans last year. The dark horse candidate is undrafted CB Charles Gordon returned punts (9.7 avg., 398 yards ranked 8th) for Kansas last year, and earned All-American honors as a result. He’s small but handles the ball very well.
Projected Starters: RT Marcus Johnson, RG Artis Hicks, C Matt Birk, LG Steve Hutchinson, LT Bryant McKinnie
Key Backups: T Adam Goldberg, G/T Chris Liwienski, C Ryan Cook [R], G/T Mike Rosenthal
With the addition of Pro Bowler guard Steve Hutchinson, the Vikings are now blessed with two of the finest linemen in football in Hutchinson and tackle Bryant McKinnie. Add in center Matt Birk who when healthy is an elite player as well and the makings of a dominant line are in place for the club. It will be up to new coach Pat Morris, who spent the past two seasons with the Lions to help this unit to gel. Hutchinson is simply put, the best offensive guard in the game today. He has great technique, is tenacious and never quits on a play. He is a great addition to his core. McKinnie is a huge man who is coming into his own as a player. He has the talent to make the Pro Bowl if he plays at his best. The key to this season is at center and the Vikings need a healthy Birk to ensure success from this group. Birk is one of the most intelligent linemen in the NFL and he anchors this group. The Vikings drafted Ryan Cook from New Mexico for insurance if Birk can’t go. He is a huge center at 6’7 and could become a good starter in the NFL but he appears to be too tall for the center position at 6’7 and short, powerful nose tackles may abuse him. The other two positions will likely be filled by 2nd year Marcus Johnson at right tackle and newcomer Artis Hicks who came over in a trade with the Eagles. Hicks is a powerful man who moves defenders off the ball. Johnson is a versatile, athletic player with a mean streak who came into the league as a collegiate guard who projected to tackle at the next level. Mike Rosenthal, Chris Liwienski, Adam Goldberg and Jason Whittle provide excellent depth to a talented starting five. If this unit gels and if Birk can stay healthy, the sky is the limit for this group. They have top five potential with Birk and top fifteen without him.
The Viking defense did not stand out statistically in any category last year except interceptions (24 – t2nd in the NFL), which can be chalked up to 2005 Packer cap casualty Darren Sharper. The statistics only tell half the story, as the defense actually stiffened up against the run when injuries forced them to run a 3-4 at times. The unit spurred the Vikings to a 6 game winning team after Daunte Culpepper went down, consistently holding opposing offenses to point totals in the teens. They held tough through many injuries to starters on the defensive line thanks to Pat Williams and Darrion Scott, and Brian Williams emerged as a quality cornerback, challenging free agent acquisition Fred Smoot for his job after he got injured. The defense will undergo a transition to the cover 2 scheme this offseason under the eye of new defensive coordinator (and former Tampa DB coach) Mike Tomlin. Tank Williams has been brought in to replace Corey Chavous at strong safety, and Brian Williams has departed for Jacksonville. The linebacker corps is still unstable, as it was most of last year, with new addition Ben Leber likely replacing free agent and unit leader Keith Newman and 2005 starting MLB Sam Cowart going to Houston. The pivotal element to their performance this year will be how well the players take to the cover 2 scheme.
Starters: LDE Kenechi Udeze, LDT Kevin Williams, RDT Pat Williams, RDE Erasmus James
Backups: DE Darrion Scott, DE/DT Spencer Johnson DE DeQuincy Scott, DE/DT Eric Taylor, DE Ray Edwards
Starting DL: This crew endured a slew of injuries last year and anchored the stout run defense later in the season, but they were not good at getting to the QB. The attack mentality of the cover 2 and return of Kenechi Udeze (microfracture knee surgery) should allow them to get more sacks and pressure this year. 2nd year DE Erasmus James came on later in the season and the team is looking for the first round pick to step up. DT Pat Williams excelled in a run stuffing role at NT in the 3-4 sets last year and should still be among top tacklers at his position. DT Kevin Williams seems especially well suited for the cover 2 and should return to double digit sack totals after having a disappointing season that saw him miss two games due to a knee injury.
Backup DL: DE Darrion Scott was forced into a huge role after injuries to DE Kenechi Udeze and Spencer Johnson, and he did not disappoint. He provides excellent depth as a DE/DT hybrid and is great insurance for Udeze’s knee. Like Scott, Spencer Johnson had some experience at 3-4 DE last year and provides good depth with his versatility. Rookie DT C.J. Mosley was traded to New York in exchange for QB Brooks Bollinger; some thought he would provide this unit with quality depth and potential upside as a starter down the road. Pass rush specialist Lance Johnstone, the team leader in sacks in 2005, is gone, but the team signed DE DeQuincy Scott, and he should fill that role admirably. Rookie DE Ray Edwards is talented but had problems with his coaching staff in college.
Starters: SLB Ben Leber, MLB Napoleon Harris, WLB E.J. Henderson
Backups: LB Rod Davis, LB Heath Farwell, LB Dontarrious Thomas, LB Chad Greenway [IR]
Starting LBs: This unit is undergoing a major upheaval under new DC Mike Tomlin. The cover 2 is going to ask for completely different skills and abilities than former defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell’s scheme did, and no one is guaranteed to hold onto their starting spot if they don't excel. Tomlin is asking the LBs to practice multiple positions in camp. On the strong side, free agent pickup Ben Leber will get the opening day nod. In the middle, returning starter Napolean Harris seems to have won the job, but clearly he was helped by the loss of rookie Chad Greenway. Greenway was considered the only surefire starter (at weakside) but tore his ACL and is done for the year. That forced the Vikings to move E.J. Henderson to the weakside instead of competing with Harris in the middle.
Backup LBs: Dontarrious Thomas is likely the first guy off the bench in case of injury. He has unlimited physical ability, but continues to struggle with the mental discipline of the position. Rod Davis is a 5th round pick in his third year that saw time in place of Sam Cowart last year and is a darkhorse to win the MLB job if Henderson,Harris and Thomas falter. Undrafted free agent Heath Farwell was considered an LB/SS tweener coming out and is currently penciled in at backup WLB.
Starters: LCB Antoine Winfield, SS Tank Williams, FS Darren Sharper, RCB Fred Smoot
Backups: CB/S Cedric Griffin, CB Dovonte Edwards, SS Willie Offord, FS Dustin Fox, CB Laroni Gallishaw, CB Ronyell Whitaker, CB Ukee Dozier, SS Will Hunter, FS Marvin Ward
Starting DBs: Antoine Winfield is one of the best corners for IDP dynasty leagues, and the cover 2 should allow him to continue to be one of the most prolific tackling CBs in the game. CB Fred Smoot was inconsistent before being outplayed by Brian Williams (who started while Smoot was out), but Williams is gone and Smoot is the starter again. Darren Sharper was a huge addition last year, leading the team with nine interceptions, including two for TD and the cover 2 scheme should suit him well. Tank Williams had a decent season coming back from an ACL tear in Tennessee, and the Vikes signed him to replace Corey Chavous, who left for St, Louis. He should provide a physical hard-hitting presence at strong safety, but may only be a stopgap.
Backup DBs: Rookie Cedric Griffin is a playmaker and good fit in the cover 2 and may start at CB or safety in the future. CB Dovonte Edwards is pushed to the nickel back role with the departure of Brian Williams. The 2005 undrafted rookie made a splash with an interception return for touchdown in limited duty. Special teams captain Willie Offord is currently recovering from reconstructive knee surgery and should be the top reserve at safety. If his recovery goes well, he might be able to compete with Tank Williams in training camp. Smallish CB/S Dustin Fox broke his arm in training camp last year and never really got on track, but he was a first day pick and has the talent to contribute in the secondary. Laroni Gallishaw is listed at CB4 on the depth chart. He’s an athletic small school rookie CB from 2005.
Last modified: 2006-09-01 21:36:33