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Jarius Wright, Cordarrelle Patterson and the New Vikings Offense

Yards After Catch

That was the focus of a recent ESPN piece:

Among the more important — and yet possibly more overlooked — factors contributing to the success of Norv Turner’s downfield passing game is its ability to open up space for receivers after the catch. Turner’s attack relies on spacing much in the manner that a basketball team does, opening up room horizontally by spreading the field vertically. That creates opportunities for receivers on underneath routes…

Hey, that sounds fantastic. And it rings true: In San Diego, while players like Vincent Jackson were catching deep passes, players like Ladanian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles were wreaking havoc underneath. But does that translate to Minnesota?

First, let’s see who the likely deep threat is. This table compares the two best deep receivers during Turner’s San Diego years1 with the likely candidates on Minnesota’s roster.

Player Tgts Yds YPT
Malcom Floyd 345 3628 10.5
Greg Jennings 208 2185 10.5
Vincent Jackson 469 4745 10.1
Jarius Wright 79 744 9.4
Cordarelle Patterson 77 469 6.1

On the surface, Greg Jennings looks like a likely candidate, but take a look at his year over year yards/target:


Others have made good arguments for Jennings recently, so I’ll let you read those. I think he’s an interesting redraft value this year. But the point is that his YPT has been declining- even before he came to Minnesota. So he may not be the deep threat Norv needs. Could Jarius Wright be the deep target? Maybe. He sure has the speed and the college pedigree to suggest that. But it’s not a slam dunk.

Shawn Siegele did a great job explaining how the most obvious beneficiary of Turner’s system, Cordarelle Patterson, isn’t a deep threat. I would argue, and I think Mr Siegele’s article suggests this, that Patterson makes a great candidate to benefit from all the open space underneath that Turner’s system should create. Adrian Peterson isn’t a huge factor in the passing game, and although Jerick McKinnon could be, I like Patterson much more especially in the short term. So bully for Patterson. But if there’s no vertical game, all that space underneath won’t be there for him to utilize. That would be a significant detriment to his breakout potential, no?

So I think we’re still left with some unanswered questions:

  • Who is the deep threat?
  • If there isn’t a viable deep threat, does Turner’s offensive system still work?
  • If there isn’t a viable deep threat, does he change his system?
  • If he changes the system, then what? Will it work? Who benefits?
  • What about QB play? Matt Cassel is an improvement over Christian Ponder, in the same way that plain Bic pen is an improvement on a #2 pencil. Teddy Bridgewater is a fine prospect, but will he start? When? How does he fit Turner’s offense?

I think that, no matter what the answer to any of those questions turns out to be, that Adrian Peterson is a lock to be a heavily used focal point of the offense. Duh, right? But seriously, whom else in that offense makes any sense right now? Jennings may make a good value based on ADP. Patterson may or may not produce at a level commensurate with his athleticism. How much draft equity are you willing to spend to find out?

Personally, I probably won’t invest in any Vikings players, except perhaps Bridgewater in dynasty leagues where I need a QB for the future. What about you? Sound off in the comments.

  1. only targets for seasons where player had more than 30 total targets are included  (back)

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