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Early 2016 Projections: The Minnesota Vikings, or Why Stefon Diggs is Free Money

Now that the NFL draft is over and the high-impact free agents have found their homes, we can starting doing some early 2016 fantasy football projections. Today: the Minnesota Vikings, including why Stefon Diggs is free money. 

First things first, using our staff projection machine I set some baseline team-wide assumptions:

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I went with the league-wide median for average scoring margin. I think the Vikings will be a good team, but not one of the best. For pass tendency (how often they pass relative to expectations) I went with the mean of their 2014 and 2015 numbers. 2015 may be more representative as they had Adrian Peterson, but I wanted to use a sample of more than a single season. For pace tendency (how many plays they execute relative to expectations) I went with the league-wide 25th percentile mark, which is actually faster paced than the mean of their 2014 and 2015 pace. I did not want to project a more extreme outcome than that.

Quarterback

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For Teddy Bridgewater’s interception rate, percentage of team rushing attempts, and yards per carry I went with the means of his 2014 and 2015 numbers. I went with the 75th percentile mark league-wide for his sack rate, which is actually an improvement from his 2014/2015 mean. The Vikings added Andre Smith and Alex Boone to the offensive line, so that modest improvement seems fair to project.

At under 4,000 passing yards and minimal rushing contributions, this projection doesn’t really make Bridgewater fantasy relevant despite being an improvement over last season. He only deserves consideration in best ball, 2QB, and superflex formats.

Wide Receivers

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For Stefon Diggs’ percentage of team targets I went with the league-wide median for a WR1, which represents an improvement of about one percent from 2015. For his catch rate, yards per target, and touchdown rate I just went with 2015 stats. This projection works out to 13.2 PPR fantasy points per game. That would have made Diggs the WR31 on a per game basis last season. Per the Best Ball ADP App, Diggs is currently being drafted as the WR46. So there’s at least boring profit to be had. There is also a real chance of a top 24 breakout season. Diggs is basically free money.

I projected Diggs to be more productive than Laquon Treadwell because Treadwell is a rookie and Diggs was a strong prospect who had a strong rookie season. I set Treadwell’s catch rate and yards per target to the league medians for a WR2. I set his TD rate and target percentage to the 75th percentile mark league-wide for a WR2. I set his TD rate higher because of his size and his usage higher because of his draft position. I loved Treadwell as a prospect because of his strong comps, but it’s hard to be fantasy relevant as a rookie on a run-heavy team when you’re not even the top option.

I projected Jarius Wright as the team’s WR3. I went with the means of his 2014 and 2015 numbers for all of his inputs.

Tight Ends

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I again just went with the means of 2014 and 2015 numbers for Kyle Rudolph. It unsurprisingly gives him a boring projection. Rudolph probably needs to over-perform in the TD department like he did in 2012 to be fantasy relevant.

I project MyCole Pruitt to be the team’s TE2. I set all of his inputs to the 75th percentile mark league-wide for a TE2. If you’re unfamiliar with Pruitt, Charles Kleinheksel has a quick and dirty rundown here.

Running Backs

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I just went with Peterson’s 2015 numbers for yards per carry, percentage of team targets, yards per target, TD rate, and catch rate. I downgraded his percentage of team rushing attempts to the 75th percentile mark for a RB1. His usage has pretty consistently hovered around there for his career. This works out to 15.8 PPG. That would have made Peterson the RB10 on a per game basis last season. Peterson simply doesn’t see the receiving usage you would want out of a top RB pick. I would not draft him in the first or second round of PPR drafts.

I also went with Jerick McKinnon’s 2015 numbers for this 2016 projection. The one change was that I bumped his share of the rushing attempts up to the 25th percentile mark for a RB2. This projection does not make him relevant, absent a Peterson injury.

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