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GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

HC Kevin O’Connell

OC Wes Phillips

DC Brian Flores

 

Projected Starting Lineup

QB Kirk Cousins

RB Alexander Mattison

WR1 Justin Jefferson

WR2 Jordan Addison

SLWR K.J. Osborn

TE T.J. Hockenson

LT Christian Darrisaw

LG Ezra Cleveland

C Garrett Bradbury

RG Ed Ingram

RT Brian O’Neill

 

Passing Game Overview

Kirk Cousins enters his age-35 campaign surrounded by the most talented supporting cast of his six-year Minnesota tenure; the Vikings have used virtually every avenue to build up his weaponry and offensive line. Conversely, the arrow is pointing down on Minnesota’s defense, which figures to resort to frequent high-risk blitzing by first-year DC Brian Flores in order to manufacture pass rush. Playing in a dome on a probable shootout team, Cousins is firmly positioned to finish as a top-12 fantasy passer for the fourth straight season. Because he is short on “sexy” factor, Cousins typically goes later than he should in drafts.

Justin Jefferson is 2023’s consensus 1.01 fantasy pick after becoming the youngest player in history to lead the NFL in both catches (128) and receiving yards (1,809), and in so doing making Establish The Run subscribers bank by earning 2022 Offensive Player of the Year. Jefferson wins consistently from both the perimeter and slot, and his ability to beat double teams is truly elite. (He will also have to use that skill less often now bookended by T.J. Hockenson for a full season and first-round pick Jordan Addison.)

T.J. Hockenson is my No. 3 fantasy tight end for the 2023 season, behind only Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews. He saw extreme volume after arriving from Detroit last Nov. 1; Hockenson’s full-season pace from Weeks 9-17 was 112 receptions. 2018’s Mackey Award winner, Hockenson is above average or better in all phases of tight end play, just turned 26, and rarely leaves the field in a decidedly pass-first offense.

Jordan Addison was drafted 23rd overall by the Vikings after earning 2021’s Biletnikoff Award as college football’s top wide receiver at Pitt, then transferring to USC for his final season and banking a pedestrian 59/875/8 (14.8 YPR) stat line. Unimposing physically, Addison managed a 4.49 forty at 5-foot-11, 173 before the draft. Scouts praised Addison for his hands and savvy route running. In Minnesota, I expect him to be the clear-cut No. 3 pass option behind Jefferson and Hockenson, curtailing Addison’s upside.

K.J. Osborn, Jalen Nailor, Josh Oliver, and Jalen Reagor comprise Minnesota’s top sub-package wide receiver and tight end options. Osborn is a useful real-life possession target but obviously has a capped box-score ceiling that was further lowered by the Addison pick. Oliver is a quality No. 2 tight end as a capable pass blocker and competent chain mover. The Vikings gave him a surprising three-year, $21 million deal in free agency, although only $8.2 million was guaranteed. Beat writers consider second-year sixth-round pick Nailor the frontrunner for No. 4 wideout duties over former Eagles draft bust Reagor.

 

Running Game Overview

Alexander Mattison inherits Dalvin Cook’s workhorse role after re-signing a two-year, $7 million deal, 91% of which is guaranteed. Mattison possesses prototypical feature back size (5-foot-11/221) and has been treated commensurately by Vikings coaches in past opportunities to spell Cook; Mattison’s touch counts in his past five starts were 24, 32, 32, 25, and 16. Last year, Mattison outplayed Cook on a one-for-one basis, finishing 16th in PFF rushing grade compared to Cook’s 64th overall placement. Cook’s release leaves behind the NFL’s sixth-most carries (264), fifth-most red-zone touches (48), and second-most routes run (393) among running backs. A bellcow back who’s capable in the passing game and obviously trusted by Kevin O’Connell’s staff, I’m willing to draft Mattison aggressively above his ADP this season.

Ty Chandler is expected to open camp favored for No. 2 back duties over kick returner Kene Nwangwu and seventh-round rookie DeWayne McBride. A second-year fifth-round pick out of North Carolina, Chandler struggled for playing time behind Cook and Mattison as a rookie, but he is an exciting change-of-pace talent at 5-foot-11, 204 with 4.38 long speed and a scintillating 1.46 10-yard split. In O’Connell’s debut season, Minnesota’s offense ranked seventh in yards per game (361.5) and eighth in points per game (24.9). I love investing picks in this offense, and Chandler is one of my favorite late-round sleepers.

 

2023 Win Total

As of July 5, the Vikings’ Win Total at DraftKings Sportsbook was 8.5 with odds favoring the over (-130). Although I am bullish on Minnesota’s offense in fantasy terms, I’m siding with the under on their wins at plus money (+110). Last year’s Vikings went a deceptive 13-4 despite finishing 15th in point differential (-3) with an obviously unsustainable 11-0 record in one-score games. This offense will score — draft their players in your leagues! — but their defense will be a problem the coaching staff will struggle to mask.