Vikings stars on opposite paths? Adam Thielen set to rebound, but Dalvin Cook could disappoint

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The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all 32 NFL teams between now and the eventual start of the 2020 draft season. Here, we’ll tackle pressing fantasy questions, #FantasyHotTaeks, and team win totals. Next up, the Minnesota Vikings.

Does Adam Thielen return to fantasy WR1 status coming off an injury-plagued season, but without Stefon Diggs attracting defensive attention?

Matt: Adam Thielen is a clear “buy” in fantasy this year. Even if the team wants to continue establishing the run, Thielen should absolutely dominate the target share here. It’s within his range of outcomes to get back to his previous level of 150 to 140 targets in a season. Thielen can offset some of the “extra defensive attention” issue because he lines up inside in favorable situations and at flanker outside. That makes him difficult to press at the line or roll too much coverage toward. Go with the volume here.

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Dalton: Yes, he’s going to be 30 and coming off an injury-plagued season, but with Diggs gone, Thielen is one of a handful of favorites to lead the NFL in targets this season. It remains unclear how much of the slot he’ll see with rookie Justin Jefferson used almost exclusively in that role in college, but Thielen is going to be a top-10 fantasy WR in 2020 either way.

Scott: Easily. Such a clear path to targets. And while Kirk Cousins has a moderate upside, he’s good enough. Opportunity is still gigantically important in our game. Thielen makes sense in the third round, and is a screaming value if you can land him after that.

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Dalvin Cook was RB5 last season. Going in the top seven in most drafts, is that about right, is there still room for more, or is he too expensive?

Dalton: Cook is both terrific and used as a true workhorse when on the field, but his health concerns are too great to spend a first-round fantasy pick. There’s a list of past injuries, including a chronically dislocated shoulder. It’s truly bizarre when Clyde Edwards-Helaire is considered a risky first-round fantasy pick while Cook is regularly going in the top-five, and we haven’t even begun to discuss him possibly holding out. I’ll be grabbing Mike Boone at the end of my fantasy drafts.

Matt: We know there’s holdout risk with Dalvin Cook now. That creates a big cloud of uncertainty around what would have otherwise been a really appealing fantasy outlook. I don’t think there’s any value in speculating how he’ll approach the holdout either. He could skip a season, several games, show up right before Week 1, how the hell am I supposed to know? He’s a human being capable of changing his mind at any moment or simply follow his convictions to whatever end he sees. So take that risk into account when deciding to click his name in a fake football draft.

Scott: Between the holdout angle and the injury risk, I’d prefer not to spend the big draft capital for Cook. Granted, this is professional football, everyone has some injury risk, and the sure things run out quickly. But Cook is more reactive than proactive pick for me, not wanting to price in his breakout year and still worried about the medical and contract issues.

With Stefon Diggs gone, 94 targets (from 2019) are up for grabs. How do you expect the target hierarchy to go behind Thielen and Cook? Is there a sleeper to prioritize in drafts?

Matt: The depth chart beyond Adam Thielen is completely barren of good veteran talent at wide receiver. Tajae Sharpe is not a consequential addition. Even if there’s a slow developmental curve because of the truncated COVID offseason, rookie Justin Jefferson should slot in behind Thielen among receivers. He will likely alternate between outside and inside with the vet. However, the targets for second-year tight end Irv Smith could be surprisingly high. The team wants to play two-tight end sets on a majority of their plays and Smith was a tantalizing talent coming out of Alabama.

Dalton: The biggest impact regarding Diggs’ departure is Thielen now becoming a no-brainer top-10 fantasy WR, but otherwise this remains a run-heavy team without many other exciting options. But Irv Smith is a sleeper at a deep tight end position, as he’s athletic and is the favorite to emerge as Minnesota’s No. 2 option in the passing game in 2020.

Scott: My colleagues have the right leans here. I am out on the support wideouts, will revisit Justin Jefferson next year (or perhaps in-season if he pops). But Irv Smith, as a second-year tight end, could be worth a flier in the late rounds, or at least a spot on the proactive watch list.

[2020 Draft Rankings: Overall | QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | DST | Kickers]

Minnesota Vikings 2020 Projected Lineup
Minnesota Vikings 2020 Projected Lineup

#FantasyHotTaek

Matt: Irv Smith outscores Kyle Rudolph and is a top-15 tight end. The second-year player should be ready to roll after taking things slow as a rookie. Smith could see a big boost in targets considering the state of the wide receiver depth chart. The Vikings were already using him as a slot receiver on 33.4 percent of his snaps last year.

OVER/UNDER on 8.5 Win Total from BetMGM

Dalton: The Vikings were better than their 10-6 record suggested last year (plus-104 points), and I expect the Packers to take a major step back, so this division is there for Minnesota. Kirk Cousins has finished No. 4 and No. 3 in CPAE over the last two seasons, so the Vikings are legitimate Super Bowl threats. With continuity on the coaching staff, this is an easy OVER, so I can understand the heavy juice (-160).  

Follow Matt: @MattHarmon_BYB

Follow Scott: @scott_pianowski

Follow Dalton: @daltondeldon

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