|By Shawn Childs, Wednesday, August 30, 2023|
2023 Minnesota Vikings Outlook
The Vikings flipped their coaching staff before 2022, leading to Kevin O'Connell earning his first head coaching job. He went 13-4 in his first season despite almost identical results in points scored (424 – 425 in 2021) and allowed (427 – 426 in 2021). Over the previous three years, he held the offensive coordinator job for Washington and the Rams, highlighted by his offense winning the Super Bowl in 2021. At age 38, O'Connell has been coaching in the NFL since 2015.
Wes Phillips took over the play-calling for their offense in 2022 after spending the previous three seasons with the Rams. Most of his experience in the NFL has come as a tight ends coach. Phillips has 16 seasons of experience in the league.
Wes Phillips takes over the play-calling for the offense after spending the previous three seasons with the Rams. Most of his experience in the NFL has come as a tight ends coach. Phillips has 15 seasons of experience in the league.
Minnesota climbed to 8th in points scored (424) and 7th in offensive yards. They haven't had a top-five scoring offense since 2009.
Their poor results on the defensive side of the ball led to Minnesota bringing in Brian Flores to run their defense. He started his NFL coaching career in 2008 with the Patriots. His success over 11 seasons led to him earning a head coaching job for Miami for three years (24-25). In 2022, Flores worked on Steelers' coaching staff as a senior defensive assistant and linebacker's coach.
The Vikings' defense has been in rebuild mode over the past three years, coming after five seasons with a top-nine rating in points allowed. Last year they allowed the second-most yards in the league, with regression in points allowed (427 – 28th).
Minnesota decided to move on from RB Dalvin Cook in early June in a cost-cutting move. Their other offensive loss was TE Irv Smith (MIN), who was replaced by TE Josh Oliver on the roster.
Their defense parted ways with DT Dalvin Tomlinson (CLE) and CB Patrick Peterson (PIT). The Vikings signed DE Marcus Davenport, CB Bryon Murphy, and DT Dean Lowry.
In the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the Vikings added WR Jordan Addison. He is another undersized wideout (5'11" and 175 lbs.), which has been the theme of some teams this year. Addition earns his edge with extreme quickness and efficient route running over the short areas of the field. His overall strength should improve as he adds more bulk. For now, he is at a disadvantage vs. press coverage and in 50/50 situations. Addison gains value in the open field due to his experience returning kicks.
The Vikings invested in their defense with their following three selections – CB Mekhi Blackmon, CB Jay Ward, and DT Jaquelin Roy.
Blackmon wants to lock up his receiver early off the snap while having a feel for slowing down his assignment with his hands (holding). Despite playing physically, he can be overmatched by power, speed, and quickness at different levels of the defense. Off the ball, Blackmon attacks with a feel for coverage, but his transition back to front can lead to easy catches while having some weakness in his tackling. His game should improve when he adds bulk (5'11" and 180 lbs.) to his frame.
Ward brings a tweener skill set to the NFL. His style of play fits the profile of the safety position, but he has to prove he can handle the rigors of more aggressive hits. Ward offset his below-par speed (4.55 40-yard dash) with his quick reads. Unfortunately, his aggressiveness can lead to some missed steps and blown coverages.
Roy has limited experience in college, but his game is trending upward. He plays with passion and fire off the snap, giving him finishing power to pressure the quarterback and a disrupting style. His challenge comes vs. bully blockers in the run game while needing to improve his moves and technique when stalled at the point of attack.
QB Jaren Hall was the choice in the fifth round. He has the look of a productive pocket passer while offering a below-par arm. Hall brings accuracy with a feel for pass rushers and coverage. He gets a knock by some NFL teams for his size (6'0" and 205 lbs.) and his ability to drive the ball on longer routes to the outer limits of the sidelines.
In the seventh round, Minnesota invested in RB DeWayne McBride. His two strikes coming to the NFL are ball security and aggressiveness in tight quarters on interior runs. He has a winning resume over the past two seasons at UAB, but McBride was rarely used in the passing game.
The Vikings slipped to 28th in the NFL in rushing yards (1,661) while averaging 23.8 rushes per game (about 10% lower than in 2021). Ball carriers gained only 4.1 yards per rush with 17 touchdowns and five runs over 20 yards.
Minnesota climbed to second in passing yards (4,818) with 30 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Their offensive line allowed 47 sacks over 672 pass attempts (3rd most in the league – 39.5 per game).
LT Christian Darrisaw missed six games with groin and ankle issues in his rookie season after getting drafted 23rd overall. He sat another three weeks in 2022 with a concussion. When on the field, Darrisaw reached dominating in run blocking status while improving his value in pass protection.
LG Ezra Cleveland has two full seasons of starts under his belt after coming to Minnesota in the second round in 2020. His value in the run game continues to improve, but defense ate him up in the pass rush last season.
C Garrett Bradbury battled a back issue last year, leading to five missed starts. Considering the high volume of passes thrown by the Vikings, he made strides in pass protection. His run blocking is trending higher. Minnesota drafted Bradbury in the first round in 2019.
RG Ed Ingram was a disaster in his rookie season (second round). He may have allowed the most pressure on the quarterback in the league with about league-average blocking in the run game.
RT Brian O'Neill suffered a partially torn Achilles last January, but he should be ready for opening day. He remains a winning piece on the Vikings' offensive line, even after allowing the most sacks of his career. Better play left of him should lead to another successful year in all areas.
Minnesota has plenty of talent on their offensive line, but they need their guards to reach their potential in 2023. They also need better running lanes for the backs based on their regression in yards per carry last year. Overall, this line should rank in the top third in the league.
QB Kirk Cousins - Solid/Safe Pick
Since arriving in Minnesota, Cousins posted a 46-33-1 record, with strength in his completion rate (67.8). He averaged 32 touchdowns over five seasons with the Vikings while sitting out two games.
In 2020 and 2021, Cousins ranked 11th and 10th in fantasy scoring (366.95 and 352.35) in four-point passing touchdowns leagues. His floor was 4,200 passing yards in three seasons from 2018 to 2021 while offering minimal value in the run game (44/123/1, 31/63/1, 32/156/1, and 29/115/1) over this span. In 2021, he passed for more than 300 yards in six matchups, but Cousins finished with only one impact game (32.25 fantasy points). On his down days, he scored fewer than 20.00 fantasy points in six outings, four of which gained less than 225 yards passing.
Last season, Cousins set career-highs in completions (424) and passing attempts (643), with his second-best showing in passing yards (4,547). A shorter passing window (46 sacks) led to weakness in his yards per pass attempt (7.1). After a sluggish first eight games (1,999 passing yards and 13 touchdowns), he produced three impact games (298/3, 425/2, 460/4, and 301/3) over the next seven weeks. Cousins finished 6th in quarterback scoring (354.95), falling in line with his previous two seasons.
Fantasy Outlook: Cousins will have a top-five opportunity in the league to throw again in 2023 while playing with an electric WR1 (Justin Jefferson). T.J. Hockenson (60/519/3 over 10 games) proved to be an excellent addition at the trade deadline last year. The combination of K.J. Osborn and Jordan Addison gives Minnesota the passing depth to test defenses all over the field. Cousins doesn't add much on the ground (31/97/2), but makes up for it by avoiding turnovers and brilliantly leading a top-5 passing attack. Next step: 5,000 combined yards with a career-high in touchdowns.
RB DeWayne McBride - Not Draft Worthy
Over the past two seasons, McBride rushed for 3,081 yards with 32 touchdowns on 238 carries. He only had 10 targets, leading to five catches for 29 yards. Last year, after sitting out the first game, McBride gained more than 100 yards in 10 of his 11 matchups, highlighted by five explosive showings (20/177/1, 28/233/4, 24/200, 24/168/1, and 16/272/1).
With the ball in his hands, McBride has a natural flow to openings with the balance to make yards after contact. He runs with patience and vision, helping extended plays for more yards than expected.
Fantasy Outlook: CUT. The Vikings may not give McBride chances out of the gate, but they may have difficulty getting him off the field once he shows upside running the ball.
RB Alexander Mattison - Gamble (high risk)
The Vikings running back production in rushing yards (1,556) and receiving yards (493) declined in back-to-back seasons. In addition, their yards per rush (4.2) is trending in the wrong direction. They set three-year lows in rushing attempts (369), catches (66), and targets (88). Their backs gained 2,049 yards with 19 touchdowns and 66 catches (22.64 FPPG in PPR formats). The only positive out of last year was Minnesota's willingness to run the ball in close for touchdowns.
Alexander Mattison, MIN
Minnesota gave Mattison the best opportunity of his three-year career in 2021, leading to 719 combined yards with four touchdowns and 32 catches. In his three games with starting snaps and over 20 touches (32, 32, and 25), he delivered Dalvin Cook type production in fantasy points (23.10, 27.30, and 21.40) in PPR formats. However, over his other 13 matchups, Mattison scored only 55.60 combined fantasy points. In addition, his yards per rush (3.7) and yards per catch (7.1) came in at career lows.
Last season, he saw his role slide to the lowest point in his four years (374 combined yards with six touchdowns and 15 catches on 89 touches). Mattison finished with the second-most running back snaps (304 – 24.8%). His decline in chances was due to Dalvin Cook staying healthier in 2022. On the downside, Mattison gained only 3.8 yards per rush and 6.1 yards per rush. His only playable fantasy game came in Week 18 (10/54/2 with one catch for six yards).
Fantasy Outlook: In the early draft season in late June, Mattison ranks 31st at running back as they wait for the Vikings to give some inside on their running back plans in 2023. He's shown flashes over his career, suggesting 200 touches are within reach. On the downside, Mattison doesn't have the resume or ceiling to keep the starting job if he stumbles out of the gate. My starting point is 1,000 combined yards with six to eight scores and 30 catches. His outlook will fluctuate over the summer.
RB Ty Chandler - Sleeper (undervalued)
The Vikings took a flier on Chandler in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. He saw action over five years in college, leading to 3,810 combined yards with 30 touchdowns and 72 catches. His stock rose in 2021 after switching to North Carolina (182/1,092/13 with 14 catches for 207 yards and one score).
Chandler brings elite speed (4.38 40-yard dash) to Minnesota. His hands grade higher than his stats show in college. He runs with patience and vision, but his lack of aggression after the handoff can lead to dead ends. Chandler will be dangerous on draw plays and in the flat when catching the ball in space.
In his first year with the Vikings, he sat out 14 games with an ankle issue and a broken left thumb. Minnesota gave him six carries for 20 yards in Week 18.
Fantasy Outlook: His speed will be a plus for the Vikings' up-tempo passing attack, especially if their offensive line can create spacing in their run lanes. With minimal stats in 2022, Chandler will fly under the radar this season. I'm very interested in his camp news and progression heading into this year. For now, he'll be Minnesota's change of pace back with a chance to seize their pass-catching role.
RB Kene Nwangwu - Low Potential
Nwangwu gets a knock for lack of experience with the ball in his hands, but any chance for him to grow as a runner comes from more game action. He must feel holes open while knowing when to hit the gas to win in tight quarters. His speed plays well while being a hard worker.
Over three seasons at Iowa State, Nwangwu gained only 752 combined yards with four touchdowns and six catches on 122 touches. Minnesota drafted him in the fourth round in 2021.
The Vikings gave Nwangwu only 22 carries over his first two years in the league, leading to 105 combined yards with six catches. He did strut his stuff on kickoff returns over the past two years (53/1,499/3 – 28.3 yards per chance).
Fantasy Outlook: Nwangwu has the inside track to make the Vikings' opening-day roster due to his value on special teams. He is only a dark horse for carries if Alexander Mattison is injured.
Injury Status: Injured Reserve
WR Jalen Reagor - Not Draft Worthy
Reagor started his college career with 33 catches for 576 yards and eight touchdowns as a freshman in 2017. The following year, he led the team in receiver production (72/1061/9) despite playing with three different lower-tier options at quarterback. Texas Christian struggled to throw the ball in 2019 (53.4% completion rate), leading to Reagor turning in a below-par season (43/611/5).
TCU used him on fades at the goal line, but his burst off the line didn't look special at the goal line. He will win his fair share of jump balls in the end zone. Reagor shines the most with the ball in his hands when seeing daylight. His acceleration through the second level of the defense is impressive when given space to make plays. He'll challenge defenses in the deep passing game.
In his rookie season over 11 games in 2020 with the Eagles, Reagor caught 31 of his 54 targets for 396 yards and one touchdown. He gained fewer than 60 yards in every game while gaining over 20 yards on four catches. The following year, Reagor finished with 33 catches for 299 yards and two touchdowns on 57 targets while gaining only 9.1 yards per catch.
Minnesota only had him on the field for 82 plays in 2022. He caught eight of his 13 targets for 104 yards and one score.
Fantasy Outlook: Reagor was released but should latch on to another roster. However, he has little to no fantasy value at this point.
Other Options: Brandon Powell, Jalen Nailor, Blake Proehl
WR Justin Jefferson - Stud (low risk)
Over Jefferson's first 50 games with the Vikings, he caught 324 passes for 4,825 yards and 25 touchdowns on 476 targets. He already has 78 catches of 20 yards or more (24.1% of his total catches), with 15 receptions reaching the 40-yard mark. At this point in his career, Jefferson averages 6.5 catches for 97 yards and 0.50 touchdowns per game or 19.18 fantasy points in PPR leagues.
In 2021, he gained more than 100 yards in seven matchups while having a floor of six catches in 11 of 17 starts. Jefferson finished fourth in wide receiver scoring (332.55) with two impact games (8/169/2 and 11/182/1). His 167 targets ranked fourth in the league.
Jefferson set career-highs in catches (128), receiving yards (1,809), and targets (184) last season, leading the league in all three categories. As a result, he led wide receivers in fantasy scoring (369.00) in PPR formats. His best impact value came in seven matchups (9/184/2, 10/150/1, 10/193/1, 11/223, 12/123/1, and 12/133/1), but Jefferson let fantasy teams down in four games (3/14, 3/33, 1/15, and 4/38). The Vikings gave him double-digit targets in 11 of his starts, giving him a floor of 10 catches in six contests.
Fantasy Outlook: In the early draft season in the high-stakes market, Jefferson is the first player selected by ADP. He has an incredible floor when adding how much Minnesota will throw this year while possibly still not reaching his ceiling. His next hurdle is scoring impact touchdowns. Can Jefferson have a fourth consecutive year of growth? The survey says, "Yes." My 2023 starting point is 120/1,800/12, leading to some wiggle room if he missed a stat prediction.
WR Jordan Addison - Quality Backup
Over 35 games in college, Addison caught 219 passes for 3,281 yards and 30 touchdowns on 318 targets. He posted an impact season in 2021 (100/1,649/18) for the Pitt Panthers, showcasing his potential. An ankle injury last year cost him three games after transferring to USC, leading to a setback in production (59/875/8 on 84 targets) over 11 matchups. When at his best over the past two years, Addison had six impact games (6/124/3, 6/179/3, 7/171/1, 14/202/4, 7/172/2, and 11/178/1).
Fantasy Outlook: Kirk Cousins gets a major upgrade at WR2 this season, and Addison will see favorable coverage on many plays, with Justin Jefferson lining up on the other side of the field. The Vikings will get him many catches over the short areas of the field, pointing to 80 catches in his rookie season with more than 1,000 yards and five to seven touchdowns. Addison draws WR3 status in late June in the high-stakes market as the 38th wideout off the table. He'll assume the Adam Thielen role in Minnesota's passing attack while adding much more explosive plays.
WR K.J. Osborn - Sleeper (undervalued)
Osborn had 146 catches for 2,037 yards and 17 touchdowns on 261 targets over his four seasons in college.
After not catching a ball in his rookie season, Osborn emerged as the Vikings' WR3 in 2021. He finished with 50 catches for 655 yards and seven touchdowns on 82 targets. Over his final six games as the injury cover for Adam Thielen, Osborn picked up 19 catches for 290 yards and five scores on 35 targets. His season started with three surprising games (7/76, 5/91/1, and 6/78/1) over the first six weeks.
Last summer, Osborn was on some drafter breakout sheet, but the Vikings didn't commit to him over his first 13 games (35/300/3 on 57 targets), with his only playable value coming in Week 3 (5/73/1). In a wild game on Thanksgiving, he posted an impact game (10/157/1), followed by two other productive showings in Week 17 (7/59/1) and Week 18 (5/117). In the end, Osborn almost repeated his previous results (60/650/5).
Fantasy Outlook: Even with Adam Thielen no longer on the roster, the WR3 role for the Vikings won't change for Osborn in 2023. The high-stakes fantasy market has placed their WR2 bets on the incoming rookie (Jordan Addison) based on June drafts. Osborn ranks 64th at wide receiver while on a path to be a 65/899/5 player in 2023.
TE T.J. Hockenson - Stud (low risk)
The addition of T.J. Hockenson midseason led to the Vikings' ranking third in the league in tight end catches (107) and targets (146). Despite the rise in opportunity, they failed to deliver higher-ranking results in receiving yards (875) and touchdowns (6). Their tight ends gained only 8.2 yards per catch, a three-year low.
T.J. Hockenson, MIN
After setting career-highs in all areas in 2020 (67/723/6 on 101 targets), Hockenson busted out of the gate the following season over the first two weeks (8/97/1 and 8/66/1). Defenses shut him down over his next three games (2/10, 4/42, and 2/22). Other than a no-catch outing in Week 10 on one target, Hockenson delivered six competitive games (8/74, 6/48, 10/89, 6/51, 3/35/1, and 4/49/1). A broken left thumb ended his year after Week 13. From 2021 and 2022, Hockenson had 128 catches for 1,306 yards and 10 touchdowns over 185 targets, or 11.38 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues.
The Lions used him as a big-play option over seven games last year, leading to 26 catches for 395 yards (15.2 yards per catch) and three touchdowns on 43 targets. Most of his production came in Week 4 (8/179/2). After his trade to Minnesota, Hockenson worked as a safety valve for Kirk Cousins. He had a floor of five catches in eight of his 12 games played (including the postseason) while posting two impact games (13/109/2 and 10/129). Overall, Hockenson set career-highs in catches (86), receiving yards (914), and targets (129) while ranking second in tight end scoring (216.40) in PPR formats.
Fantasy Outlook: This draft season, he ranks third behind Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews at tight end. The Vikings will no doubt give Hockenson plenty of chances, but the addition of Jordan Addison does cloud his ceiling. On a path to catch 80 passes for 850 yards and five touchdowns.
Other Options: Josh Oliver, Johnny Mundt, Nick Muse, Ben Sims
PK Greg Joseph - Bye Week Fill-in
After kicking his way out of the NFL in 2019, Joseph turned into a stud in 2021 (33-for-38 in field goal attempts), highlighted by his long-range success (seven kicks from 50 yards or more in his nine tries). Last season, he went 4-for-10 from the 50-yard line or beyond while missing only one of his other 23 field goal attempts. Over the past two years, Joseph failed on 10 of his 86 extra-point tries.
Minnesota signed Jack Podlesny to compete for their place-kicking job. Over three seasons at Georgia, he made 82.4% of his 74 field goals with some success from 50 yards (4-for-6). His weakness came on his 17 chances between 40 and 49 yards (seven missed).
Fantasy Outlook: The Vikings scored 49 touchdowns in 2022 while creating 33 field goal attempts. The winning kicker for the Vikings has a chance to be a top-10 fantasy option this year.
Minnesota - Not Draft Worthy
Minnesota bumped up to 20th in rushing yards allowed (2,093) with 18 touchdowns. They gave up 4.5 yards per rush, with opponents attempting 27.2 carries per game.
The Vikings fell to 31st in the league in passing yards allowed (4,515) with 23 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Quarterbacks gained 7.7 yards per pass attempt while being sacked 38 times.
DE Marcus Davenport has a five-year history of ranking as an asset in run support with the Saints. He lost momentum in sacks (1) last season after setting a career-best in 2021 (nine sacks). Davenport has missed 17 games in his career. DT Harrison Phillips rarely gets to the quarterback while working as a rotational player. His value against the run improved over the past two seasons. DE Dean Lowry has seven years of experience with the Green Bay Packers, but he has never been a top player in any area. Minnesota hopes to unlock the keys to DT Ross Blacklock after failing to make an impact over three seasons with the Texans and Vikings. Houston drafted him in the second round in 2020.
LB Jordan Hicks finished with 128 tackles, three sacks, one interception, and 10 defended passes in his first year with the Vikings. His run defense was the best of his career, but he finished a liability in coverage. LB Danielle Hunter is Minnesota's top pass rusher. He posted 65 sacks over his last 88 games while continuing to be a plus run defender. LB D.J. Wonnum played well in a rotational role in 2022, leading 38 tackles and four sacks. The previous year, he added eight sacks and four defended passes to their defense.
S Harrison Smith has been an elite player for over a decade, but his game is starting to show some fade at age 34. He missed five games over the past two years. Smith has a neutral floor in run support with value in pass coverage (five interceptions and 10 defended passes in 2022). S Camryn Bynum handled himself well against the run in his first year with starting snaps, but he did give up some passing scores and big plays in coverage. Last year, the Vikings drafted S Lewis Cine 32nd overall, but he only saw minimal snaps in two games due to a broken leg. Cine will upgrade this defense in 2023.
CB Byron Murphy missed eight games last year with the Cardinals due to a lingering back issue. In 2021, he posted a career-high in interceptions (4) and defended passes (12). His tackling must improve to add more value to Minnesota's run defense. CB Andrew Booth only saw the field for 105 plays in his rookie season after getting drafted in the second round in 2022. He'll compete with incoming rookie CB Mekhi Blackmon for starting snaps.
Compared to 2022, the Vikings' defense should be better in the secondary if Lewis Cine seizes a starting job and one of their young cornerbacks steps up to handle a starting gig. I see a below-par defensive line with three assets on the first two levels of their defense – Marcus Davenport, Danielle Hunter, and Jordan Hicks. In the end, the Vikings' defense ranks below the league average, with only occasional matchup value in the fantasy market.