Thought Adrian Peterson and his Minnesota Vikings were in for a studly 2014 before they finalized their coaching hires? Well, their upside for 2014 got even juicier.
The hiring of head coach Mike Zimmer – a defensive mind – already bodes well for Peterson. After all, Zimmerman will preach ball control offense and build up Minny’s defense to make sure the team is more balanced. But it’s the offensive coordinator hire than should get fantasy football owners truly excited.
The Vikes just finalized a deal with Norv Turner, formerly of the Cleveland Browns. Turner spent just one season in Cleveland, but his vertical (and tight end friendly) system made mega stars out of Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, and was so good that it helped make a slew of backup quarterbacks look respectable in Cleveland. In fact, it even made the Browns competitive.
So, what could this mean for the players in Minnesota in 2014? Potentially, great things.
Peterson is just so good on his own, that an upgrade in his coaching staff (and all around, it really is an upgrade) is only going to help him. But for guys like Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph, the upside really is saliva-inducing.
Like Gordon, Patterson is a raw, freak athlete with elite speed and physical tools. He’ll need to make major progress as a route-runner and work on angles and timing when it comes to making plays on the ball, but with a year under his belt and this new system, he’s a lock for a major jump in production.
Is he going to hit on Gordon’s insane 87-reception and 1,600+ yard season? I doubt it. But in just his second season, I personally will be shocked if C-Patt can’t crack 1,000 yards and chase 10 touchdowns. Provided, of course, along with the system and coaching upgrade, the Vikings find a way to also improve at the quarterback position.
Jennings isn’t quite the home run hitter that Patterson is, but he also should benefit immensely from the improved surroundings. He still displayed the speed to do damage off of screens, as well as make plays down the field, and thanks to his solid knowledge of the route tree, he should also see better numbers in his second season as a Viking.
But as promising as Minny’s two talented wideouts are, it’s tight end Kyle Rudolph that makes me want to do jumping jacks in socks on a basketball court (and believe me, it takes a lot for that to go down).
Rudy isn’t quite the athletic talent that Cameron is in Cleveland, but he does have great size and is a terrific red-zone presence. He also has decent speed and has the strength to fend off would-be tacklers to rack up yardage after the catch.
But even though he’s not the fluid baller that Turner prodigy’s like Cameron and Antonio Gates are, he has more than enough talent to develop into a truly elite TE1 in fantasy football. After all, odds are that Minnesota’s main starting quarterback next season is going to be a rookie, and rookies do tend to use tight ends as their safety valve. And regardless, Turner offenses feed off of them.
Cameron put up gaudy numbers in Turner’s system last year (80 receptions, 917 yards and seven touchdowns), and he did all of this despite a musical chairs of sorts at quarterback (three different starters) and missing one game.
Rudolph, on the other hand, has recorded 12 touchdowns over his last 24 games and caught a career high 53 balls in 2012. Considering Cameron’s career high in catches was just 20 in 2012, you can imagine what kind of jump Rudolph could be in for.
Rudolph needs to get back to 100% after fracturing his foot, but he missed half of the season and should be 100% by the time camps open. If the Vikings improve at quarterback and Rudy is ready, he should enter 2014 as a legit top-10 candidate at the tight end position in fantasy football and the Vikings as a whole could quickly become the new Cleveland Browns. In the best way possible, of course.
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