Running back committees are nothing new. However, they also usually aren’t as complicated as the one in Minnesota this year.
The Vikings Football gave Latavius Murray $15 million in March, the biggest deal any running back got in free agency this summer. Then they took Dalvin Cook in the second round of the NFL Draft. They still have last year’s leading rusher, Jerick McKinnon, on the roster. That’s one heck of a committee.
Murray fell behind in the competition in the offseason because he’s recovering from an ankle surgery, but assuming he’s healthy at the start of camp I don’t see any way he’s left completely out of the mix. I also don’t see any way he has a featured role. In other words, it’s a mess for Fantasy.
My expectations below are for what I think is the most likely scenario. I see Cook leading the team in carries, but falling short of 200 carries. I see Murray as a rotation back who gets a lot of work in short yardage, at least early in the year. I would expect Jerick McKinnon will lead the backfield in targets, but be the least valuable back.
While all three backs go into the season fighting for touches, Cook is the only one with the upside of earning a lion’s share of the touches. The problem is figuring out just how likely it is that he reaches that upside.
Minnesota Vikings Fantasy football 2017
Breaking down the touches
In 2016 the Vikings ran the ball only 380 times, while passing on more than 60% of their offensive plays. I believe that’s because they were so bad at running the ball, and not by design. To that end I’d expect at least a 10 percent increase in running plays in 2017, with a slight decrease in passes. We’ve already talked about where the carries may go, but what about the targets?
The Vikings threw the ball to their tight ends 146 times last year, which is a clear outlier over the past three seasons. Some of that is because of the sheer pass volume in 2016. As a team they’re right at 24 percent of their targets to the position over the past two seasons, which provides an excellent floor for Kyle Rudolph. Where do the 300+ targets to wide receivers go? Let’s take a look.
Laquon Treadwell was a first round pick just a year ago. He was also completely irrelevant to the Minnesota Vikings. catching just one pass as a rookie. But he still has talent, and the team’s main acquisition at receiver (Michael Floyd) is suspended for the first four games of the season. Treadwell’s biggest issue in 2016 was he couldn’t get on the field because the team didn’t trust his route-running. Reports this summer have indicated he’s at least improved that part of his game. Treadwell only needs to be drafted in the deepest of leagues, but he’s someone I’m buying in dynasty at a steep discount.