Bo Mitchell and John Tuvey have roughly a half-century of experience in the fantasy football industry between them, authoring many leather-bound books on the topic. Co-hosts of “The Fantasy Football Party” podcast, Bo and 2V concocted this series to help you stay true to your Vikings fandom while dominating your fantasy league.
If you prefer to keep your fantasy football teams free of Minnesota Vikings-related conflict, navigating the wide receiver position won’t be easy in 2020.
For starters, Minnesota is threatening to trot out the least experienced cornerback squad in the league — a tempting prospect for any fantasy manager to target. On top of that, Mike Zimmer’s young crew of CBs is slated to face seven of the top nine fantasy wideouts this year.
Perhaps the wiser approach would be to mitigate the Minnesota damage and pick your poison by targeting Viking foes early and avoiding them later. Over the typical fantasy playoffs — Weeks 14-16 — the Vikings face three of those top seven wideouts, including two when they take on Tampa Bay Dec 13. It’s a bit easier to digest 11-147-1 from Amari Cooper in a Week 11 tilt than from Michael Thomas a month later to end your title dreams.
But if the goal is to avoid all obstacles to Vikings fandom with your fantasy receiving corps, we’ve got your blueprint. Whether or not that includes taking Bo Mitchell’s advice about adding Adam Thielen is up to you.
TAKING A WIDE RECEIVER EARLY
As noted above, the Vikings’ schedule is heavy on elite fantasy receivers. Among the receivers consistently going off the board in the first two rounds, only DeAndre Hopkins and Tyreek Hill duck the Vikings. Minnesota would have also faced Hopkins had he not been traded from Houston to Arizona in the offseason.
The alternative is taking consensus WR1 Thomas, who hasn’t topped seven catches or 85 yards in four recent meetings with Mike Zimmer’s defense and been held out of the end zone in three of the four. However, that means you’ll have to sweat out his Week 16 Christmas Day fantasy bowl contest against the Vikings.
Of course, results may vary with the change in personnel but with multiple bad outcomes for the Vikings fan — Thomas blows up the purple or Minnesota shuts down your top fantasy pick — it makes sense to shop in a different aisle.
There’s not much non-conflict wiggle room among third-round receivers either. Odell Beckham Jr. and Juju Smith-Schuster are the only other wideouts among the first 14 off the fantasy board who won’t play the Vikings this season. And there’s the added bonus of OBJ being borderline “one of us:” His mother was a Minnesota state track champion three decades ago.
Fortunately, there are plenty of talented wide receivers hanging out in the vicinity of the fourth round capable of delivering fantasy success without Vikings-based anguish. Options run the gamut from the veteran consistency of Keenan Allen and Robert Woods to the tangy zip of young upside offered by Terry McLaurin and Courtland Sutton. You could even get the band back together and reunite Adam Thielen with former running mate Stefon Diggs.
MID-ROUND WIDE RECEIVERS
If you’ve avoided wide receivers to this point, the good news is two-fold: you’ll have an elite backfield and maybe a top tight end to boot, plus you’ve reached the point of the draft board where you can load up on wideouts with potential while operating relatively free of potential Vikings conflict.
Assuming the top 24 ADP wide receivers are gone as we hit the fifth round, just six of the next 20 receivers bump into the Vikings this season. That group includes Cowboys rookie CeeDee Lamb and teammate Michael Gallup, who fall in queue behind Cooper on a Cowboys offense that still prefers to run the ball; Seattle’s Tyler Lockett and Indy’s TY Hilton, who also see their caps limited by a pass-averse attack; and Houston’s Brandin Cooks and Will Fuller as they vie to replace Hopkins’ targets and productivity.
If it’s rookie upside you seek you can pivot from Lamb to Denver’s Jerry Jeudy, Philly’s Jalen Reagor or Minnesota’s own Justin Jefferson. Prefer experience? Cincy’s A.J. Green and the Patriots’ Julian Edelman let you scratch that itch. And there’s plenty of upside to players who don’t fall easily into one of those two categories, from the volume potential of Jarvis Landry and Tyler Boyd to a pair of pass-catchers expected to grow along with their sophomore quarterbacks, Arizona’s Christian Kirk and the Giants’ Darius Slayton. Pittsburgh’s Diontae Johnson also lands in this range and is receiving plenty of preseason buzz as a primary beneficiary of Ben Roethlisberger’s return to the lineup.
Even if you duck wideouts entirely through the first four rounds, you can still build a conflict-free receiving corps along the lines of Boyd, Jefferson, Kirk and Edelman that’s bursting with reception volume and upside.
WAITING ON WIDEOUTS
We’ve now reached the dart-throwing portion of the program, and fortunately for Vikings fans there aren’t many danger zones when making those late-round tosses. Among wideouts with an ADP of WR45 or below there are scant few it would hurt to pass on in a conflict-avoidance posture:
- Marvin Jones (WR46), who has chewed up the Vikings in the past and yields plenty of potential as Kenny Golliday’s wingman in Detroit
- Emmanuel Sanders (WR56), though being a secondary part of the Saints’ passing game doesn’t carry the same fantasy juice it once did
- Anthony Miller (WR59), looking for a bounce-back campaign as the second receiver in a Nick Foles-led offense
- Curtis Samuel (WR63) and Robby Anderson (WR67), upside-laden options in a revamped Carolina attack now helmed by former Viking Teddy Bridgewater
Tempting as those targets may be, they don’t sap the late rounds of sleeper talent. The Chiefs’ Mecole Hardman is a hot offseason topic with an ADP at WR45 and a quarterback who could single-handedly boost him 20 spots north of that. Or if you prefer to let others buy the hype you can snag Sammy Watkins with an ADP 15 picks south of Hardman.
Among the plethora of other conflict-free late-round options, here are a few of my favorites:
- N’Keal Harry, with the talent to be the Patriots’ top downfield target and potentially a former MVP quarterback to find him there
- DeSean Jackson, a best-ball gem whose deep-ball talent can single-handedly deliver a win or two
- No fewer than four Big Apple options, including Giants Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate flourishing in Year 2 of Daniel Jones and Jets Jamison Crowder and Breshad Perriman enjoying the same out of a better-protected Sam Darnold
While it may be tough slogging early on to build a roster of receivers that avoids Viking conflict, ultimately those who choose the home team over the sugar rush of a fantasy victory can still build a title-worthy receiving corps. As the great philosopher W. Axl Rose once opined, “All we need is just a little patience.”