Bo Mitchell and John Tuvey have roughly a half-century of experience in the fantasy football industry between them. Scholars maintain the actual number of years could even be much higher. 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.
For those scoring at home, please note that this is the seventh installment in a glorious, eight-part series from 2V and I in which we address the condition of being both an ardent Minnesota Vikings supporter and avid fantasy football player. So, if you missed any part of the initial six-pack, go back and drink them in after consuming this one.
First, let’s look at Dalvin Cook. He’s the Vikings player with the most fantasy value and it isn’t particularly close, making him the subject of considerable intrigue in these parts as well as across the fantasy industry.
In 2019, Cook finished 10th in the NFL with 1,135 rushing yards and fourth with 13 rushing touchdowns despite playing 14 games. He was also sixth among running backs with 519 receiving yards on 53 receptions (10th among running backs). Add it all up and he was a top-five or six fantasy running back in most scoring systems.
It, therefore, follows that he would have a similar status as a top fantasy option heading into 2020, especially since workhorse backs carry such a premium value. Even given his injury history, Cook is a blue-chip fantasy player.
Now for the elephant in the room.
His contract status complicates his fantasy value a little, but not as much as you’d think it might. If anything, his stated intention to hold out of training camp is actually making him a little more accessible to all fantasy players — not just those with high draft picks.
THE RIGHT VALUE
In a perfect world, where Cook had a few more seasons left on his contract and wasn’t posturing about holding out of camp, he would be going smack dab in the middle of the first round of fantasy drafts. Those likely to be picked ahead of him in most leagues include Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott. In PPR leagues, Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara are considerations to be drafted ahead of Cook. In Superflex leagues, where two quarterbacks can be started, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are in the mix as top-five picks.
Thus, even Superflex leagues with a PPR component to the scoring system, Cook would be, at worst, a top-10 pick… if he wasn’t threatening to hold out. We’ve seen before what holdouts can do. Last season, Melvin Gordon, then of the Chargers, held out into the regular season, missing the first four games. In 2018, Le’Veon Bell, then of the Steelers, missed the entire season due to a contract dispute. With these examples still fresh in the minds of those who live and die with their fantasy teams, Cook’s situation is leading to hesitation in leagues that are already drafting this far in advance of the season.
There are some leagues in which Cook is slipping into the second round, but in most, he’s still being drafted toward the end of Round 1. He becomes a better value the later he slides in drafts, obviously, and at some point, an owner is willing to risk it. Besides, the prevailing assumption seems to be that the Vikings will get things sorted out with Cook and the two sides will reach an accord before things get out of hand. As has been discussed on this site ad nauseam, there’s an incentive for both sides to do so. I went on record immediately after Cook announced his intentions to hold out as saying I believe a new contract will get done before camp begins.
So, if you are a Viking fan and absolutely need to have Cook on your fantasy team, you might be in luck even if you wind up picking late in the first round of a 12- or 14-team league.
Having said all of that, if the Vikings begin their workouts at TCO Performance Center at the end of this month and Cook actually is holding out, his fantasy value will start sliding even more. It becomes a risk tolerance proposition as owners ask themselves if they can stomach the possibility of him missing regular-season games. If the holdout extends into August, all bets are off and fantasy owners will be hanging on every Twitter report or rumor when attempting to divine the perfect point at which to draft him. Some owners — especially those who drafted Gordon last year or Bell the year before that — might add Cook to their “do not draft” list.
As an aside, the closer your league drafts to the start of the regular season, the better. I’ve always felt this way. You just know more data the closer you get to the start of the season – more about injuries, position battles… and contract disputes. Ideally, Cook’s situation gets sorted out one way or another before your league holds its draft this summer.
First, published auction values are wildly misleading. The prices posted are only practical when the playing field is even, i.e. when everyone has about the same amount of money in their auction coffers at the start of the auction or a few minutes in. Once the money starts getting spent, the playing field becomes uneven and the published auction values on your cheat sheet depreciate in usefulness rapidly.
Secondly, every league is different. Beyond the fact that some leagues might have a $100 auction budget while others have $200 or $1,000 or anywhere in between, leagues just tend to value positions differently. Some of that has to do with the scoring system. However, sometimes you can be in multiple leagues with very similar scoring systems and auction budgets and quarterbacks will go for only a few bucks in one and for $20 in another.
Cousins is probably going for anywhere from $3 to $10 in auctions with $100 budgets. Thielen is most likely in the $10 to $20 range in said leagues. Smith is a $1, end-of-the-auction flier if he gets picked at all. On the other hand, Cook will still be a big-ticket player who commands at least 40% of your auction budget.
It’s much easier to project the values of elite running backs in auctions because they are usually among the first to be nominated for bids when everyone still has a lot of money. And if they aren’t on the auction block really early in the proceedings, several owners will be sitting on cash earmarked for a bell-cow running back waiting to get into a bidding war once his name is announced. Some leagues go crazy in running back bidding with the top backs going for even 60-70% of the budget. You’ll be able to tell quickly if your league is that extreme. Long story short, if your league uses an auction to distribute players – which they should because it’s far more equitable and more fun than a draft and also it’s the 21st century – you better be ready to spend big money if you bleed purple and absolutely need Cook on your squad.
The premise of this article is that your perfect 2020 NFL season includes rooting for the Vikings every week while wearing Helga Horns and face paint and having Cook in your fantasy lineup.
If that’s you, the answer is simple.
Don’t let Cook slide in your draft. Take him with your first pick or you probably won’t get him – unless you’re picking on the turn at the end of the first round/beginning of the second in a serpentine draft. This “don’t wait” approach holds true even if he’s holding out at the time of your draft.
Then cross your fingers.
Oh, and in every scenario make sure you also draft Alexander Mattison as insurance just in case. That’s a requirement, not a luxury. Mattison the most important handcuff player in fantasy football this year.