Vikings

Will Dalvin Cook Or Justin Jefferson Be More Valuable In Fantasy Football?

Photo Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson are, without a doubt, the two best players on the Minnesota Vikings’ offense. They’re so good that, at one point or another, Cook and Jefferson have arguably been the top players at their respective positions league-wide.

It’s always a good feeling to have two elite skill-position players. It’s an even better feeling watching the Vikings tear apart an opposing team’s defense, knowing damn well that your fantasy team is also putting up numbers. That’s why drafting players from your favorite team makes fantasy football even more enjoyable.

However, there is a dilemma for Purple People Drafters. Unless you’re in a comically small league, chances are you won’t be able to land both Cook and Jefferson. You’ll have to choose between the two. So who should you draft?

Dalvin Cook

Cook saw a decline in fantasy production in 2021 compared to earlier years. In 2020, he tallied the third-most fantasy points in standard leagues and ranked second in fantasy points in PPR leagues. But Cook’s total fantasy points declined the following year. He ranked 15th in standard leagues and 16th in PPR leagues. He also has a concerning injury history, having missed 13 games over the last four seasons.

With Mike Zimmer and Klint Kubiak out of the picture, Cook’s role on the offense is likely to change. Cook’s rushing attempts are expected to decrease, but that reduction in rushing attempts could be balanced out by an increase in targets as a pass-catching option, especially in PPR formats. During OTAs, Cook lined up in wide receiver sets in multiple formations. When talking to the media about his role in the new offense, he said to “expect the unexpected.”

While it’s reasonable to question whether Cook is still an elite fantasy RB, Cook still showed signs of being the elite fantasy RB we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. In 2021, he ranked highly in these statistical categories:

  • Top five in total rushing attempts
  • Top 10 RB in PPG in 2021
  • T-ninth most TDs among RBs
  • Played 71% of snaps, T-fifth most among RBs

Perhaps carrying less of a burden in the running game will help with Cook’s career longevity and overall fantasy productivity. Still, it’s a risky proposition for fantasy owners drafting early in the first round.

Justin Jefferson

In 2020, Justin Jefferson was a rookie wide receiver with big shoes to fill after Stefon Diggs departed. While pundits expected Jefferson to have some sort of a role in the offense, nobody expected him to burst onto the scene the way he did. Jefferson capped off his inaugural season by breaking the rookie receiving record by more than 400 yards.

In 2021, Jefferson was on everyone’s radar in fantasy football. He went from a late-round flier in his rookie year to being taken as early as the second round in fantasy drafts. With fans now having high expectations, Jefferson asserted himself as an elite receiver despite being in Klint Kubiak’s run-heavy offense.

By the end of the 2021 season, Jefferson ranked:

  • Fourth in receptions and targets among WRs
  • Second in yards among WRs in 2021
  • Sixth in TDs among WRs in 2021
  • Fourth in total points among WRs in 2021
  • Sixth in fantasy points per game among WRs
  • Second in total snaps among WRs in 2021

The Vikings hired former Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell this offseason as their head coach. If there’s one player poised to benefit from this the most, it’s Jefferson. O’Connell helped Cooper Kupp have a career year in 2021, reaching 1,947 yards before winning Super Bowl MVP. The shift in offensive philosophy from previous teams under Mike Zimmer to a more modern approach under O’Connell has players in the building buzzing.

Our offensive style, it’s not run-first. Just us being able to put different people in different positions and distribute the ball. Really, I’m so excited in this offense…We’re all excited. We’re all happy to have O’Connell. It’s definitely a different vibe, a different connection in the building with him there. We’re just excited to start it up, really. We want to see how this season really turns out for us.

Who should you draft?

When looking at the stats and the change in offensive philosophy, it’s easy to conclude that Jefferson is the better player at his position. However, elite running backs are generally more valuable than elite wide receivers due to a lack of top-end talent at the RB position.

I don’t view Cook as an elite fantasy RB heading into the 2022 season. I project him as a top-15 RB with similar production to Darrell Henderson, who also missed time due to injury. Conversely, Jefferson once again projects to be an elite fantasy wideout and the more valuable player of the two.

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