Kirk Cousins‘ signing with Minnesota is first and foremost a matter of Super Bowl-contention. Still, if our readers are anything like Vikings fans we know, they tend to not only obsess over fantasy, but make efforts to draft as many Vikings as possible. And with Cousins, his potential bump in fantasy value is an interesting side effect to his first season in purple.
Regardless of what you may think of Cousins as a field general, he has consistently been near the top of the rankings as a fantasy quarterback. Cousins finished eighth in 2015, fifth in 2016 and sixth in 2017, according to FantasyPros. On top of that, he has typically suffered from a lack of productive weapons around him while in Washington. Keeping it in terms of fantasy value, here are his top two receivers in each of his three seasons as a starter:
2017: Crowder (48th), Josh Doctson (58th)
Reed is the only guy one would view as a viable option for starting on a weekly basis. Compare that to the Vikings’ top scorers from last year: Adam Thielen (14th), Stefon Diggs (19th) and Kyle Rudolph (42nd). And those results are with Case Keenum at quarterback, who was unable to consistently make downfield throws. With Cousins, those three should earn more value on the fantasy market and Cousins’ value should skyrocket, now that he has access to a quality toy box for the first time.
Of course, there is one other thing to consider. Cousins played for a team that ran the ball 40.84 percent of the time last season. That was 17th-most in the NFL. The Vikings ran it 45.93 percent, good for fifth-most. Granted, Minnesota had a different coordinator and a more limited quarterback. But they were also without their ace running back. It is to be seen what impact the return of Dalvin Cook and the John DeFilippo offense will have on Minnesota’s play calling balance.
We will assume for the sake of the discussion that the Vikings’ will somewhat increase their passing frequency with Cousins. FantasyPros currently has Cousins ranked as the eighth-best quarterback option for the upcoming fantasy season. Let us take a look at the passing play call frequency from each of the other top-10 quarterbacks’ teams in 2017.
- Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: 61.36 percent, (take with grain of salt, due to injury)
- Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks: 59.38 percent
- Tom Brady, New England Patriots: 59.78 percent
- Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans: 56.38 percent (like Rodgers, spent most of season injured)
- Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: 52.96 percent
- Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles: 55.78 percent
- Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: 56.37 percent
- Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings: 54.07 percent (Vikings’ percentage last season, not Washington’s)
- Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: 62.96 percent
- Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers: 59.70 percent
The Vikings’ total is in fact not the lowest of the top-10, the Panthers’ is. That, however, also takes into account Newton’s rushing ability, particularly in the red zone, which obviously enhances fantasy value. Same goes for Wilson and Watson. So among the seven traditional pocket passers, Minnesota’s percentage was comfortably the lowest. If we assume that number will bump up to around 56 percent in 2018, that would put him in line with Brees and Wentz, who similarly have strong multi-back rushing attacks.
Ultimately, if the Vikings’ passing play frequency increases just a hair, one should expect Cousins to be around a top-five fantasy quarterback this season. On top of his new array of top-flight receivers, Minnesota also provides Cousins with an elite defense that should get him the ball back often and with good field position. So for all the Vikings fans who love to draft based on team loyalty, this should be the year to make the Minnesota quarterback a priority.
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