What might be remembered as one of the most devastating preseason injuries of this decade, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a torn ACL, dislocated knee and other structural damage in a non-contact practice last week. The injury sends the Vikings and fantasy owners alike, scrambling for answers.
Fortunately, Bridgewater wasn’t a highly coveted fantasy quarterback going into 2016, so at worst, some owners in two-quarterback leagues might be affected. That’s about it.
However, the fantasy impact of this injury goes far beyond just Bridgewater, as it will hurt the fantasy value of other players on the Vikings offense.
The best fantasy asset on Minnesota’s roster is obviously running back Adrian Peterson. At 30 years old last season, he led the league with 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns on his way to his fourth All-Pro nomination.
Logic says that with a backup quarterback, Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner is going to ask for even more from his future Hall of Fame running back. That may be true, but remember, more isn’t always better in fantasy football.
If Minnesota is unable to move the ball through the air, defenses are going to stack eight, maybe even nine, guys in the box to stop Peterson. Although he’s proven to be able to beat stacked boxes before, now at 31 years old, that’s a lot to ask from a back who averages about 20 carries per week.
Plus, Peterson’s success last year was really dependent upon the Vikings having a lead. Like most backs, he gets better as the game goes along, and that was most certainly true last season. The All-Pro averaged just 3.6 yards per rush in the first half of games but then 5.7 yards per attempt in the second half. In the fourth quarter, he was at his very best, gaining 6.9 yards per carry.
Furthermore, Peterson earned 910 of his rushing yards and scored seven of his touchdowns while Minnesota was in the lead. In that situation, he also averaged 5.6 yards per attempt. Peterson averaged under 3.7 yards per carry when the Vikings were either tied or trailing.
It also should be noted that Peterson seemed to tire in December of last year. He ran for just 321 yards and scored three touchdowns while averaging only 3.6 yards per attempt after Week 12. The All-Pro back scored below 6.5 fantasy points two separate weeks in December.
If the drop in production was due to fatigue, that can’t be that much of a surprise. Even after missing all but one game in 2014, Peterson has more than 2,500 touches over nine years in the NFL. With that kind of mileage on the odometer, owners can’t expect him to carry the load like he did for Minnesota back in 2012 when he was 27 years old.
The defense remains intact to help ensure the games remain close, but if the Vikings struggle to get leads or throw the ball because of their quarterback situation, Peterson won’t be as valuable of a fantasy commodity.
That being said, the wide receivers are, by far, the most affected fantasy players from the Bridgewater injury. Although expectations are high for second-year receiver Stefon Diggs and rookie wideout Laquon Treadwell, what to expect from them this season without Bridgewater is still unknown.
Minnesota traded for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford over the weekend, but Shaun Hill is projected to start Week 1 to give Bradford time to learn the playbook. Bradford, who definitely has more upside from Hill, could take over as early as Week 2, but he’s still a step down from Bridgewater.
Take a look at these numbers:
ATT Y/G Y/A Cmp% TD INT TD/INT
Bridgewater 447 201.9 7.2 65.3 14 9 1.56
Bradford 532 266.1 7.0 65.0 19 14 1.36
The former Eagles signal-caller clearly had an advantage in the yardage total, but he had more attempts in Chip Kelly’s offense. Last season was also the first time ever Bradford completed more than 61.0 percent of his passes and averaged more than 6.7 yards per pass. There’s no guarantee he hits those numbers – 266.1 passing yards per game, 7.0 yards per attempt and a 65.0 completion percentage – again in a run-first, conservative offense.
That being said, Bradford will get to throw to the two most talented receivers he has ever had in his NFL career. Diggs caught 52 passes for 720 yards and four touchdowns in just 13 games last season. At Ole Miss in 2015, Treadwell became the top receiver in the SEC, recording 82 receptions for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Outside of Peterson, those two receivers are the top two fantasy options in the Vikings offense. Diggs is definitely the preferred choice because Treadwell has experienced growing pains as a rookie this summer. But with their opportunities expected to be limited and no Bridgewater, the value of both takes a significant hit.
Diggs is a WR-5 in 12-team leagues while Treadwell is merely a late-round flier in re-draft leagues. Treadwell is a top pick in dynasty formats, but his initial impact could be limited.
Even though Bradford is the only one that sees his value increase due to the trade just because he finally has some playmakers to help him, the rise in value is minimal. Consider Bradford a QB-3 until he learns the playbook. That is, if he learns the playbook.
Most quarterbacks have the entire summer to learn a new scheme, and even that, in lots of cases, isn’t enough time. Bradford has one week.
This is certainly a difficult situation for everyone involved, and the Vikings are doing their best to ensure they can still win in 2016. That’s great news for Peterson, Diggs and Treadwell owners.
Don’t be mistaken, Bradford will help those three players more than Shaun Hill would. But Bradford is also no Bridgewater, and therefore, the fantasy value in the Minnesota offense drops across the board.