For yet another season, Razzball will be interviewing local NFL beat writers for some in-depth actual football knowledge to sway some insight in our fantasy football knowledge. Keep your eye out for an interview for every NFL team through the summer and check out each one on the “2012 Fantasy Football Team Previews” link. This installment comes courtesy of Ted Glover from The Daily Norseman:
1) The big news everyone is on their edge of the seat for is if Adrian Peterson will be ready for the 2012 season. First there’s the rehab from his ACL tear and then his recent arrest in Houston. Is there any worry about this legal hoopla, and what are you hearing about his knee recovery?
No, I don’t see any fallout from the legal trouble in terms of suspensions or any other penalties from the NFL or the team. It could be a distraction, though, as he vows he was innocent and will fight it. He hired big time defense attorney Rusty Hardin, the same guy that defended Roger Clemens in his perjury trial, so he’s serious about fighting this in court. His knee recovery is ahead of schedule, which is great news, but the Vikings have all but said he will be on the PUP list when training camp opens. Now, he can come off the TC PUP list at anytime, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the PUP when the season opens. That means he’ll miss the first six games, and I’m fine with that. If you’re looking at drafting AP, you’ll get production out of him, but try and get your hands on Toby Gerhart as a backup/interim starter/3rd RB option. Gerhart averaged almost 5 yards a carry and had over 500 yards as a third down back and starter at the end of the season, and will get the bulf of the work early on, even if AP is on the week one roster.
2) It became a huge story that Percy Harvin asked for a trade a month ago at the beginning of camp. The Vikings have said there are no plans to trade him and the issue seems to be dissipating. However, is there any concern a schism between Harvin and the Vikings front office could eat into his productivity? And if he stays healthy and sees enough of the field, could he have the breakout year a lot of fantasy owners have been waiting for?
Ah, the ‘schism’ word. The Vikes have allegedly had so many schisms the last two or three years that if I had a nickel for every time I heard or read the word ‘schism’, I’d have close to 20 bucks, most of it from Favregnugen ’09. But I digress. In a word, no. If you read between the lines of what the Vikings have said and what Harvin has said, I am of the opinion the Vikings told him ‘have a good year, stay out of trouble, and we’ll re-work your contract at season’s end.’ And there is evidence to see that this is more than plausible, as guys like Jared Allen, Chad Greenway, Adrian Peterson, etc., got new deals as they headed into the last year of their respective deals. With AP’s status uncertain, look for Harvin to have a big year. He ran a fair amount out of the backfield, and with big, pass catching TE’s in the form of Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson occupying a lot of space in the middle of the field, there’s going to be a lot of room for Harvin to run and catch the ball.
3) Christian Ponder had an inconsistent rookie season in 11 appearances last year. GM Rick Spielman has said he expects a big leap forward for Ponder, and let’s be honest, he’ll need it to be a successful QB in 2012. What kind of improvements do you think he’ll make and will the Vikings offense have more success through the air?
Well, that’s the 64 dollar question. There are a few things much different this year than last that have put Ponder in a position to succeed. For one, he is the unquestioned starter heading to camp. Last year, he was a rookie backup behind Donovan McNabb. Secondly, he didn’t have the benefit of off-season OTA’s to come in and get his feet wet and really learn the playbook with a coach looking over his shoulder. With the lockout, they had just a few days to get to Mankato after no off-season anything. Third, he has a better line in front of him, at least on paper. Ponder was literally running for his life last season, and was under constant harassment and pressure. The few opportunities that he was given to set up in the pocket and go through his progressions, he made some great throws and plays. Finally, the group of receivers he has this season seems to be a lot better than what the Vikings had last year. That’s no guarantee that Ponder will be better, but last season, with all those disadvantages, he showed glimpses of potential that make you think he could be really good at this level. With a full off-season of OTA’s, a normal training camp, and a better o-line, I think he’ll show a lot of improvement.
4) Sticking with Ponder, his athleticism on the ground could make him a sneaky fantasy asset. Any QB that can put up decent rushing numbers has a shot at being a solid contributor. Is there going to be any plays designed for him on the ground, or will he be a pocket passer and scramble only when needed?
The latter. One of the concerns a lot of fans have with Ponder is injuries. He was battered last season, and when he ran it was usually because his life depended on it. But he has sneaky speed, and the way he runs reminds me a little bit of Aaron Rodgers. I’M NOT SAYING PONDER IS AS GOOD AS RODGERS. HOWEVAH…Rodgers is a pocket QB, but when he scrambles he tends to pick up a lot of yards, because he has deceptive speed and quick feet. Ponder is similar in that regard. The Vikes also seemed to do a fair amount of roll-outs and waggles last year, and those intentional rollouts give the quarterback a run option if nothing is available downfield. I don’t know if those were called to give Ponder more time because of the Pinata effect he was feeling in straight drop backs, or if it was playing into his strength. He did do well in those situations, but if the line is as improved as I think, it will be interesting to see if the Vikings go with more tradtional drop back passes as opposed to roll outs.
5) Despite his legal troubles, Jerome Simpson had a solid breakout season for the Bengals last year, and slots in as the #2 receiver for the Vikings. Minnesota fans are hoping he delivers stats like dime bags, but what are the realistic expectations for Simpson in 2012? Any chance he could be a sneaky pick for a 1000-yard season?
Dime bags? Dude had pounds of weed mailed to his house (allegedly). It was like a bad episode of ‘Justified’. I hope he delivers like Boyd Crowder working for FedEx. Anyway, I think it’s going to be tough for Simpson to reach the numbers he had in 2011 (50/725/4). He’s going to be suspended for the first three games of the season, and he’ll be fighting for catches with Michael Jenkins, Percy Harvin, and a couple of rookies with a lot of potential in Greg Childs and Jarius Wright. Before Jenkins got hurt, he was developing into a favorite target of Ponder’s, and well, Harvin is Harvin. Don’t get me wrong, I like Simpson and I think he’s an upgrade over Bernard Berrian, because anyone is an upgrade over Bernard Berrian, but I just don’t see him posting really big numbers this year.
Ted is a native Minnesotan who grew up cheering for the Vikings during the heyday of the Purpe People Eaters. Some would call him ‘old’. He prefers ‘experienced’. He’s been been writing for The Daily Norseman since late 2009, and is a semi-regular guest on multiple radio programs, including ‘The Mouth of the Midwest with Marty Tirrell in Des Moines, IA and Nate Brown of SD Sports Buzz in Rapid City, SD. Follow him on Twitter @purplebuckeye, and follow DN @DailyNorseman.