This article is part of our Team Previews series.
After missing the playoffs last season, the Vikings fired coach Mike Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman. New GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah rebuilt a shaky secondary, kept the offense intact and extended Kirk Cousins in the hope that incoming coach Kevin O'Connell can maximize the team's star-powered attack.
2022 Offseason Moves – Minnesota Vikings
- Jordan Hicks – LB (from Cardinals)
A three-down LB who adds a steady presence to the new 3-4 defense.
- Za'Darius Smith – LB (from Packers)
If healthy, he could have a significant impact on the team's pass rush.
- Lewis Cine – S (Rd. 1, No. 32 – Georgia)
Should be an immediate starter alongside fellow safety Harrison Smith.
- Andrew Booth – CB (Rd. 2, No. 42 – Clemson)
A prototypical boundary corner who fills a key team need.
- Tyler Conklin – TE (to Jets)
His departure leaves little proven tight end depth behind Irv Smith.
- Xavier Woods – S (to Panthers)
Recorded a career-high 108 tackles in his lone season with Minnesota.
- Anthony Barr – LB (FA)
The Vikings likely are moving on from the oft-injured veteran.
- Michael Pierce – DT (to Ravens)
The run stuffer was let go to free up salary cap space.
Minnesota Vikings 2022 Coaching Staff
Head Coach: Kevin O'Connell (Year 1)
Offensive Coordinator: Wes Phillips (Year 1) – West Coast offense
Defensive Coordinator: Ed Donatell (Year 1) – 3-4 scheme
Stats to Know for the Minnesota Vikings
2022 Vegas Projected Wins: 9.5 (T-9th)
2021 Record: 8-9
2021 Points Scored: 425 (14th)
2021 Points Allowed: 426 (24th)
2021 Point Differential: -1 (18th)
2021 Run-Play Rate: 41.5 percent (15th)
2021 Offensive Snaps: 1,083 (12th)
2021 PFF O-Line Ranking: No. 23
2022 Minnesota Vikings Depth Chart
QB: Kirk Cousins / Sean Mannion / Kellen Mond
RB: Dalvin Cook / Alexander Mattison / Kene Nwangwu / Ty Chandler / Bryant Koback
FB: C.J. Ham
WR1: Justin Jefferson / Ihmir Smith-Marsette
WR2: Adam Thielen / Bisi Johnson
WR3: K.J. Osborn / Jalen Nailor / Albert Wilson
TE: Irv Smith / Ben Ellefson / Johnny Mundt
O-Line: LT Christian Darrisaw / LG Ezra Cleveland / C Garrett Bradbury / RG Jesse Davis / RT Brian O'Neill (RotoWire Rank: No. 25)
Kicker: Greg Joseph
2022 Minnesota Vikings Schedule
|1||Sep 11||Green Bay Packers||4:25 PM|
|2||Sep 19||@ Philadelphia Eagles||8:30 PM|
|3||Sep 25||Detroit Lions||1:00 PM|
|4||Oct 2||@ New Orleans Saints||9:30 AM|
|5||Oct 9||Chicago Bears||1:00 PM|
|6||Oct 16||@ Miami Dolphins||1:00 PM|
|8||Oct 30||Arizona Cardinals||1:00 PM|
|9||Nov 6||@ Washington Commanders||1:00 PM|
|10||Nov 13||@ Buffalo Bills||1:00 PM|
|11||Nov 20||Dallas Cowboys||4:25 PM|
|12||Nov 24||New England Patriots||8:20 PM|
|13||Dec 4||New York Jets||1:00 PM|
|14||Dec 11||@ Detroit Lions||1:00 PM|
|16||Dec 24||New York Giants||1:00 PM|
|17||Jan 1||@ Green Bay Packers||4:25 PM|
|18||TBD||@ Chicago Bears||TBD|
Minnesota Vikings Storylines for 2022
Is a New Offensive Scheme on Tap?
The Vikings utilized a run-heavy approach under former coach Mike Zimmer that made Dalvin Cook the focus of the team's offense. After last season, Zimmer was replaced by Kevin O'Connell, who spent the past two years as Rams offensive coordinator. While O'Connell is a product of the same Mike Shanahan coaching tree as recent Minnesota offensive coordinators Gary and Klint Kubiak, the L.A. attack often operated with three wide receivers and a slightly wider zone-running scheme.
The looming system could mean fewer rushes for Cook, as the previous offense centered on the run to set up the pass. The 2017 second-rounder was seventh in the NFL with 283 touches in 2021, and the Vikings' top three running backs (Cook, Alexander Mattison and Kene Nwangwu) had 12 percent more touches than the Rams' main RB trio.
However, Cook may experience more work as a pass catcher this year, as he was seen lining up in bunch receiver sets during spring workouts. His ability in that realm and elusiveness in space should make him productive in any formation, and it's worth noting that O'Connell has never had a backfield talent like Cook at stops in Washington and Los Angeles. Even if the breakdown of his touches is impacted, Cook's career metrics (4.7 YPC, 78.8 percent catch rate) indicate his overall output shouldn't suffer.
Opening for Targets
The new offense should be friendly for quarterback Kirk Cousins and the passing game. Cousins has had a different offensive coordinator each of the past seven seasons, but he's familiar with Kevin O'Connell after they worked together in Washington in 2017.
Lead wideout Justin Jefferson may profit if, like last year's Rams with Cooper Kupp, the Vikings find a variety of ways to feed their primary option. Adam Thielen should maintain red-zone relevance, too, but it's the targets behind Jefferson and Thielen that could benefit most from the transition.
The Rams led the NFL in 11 personnel (three WR with one RB and one TE) in 2021 by a wide margin at 86 percent, while Minnesota used the formation on 11 percent of offensive plays. The Vikings didn't prioritize having a regular third wide receiver in the Mike Zimmer era. K.J. Osborn's breakout last season (50-655-7 on 82 targets) was an anomaly, as previously none of the team's No. 3 WRs since 2016 had more than 33 catches or 302 receiving yards.
If O'Connell flips the script to a more Rams-like usage of the receiving corps this year, Osborn could see a bump in targets, and even a fourth player, such as Bisi Johnson or Ihmir Smith-Marsette, could be relevant. Additionally, the team's tight ends may see increased activity between the 20s, which bodes well for Irv Smith.
Health Is Key for the Pass Rush
Minnesota is making changes on defense this season with a move to a 3-4 alignment for the first time since 1985. However, the unit's new coordinator Ed Donatell plans to run a hybrid system that also can feature four defensive ends. In any formation, the key will be keeping the team's chief pass rushers healthy.
While the Vikings are star-driven on offense, arguably no player was more paramount to their chances of success last year than Danielle Hunter. After missing the 2020 campaign due to a neck injury, he looked the part of a DPOY candidate with six sacks in seven games, at which point he suffered a season-ending pectoral tear. When healthy, Hunter is among the best edge rushers in football, having racked up 35 sacks in his last 39 contests.
To bolster things further in that regard, Za'Darius Smith was lured away from archrival Green Bay this offseason. Heading into 2021, he was coming off 13.5- and 12.5-sack tallies the prior two years, but he aggravated a back injury in the opener that required surgery and made just one more appearance, when he recorded a sack in the Packers' playoff loss to the 49ers.
If both Hunter and Smith can stay on the field, the Vikings will boast a formidable pass-rush duo along with D.J. Wonnum (eight sacks last season). Conversely, if either of them misses time, the pass defense could struggle.
Fantasy Football Stock Watch
⬆️ Rising: WR K.J. Osborn
Osborn seized the No. 3 WR job last season and was productive with 51.2 air yards per game and seven scores. He should improve in an offense that's likely to make use of three-receiver sets more frequently
⬇️ Falling: WR Adam Thielen
With 10 TDs in 2021, Thielen showed he still has a nose for the end zone and remains a factor in the offense. However, at age 32 and after missing 11 games over the past three seasons, he may be on the downside of his career.
😴 Sleeper: TE Irv Smith
The 2019 second-rounder appeared set for a breakout last year before suffering a season-ending meniscus injury in August. With Tyler Conklin no longer in the mix, Smith is poised to be a leading target for quarterback Kirk Cousins.
🌟 Pivotal Player: Justin Jefferson
Jefferson is the first receiver in NFL history to amass more than 3,000 yards over his first two seasons. With a move to an offensive-minded head coach in Kevin O'Connell, the 2020 first-rounder could become the focal point of what previously was a run-first offense and reach a new level if O'Connell uses him more in the short game.
Minnesota Vikings Injury Report
TE Irv Smith
Smith was limited during most of the Vikings' offseason program as he worked his way back from the meniscus surgery he had last September. However, the typical rehab of 4-5 months provided more than enough time to be healthy for training camp. Once team's veterans reported on July 26, coach Kevin O'Connell confirmed that Smith, who now profiles as the Minnesota's clear-cut top tight end, was a full participant to kick off proceedings.
After back-to-back campaigns in which he racked up 14.5 sacks in 2018 and 2019, Hunter missed the entire 2020 season due to a herniated disc in his neck before logging just seven appearances last year due to a torn pectoral. On the plus side, the linebacker declared his health back in May, when he indicated that he could have returned to action last season if the Vikings had reached the playoffs.
Smith suffered a back injury Week 1 that required surgery, but he did return for Green Bay's only postseason contest. While the 2020 All-Pro linebacker also sat out some OTA practices as a precaution after picking up a minor undisclosed injury, Smith entered camp with no reported health concerns.
Training Camp Battle 2022 – Minnesota Vikings
The key fantasy job battles are pretty much set in Minnesota, but the offense may utilize third and fourth receivers more than in the past under coach Kevin O'Connell and offensive coordinator Wes Phillips. K.J. Osborn looks set to repeat as the No. 3 after posting a 50-655-7 line on 82 targets last season.
As for the rest of the candidates, Bisi Johnson worked as the third wideout at times in 2020 before suffering a torn ACL in training camp last year. Ihmir Smith-Marsette, a 2021 fifth-round pick saw only six targets as a rookie, but he flashed some promise at the end of the season with three catches for 103 yards and a TD in Week 18. Finally, 2022 sixth-rounder Jalen Nailor out of Michigan State also could figure into the mix.