The sixth-best fantasy quarterback so far this season, and a signal caller who has consistently finished in the top-12 in recent seasons, may not take another snap in a Minnesota Vikings uniform after tearing his Achilles minutes into the fourth quarter on Sunday.
Kirk Cousins was the sixth-best quarterback so far? Yes, I heard you ask yourself that question. I did and followed it with a “damn.”
Cousins averaged 26.6 fantasy points per game, while producing two games of more than 35 points (35.3, 41.2), more than 2,300 yards, and an 18:5 touchdown to interception ratio. He also had two of his better statistical games in the last two weeks, even without star wideout Justin Jefferson.
Cousins’ average draft position (ADP) wasn’t as high, by far, as the top four fantasy quarterbacks: Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes, and Lamar Jackson. Only Tua Tagovailoa (fifth) and Cousins have significantly out-played their ADP and into the top six so far though eight weeks.
WHO’S NEXT UP?
Minnesota immediately turns to rookie Jaren Hall, a 2023 third-day draft pick the team views as a “diamond in the rough.”
Hall earned a 76 overall NFL Next Gen Stat Grade out of Brigham Young University for the Draft. A “Good” marking due mostly for his “excellent ball placement to targets on the move and delivers a feathery soft deep ball with accuracy,” said his draft profile. But, also because his size, arm strength and ability to meet man coverage don’t match “what’s needed” in the NFL.
But, the Vikings are likely banking on other positives in Hall with the assumption he will improve his strength and ability to beat coverages.
Hall has a 4:1 touchdown touchdown-to-interception ratio across his career, his ability to swing through progressions, his knowledge of when to dump off, and his ability to throw a deep ball.
On paper, that sounds like an above-average replacement. However, his ability to find the windows and find ball placement over tall competition is going to hinder him as he advances to the NFL.
He likely has knowledge of the playbook, but behind the scenes, Minnesota also has Nick Mullins. But a back injury has him on injured reserve until at least Week 10. Now, Hall is going to make at least one start regardless of the knowledge he has.
The Arizona Cardinals demoted starter Josh Dobbs in the wake of Kyler Murray’s return (ACL) and immediately traded him to Minnesota. Neither Dobbs or Hall scream long-term success, but Dobbs would at least be a veteran replacement for his Cousins counterpart – assuming he learns the playbook enough to execute.
That all being said, Dobbs still represents an improvement over the Vikings’ previous options and he should be under center soon enough.
The most significant beneficiary of the trade should be TJ Hockenson. He was looking like a top 3 TE with Justin Jefferson down. Then he was looking to drop hard with Cousins out. Now, based on how Dobbs looked with Trey McBride this week, I have some optimism that Hockenson can still be a top 5 TE going forward this year.
VIKINGS RUN GAME
An unsteady quarterback often jeopardizes receivers, but it should be the run game that takes the biggest hit in the Vikings offense.
Alexander Mattison was touted all offseason as Dalvin Cook’s heir-apparent.
Mattison averaged 48.7 yards per game with Cousins this season, including five games under 45 yards. He is not living up to his ADP (round 4-5), and will not get close to that mark.
Despite the Cam Akers trade, Mattison remains the Vikings starter for now. He is currently the 25th-best fantasy running back in the NFL – in a league that had only 10 teams at the beginning of the year not featuring a committee backfield approach. Now, there are even fewer with injuries to Nick Chubb and James Conner, as well as backups wedging themselves into larger roles (Pittsburgh, Houston).
Mattison is also Jekyll and Hyde when it comes to aiding in the receiving game. Without Cousins, his targets will drop and likely stay around 1-3 per game. Akers does even less in the receiving game, negating both in PPR. Mattison barely has value in standard leagues, and both have next to none in anything more.
Furthermore, tight end T.J. Hockenson was becoming more involved in the last four games. However, whoever Hall has been jiving with on the practice squad/second team will likely have the edge regarding limited targets. But, as noted above, Hockenson could make a significant jump if/when Dobbs enters the starting lineup.
Downgrading Justin Jefferson makes the most sense, but so does rookie Jordan Addison. Cousins relied on Addison against the three toughest secondaries the Vikings have faced this year: Philadelphia, Kansas City, and San Francisco. Addison found the end zone four times against them.
Looking at guys such as K.J. Osborn, Brandon Powell, and N’Keal Harry make a little bit more sense. While Jefferson and Addison would be used for big plays, the slot and short yardage (and even the red zone) could go to lesser-named receivers. However, still irrelevant.
For fantasy purposes, let’s hope Dobbs becomes the rest of season starter. He’ll boost Hockenson, Jeffrson, and Addison, while we have no clue what the rookie will do under center this week.