Fantasy Impact: Kirk Cousins to the Vikings
The bomb we’d been waiting on has finally dropped, as Kirk Cousins has agreed to terms with the Minnesota Vikings on a three-year, worth $86 million that is fully-guaranteed. It’s what we’d been hearing all along, though it appears it’s finally been confirmed.
Not only is Cousins going to a team of improved pass-catchers, but he’s going to a team that has a much-improved offensive line that allowed just 27 sacks last year, sixth-best in the NFL. While behind the beat-up Redskins line last year, Cousins took 41 sacks, the fifth-most in the league. Giving him time should only help his efficiency go up, but he was already among the best in football in that category.
At just 29 years old, Cousins measures up well to some of the greats if we’re looking at strictly numbers. Since taking over as the starter in 2015, Cousins has thrown for 7.8 yards per attempt, behind only Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees during that time. His 67 percent completion rate ranks third behind only Brees and Sam Bradford. And you can’t argue that Cousins didn’t take his shots downfield, either, as his 66 pass attempts over 20 yards in 2017 ranked seventh at the position. From a numbers standpoint, you really can’t knock Cousins.
Some said that Cousins was a product of volume, and it’s hard to say that isn’t partly true as he’s ranked 12th, 6th, and 8th in pass attempts since taking over the starting job in 2015. But looking at his efficiency numbers above, it’s easy to say he could’ve had more attempts had he not been so efficient. Going to the Vikings, this will be his biggest knock in fantasy. How many times will he have to throw with their elite defense and solid run-game?
When going back to look at the Vikings signal-callers in 2017, it’s easy to see why some are concerned. Between Case Keenum and Sam Bradford, they totaled just 524 pass attempts. They were also about as efficient as they come during the season, completing 69.5 percent of their passes for 7.5 yards per attempt and throwing a touchdown on 4.8 percent of their passes. Because of that, it’s fair to wonder what Cousins’ ceiling can be with limited pass attempts. And keep in mind that Dalvin Cook went on Injured Reserve very early in the season, forcing the Vikings throw maybe more than they initially wanted to.
Going from Terrelle Pryor, Josh Doctson, and Jamison Crowder as your starting wide receivers, to playing with Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Kyle Rudolph, it’s fair to say that he upgraded there. Some will automatically use this to make up for his lack of pass attempts, but not only is it extremely hard to improve on his already historic efficiency, but the loss of Pat Shurmur could very well set them back. They brought in the Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo as his replacement, and while he appears to be on a good career-path, it’s important to remember that he failed in his first attempt as an offensive coordinator in 2015 with the Browns. They ranked just 25th in yards and 30th in points that year, hardly a vote of confidence.
Still, we want to give Cousins the benefit of the doubt. I mean, the guy has bet on himself time-after-time, and won. This was a great move for the Vikings as a football organization, even if Cousins doesn’t sling the ball 40 times per game. Ideally, he doesn’t have to. But knowing that Keenum/Bradford played as efficiently as they did with those 524 pass attempts, and still wound up as the combined QB9 in fantasy football with Shurmur as the offensive coordinator, it’s hard to get on board that Cousins can be a better fantasy option than he was in Washington, though I do believe he’ll be a bit more consistent with this surrounding team. As of now, Cousins should be viewed in the QB7-QB10 range with guys like Dak Prescott and Drew Brees, which is not bad company by any means.