The Minnesota Vikings needed to overhaul their defense this offseason after a dismal 2013 season, and new head coach Mike Zimmer clearly has had input in making that a top priority. The re-signing of defensive end Everson Griffen started things this week, but the signings of defensive tackle Linval Joseph and cornerbacks Captain Munnerlyn and Derek Cox in free agency has the Vikings’ defense in line to improve significantly in 2014.
It’s not surprising to find that the Vikings’ defense was the lowest-scoring fantasy defense in ESPN standard scoring in 2013, but should fantasy football owners have the unit back on their radar heading toward next season?
Zimmer’s track record as defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals in recent years is noteworthy and should not be overlooked, but the offseason moves that have been made to re-shuffle the depth chart, particularly in the secondary, are more notable in my opinion. Munnerlyn will take over for the incapable Josh Robinson as Minnesota’s primary slot corner, and his nose for the ball (21 pass breakups and four interception return touchdowns over the last two seasons, along with three sacks in 2013) makes him an instant upgrade. Cox had a difficult 2013 season with the San Diego Chargers, but he is still just 27 years old and if his presence limits Marcus Sherels’ defensive role that’s good news.
In terms of individual defensive player (IDP) options, the Vikings will lose an annual double-digit sack producer in defensive end Jared Allen. But linebacker Chad Greenway is still a top option based on his productivity as a tackler, Griffen has big sleeper potential in a new role and Munnerlyn’s all-around production makes him an underrated fantasy option in the secondary to go along with safety Harrison Smith.
Fantasy owners have rightfully avoided Minnesota’s defense over the past few seasons, but they are a unit on the rise even with six potentially difficult divisional matchups on the schedule next season. If more talent is added between now and the end of May’s draft, the Vikings’ defense is likely to become a popular sleeper in fantasy drafts this summer with the potential to become a weekly matchup-proof starting option.