Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by Jeff Dumont. Follow him on Twitter @jeffd119.
Teddy Bridgewater could be a fantasy football league winner in 2016. … His current 2QB ADP of QB28 represents his absolute floor with the potential, in my opinion, of a top-10, low end QB1 ceiling. A low-risk and medium-to-high reward type of player, the Vikings signal caller is in a much better position to succeed and have his best season to date. Targeting Bridgewater as your QB2 or streamable QB3 will allow for draft flexibility, and extracting value throughout your draft will always be the best way to win championships.
At this time last year, Teddy Bridgewater had a 2QB ADP of 6.08, 58th overall in 10-team formats. Selected as the 16th QB off the board right around Cam Newton and Carson Palmer, Teddy was in good company. The talent has always been there for Bridgewater. He likely would have been selected #1 overall after his sophomore campaign at Louisville, but he wasn’t eligible for the draft. The Vikings’ willingness to trade up into the first round in the 2014 draft to select Bridgewater shows the franchise was sold on his ability to become an elite passer. Teddy Bridgewater is not just a game manager, contrary to popular opinion.
What Went Wrong for Teddy Bridgewater in 2015?
Facing pressure on a league-leading 47% of his dropbacks, Bridgewater had the worst pass protection of any QB in 2015. The heart of his offensive line, starting center John Sullivan, was placed on injured reserve right before Week 1 and missed the entire season. Top-rated right tackle Phil Loadholt tore his Achilles in the Vikings’ second preseason game, forcing fourth round rookie TJ Clemmings to start all 16 games. Clemmings is now backup to Matt Kalil at left tackle. Kalil himself has been a bust since being drafted fourth overall in 2012, performing especially poorly in pass protection. He was nearly cut this offseason. Brandon Fusco, a natural right guard, was forced to play out of position at left guard and had the worst season of his career. Tight end Kyle Rudolph was forced to stay at the line of scrimmage as an extra pass protector for most the season. The Vikings also played outdoors in frigid temperatures at the University of Minnesota. It’s no wonder Adrian Peterson led the NFL in rushing attempts by a wide margin.
The Vikings were forced to rely on the talented-but-raw Charles Johnson (a player who has already been cut by the Packers and Browns in his short career) as their top wideout to start the season. Deep threat Mike Wallace started opposite Johnson. Perhaps the worst possible mix for an NFL offense is shaky pass protection to go along with deep threat specialists at wide receiver. Wallace having his career-worst season in 2015 was inevitable. Even with all these factors going against him, Bridgewater still had the NFL’s best passer rating in the final two minutes of 2015 games at 155.4 (minimum 10 passing attempts). The man has talent.
What’s New for Bridgewater in 2016?
Center John Sullivan is healthy and leaner, left tackle Matt Kalil had zero surgeries this offseason and is in his contract year (the greatest motivator of all), Brandon Fusco is back to playing right guard, Alex Boone got paid $26.8 mil for four years to man left guard, and Andre Smith (sixth overall pick in 2009) signed a team friendly one-year “prove it” deal to challenge Phil Loadholt at right tackle. Loadholt has subsequently decided to retire, but Minnesota’s offensive line is healthy with great depth going into 2016. One of, if not the best offensive line coaches in the game, Tony Sparano, was also hired this offseason. The biggest weakness in 2015 for the Vikings should turn into a strength in 2016
U.S. Bank Stadium is the Vikings’ new home and Bridgewater has completed 70% of his career passes indoors. Expect more of the same in his new stadium (plus one indoor game on the road in 2016). Coming off an NFC North title, the momentum for this franchise is strong. Vegas has set the Vikings’ over/under season win total at 10 and their odds of making the playoffs at -200 (roughly a 67% chance). It’s pretty simple: winning comes with good stats, good stats come with good fantasy players, and, of course, with great power comes great responsibility.
Viking’s OC Norv Turner’s passing offense was ranked 29th in 2014 and 31st in 2015 — the two worst seasons of his 25-year career. Turner is one of the premier offensive minds in the history of the NFL, and his teams (San Diego and Cleveland) finished no worse than 11th in passing TDs between 2008 and 2013. A positive regression to the mean is unquestionably in order for Minnesota’s air assault.
Rookie first-round pick Laquon Treadwell was the most NFL-ready receiver talent in this year’s player pool. He’s been compared to Michael Irvin, and Irvin himself has said Treadwell is even more physically gifted. Norv Turner is the common thread between both wideouts and the hope is he will be able to open up the deep passing game with Treadwell like he did with Irvin in the 90s. An elite route runner with strong hands, Treadwell will fit right into an offense that desperately needed a possession receiver. At +1200 to win offensive rookie of the year (via Bovada), Treadwell represents fantastic value as the third rookie wide receiver off the board in fantasy with an overall ADP of 114.
Mix in second-year breakout Stefon Diggs and the Vikings have the makings of a very good passing offense. An accurate quarterback, Bridgewater will be asked to throw to the open man and not force anything this season. Adrian Peterson, the greatest running back of this generation, will force opposing defenses to respect the run game, which will create mismatches for Teddy Throwsevelt to exploit.
Even in a down season last year, Bridgewater finished as the QB23. It’s pretty unlikely that the Vikings will be more conservative on offense in 2016. They had the third-fewest pass attempts in the NFL in 2015. Even with limited opportunity, nine teams had worse fantasy quarterbacks last season. Better pass protection and the addition of Laquon Treadwell should lead to better efficiency. I expect Bridgewater to attempt at least 30 passes per game this season after averaging 27.9 last season (his rookie average was 30.9). An uptick in attempts mixed with better quality passes and an underrated scrambling ability will be the key to Teddy’s ascension in the quarterback ranks.
At his current ADP of QB28, he represents perhaps the greatest quarterback value in fantasy. Already a starting option in 2QB and Superflex leagues for those who wait at the position, Bridgewater could be in the mix to start in every fantasy league by the end of the year. With a combination of great coaching, improved pass protection, a strong run game, better receivers, a winning team, and natural progression as a player, this should be Teddy Bridgewater’s breakout season.