Right now, the math isn’t pretty.
Add Case Keenum and the Steelers defense, subtract the Saints defense and Sam Bradford and Vikings receivers produced:
- Two catches for 27 yards by Stefon Diggs with Keenum vs. seven catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns with Bradford
- Four catches for 45 yards by Kyle Rudolph with Keenum vs. three catches for 26 yards and a touchdown with Bradford
- Five catches for 44 yards by Adam Thielen with Keenum vs. nine catches for 157 yards with Bradford
- No receiver with more than five receptions or 45 yards
- 237 yards of total offense with Keenum; 470 yards of total offense with Bradford
Long story short: Vikings receivers looked and were better with Bradford than Keenum.
It’s hard to imagine the Vikings offense maintaining the pace it set in Week 1 – can’t play the Saints every week – but Week 2 was quite the step back.
But it’s likely the worst-case scenario.
Take last season, for example.
In nine games Keenum started for the Rams:
- In PPR, 18 times a receiver posted 10-plus points (2.0 receivers per game on average) and seven times a receiver posted 15-plus points (.77 per game)
- In standard scoring leagues, seven times a receiver posted 10-plus points (.77) but only once did a receiver post 15-plus points (.11 receivers)
- He threw for 250-plus yards passing four times, 300-plus yards once and three-plus passing touchdowns once
Compare that to Vikings quarterbacks in 16 games in 2016:
- In PPR, 33 times a receiver posted 10-plus points (2.06 per game) and 17 times a receiver posted 15-plus points (1.06 per game)
- In standard scoring leagues, 14 times a receiver posted 10-plus points (.875 per game) and five times a receiver posted 15-plus points (.315 per game)
- Nine times they posted 250-plus yards passing, twice they posted 300-plus yards passing and twice they threw for three-plus touchdowns
On a per-game basis those are comparable numbers, with the Vikings boasting a more talented receiving corps in 2017 than the Rams had in 2016 (Kenny Britt was their top receier with 68 catches for 1,0002 yards and five touchdowns).
And last season, Rudolph was a top-10 tight end, Diggs was roughly a top-10 receiver in PPR (when he was healthy) and Thielen was a serviceable FLEX play by year’s end.
They can replicate that, even with Keenum under center – the 2016 numbers show it’s possible, with the Vikings and Rams offenses designed around their star running back and not known as high-octane passing attacks.
Last week was the receivers’ first regular-season game with Keenum – in a tough road environment with the quarterback situation not being settled until gameday, no less.
The circumstances weren’t on their side.
Give them a mulligan.
The ceiling for those three receivers with Keenum is lower than a healthy Bradford – he’s a former No. 1 overall pick after all and and Keenum was an undrafted free agent.
Ben Goessling reported Wednesday that we “might not have a clear answer until the end of the week – or perhaps even game day – about whether [Bradford’s] able to start.”
That means Vikings receivers should get enough reps with Keenum and Bradford before Sunday.
They are at home this week against a Tampa Bay defense that ranked 22nd against the pass last season – much more favorable conditions.
Keenum and the receivers won’t get another pass if they lay a second egg.
Don’t expect Week 1, but don’t expect Week 2 production, either.
Fantasy Pros ranks Diggs as the No. 26 in standard and No. 22 receiver in PPR, Thielen as No. 31 in standard and No. 28 receiver in PPR and Rudolph as the No. 6 tight end in both standard and PPR this week.
It may feel like it, but you’re not living that dangerously by starting Rudolph, Diggs or Thielen this week.
Want to talk more fantasy football? E-mail Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org or heckle him on Twitter @mike_e_nelson.