Impact Analysis: Gus Frerotte, Minnesota Vikings

by Wes Bunting on September 19, 2008 @ 03:53:54 PDT


With their passing offense sputtering the first two games of the year, Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress decided it was time to pull the plug on 25-year-old quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and name veteran quarterback Gus Frerotte as the team's new starter. Frerotte, who is set to make his first start since Week 13 of last season with the St. Louis Rams, will be asked to run the offense for the rest of the season and allow Jackson to learn from the sidelines.

Frerotte is a seasoned veteran but has limited experience in Childress' West Coast offense. A free-agent signee this offseason, Frerotte is still learning the nuances of the offense, but he did run a variation of it during his two years with the Denver Broncos in 2001 and 2002. Despite his veteran status, Frerotte has only been a full-time starter once during the last 10 seasons.

The Frerotte effect

Frerotte's presence should provide a more balanced attack for the Vikings, and it should also lead to better production for the receivers than they had under the guidance of Jackson. However, don't expect everything to fall in place immediately as there are reasons he has been a backup for most of his career. Frerotte lacks elite physical tools, has suspect accuracy (54.2 career completion percentage) and his career 102-91 touchdown-to-interception ratio is poor. However, he does have a powerful running game in Minnesota that should help him to ease into his new role.

Frerotte has some intriguing passing options in receivers Bernard Berrian (toe), Sidney Rice (knee) and Bobby Wade, which should allow Childress to open up the passing game in the coming weeks. The team envisioned a more potent downfield passing attack in 2008 after signing Berrian, but after the first two games of the season, the three have combined for just eight receptions, 111 yards and a touchdown. Does the insertion of Frerotte help the fantasy output of Berrian, Rice and Wade the rest of the year?

The receivers

Berrian, signed from the Chicago Bears during the offseason, came into the year with the highest expectations amongst the Minnesota receiving corps. Coming off a 71-catch, 951-yard season with Chicago in 2007, Berrian was supposed to provide the deep threat that was sorely lacking for the Vikings last season. But after a slow start, including zero catches in Week 2, fantasy owners may have already seen enough of his play. However, don't even consider cutting Berrian this early.

He has been plagued by a toe injury since the start of training camp, and the presence of Frerotte at quarterback gives him a more consistent option to make plays down the field. Berrian's deep speed is an ideal home run threat, especially with Minnesota's ability to work off of play action, which gives him some upside going forward.

Rice, the second-year wideout from the University of South Carolina, was considered one of the preseason's biggest sleepers. However, he logged just two receptions in the first two games and suffered a sprained PCL in Week 2. Rice was banged up during his rookie year as well (missing three games) and is in danger of being inactive for the team's Week 3 game.

When healthy, Rice has the size and quickness off the line to get initial separation in the passing game, and he has shown the ability to make athletic catches in traffic. Rice boasts a more versatile game than Berrian, who is primarily a deep threat, which continues to make Rice an intriguing option.

Wade led the Vikings in receptions and yards last year and has been their most effective option this season despite operating as the team's slot receiver. With the injuries to Berrian and Rice, Wade has taken on the brunt of the workload in practice this week and could be the man Frerotte looks to first on key passing situations in Week 3. His long-term prognosis is shaky at best, but Wade might be decent in the early stages of Frerotte's tenure.

Fantasy football outlook

Frerotte has a chance to post decent weekly totals once he finds a comfort level in the offense. That could take some time, but if you're in need of a backup quarterback, Frerotte should return value as a weak No. 2 option.

Berrian and Rice are both banged up at the moment, but they are still weak third or solid fourth receivers with the potential to outperform that designation should Frerotte elevate the passing game. Wade is more of a waiver-wire spot play and not someone that should be given a weekly place on your roster.

As for Jackson, he should be dropped in all single-year leagues, though those in deep keeper formats can stash him away on the bench.

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About Wes Bunting

Wes Bunting has been a KFFL contributor since 2008.

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