2022 Fantasy Football Drafts: Kirk Cousins is more underrated than you think

For many of you fantasy managers, Kirk Cousins is the epitome of an average NFL starting quarterback — right down to his perfectly .500 career winning percentage (59-59-2). Cousins is a uni-threat player with a relentlessly bland public image and zero Super Bowl appearances. Weirdly, the more excited he gets, the more awkward he gets.

No one ever took a victory lap after drafting Cousins in fantasy. He's never led the league in passing yardage or touchdowns and his top single-season rushing total is 179 yards. Cousins has never delivered a top-three positional finish in terms of fantasy scoring. He's definitely been the sort of quarterback with whom you can win, as long as your fantasy squad has an overwhelming edge at some other position. He's tolerable, if also somewhat unexciting.

Cousins is ... well, he's fine. Meh.

At Yahoo, early fantasy drafters have made Cousins the QB15 in terms of ADP (120.5), which means our collective excitement is quite low. Almost nonexistent.

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But here's the thing: Cousins, at QB15, is now valued at his absolute floor, assuming he remains healthy. This is a player who's finished inside the top-15 players at his fantasy position for seven consecutive years, with three seasons among the top eight. He may not have been elite in our game — however you choose to define that loaded term — but he's been plenty useful. He's passed for 4,200 yards and at least 30 scores in three of his four years in Minnesota. He threw multiple TD passes in 12 of his 16 games in 2021. He's productive and bankable.

Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings has fantasy value
Kirk Cousins' boring label is overblown in fantasy. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Of course, you're free to feel any kind of way about Cousins as a real-life QB or a big-moment performer, but he's been an incredible compiler, placing himself statistically in the company of legends. Over the past four years, he's also averaged 8.1 yards per attempt while completing 68.3 percent of his throws. His passer rating with the Vikings is 103.5. We won't try to convince you that he's sneakily and secretly Aaron Rodgers-ish, but, again, this is a quality quarterback.

And here's this other thing: It's not at all crazy to expect a monster season from Cousins in 2022, perhaps his best. Think 5,000 yards and 35 scores. Let's please remember the following facts:

Cousins is no longer playing for a head coach who actively dislikes him

Sorry to lean too hard into intangibles here, but, well ... this has to help, at least a little. Even if you generally agree with Mike Zimmer's various reported concerns regarding Cousins, you have to acknowledge that enmity between a head coach and starting QB is unhelpful. We should also recognize the fact that Minnesota's offense had become situationally predictable, outdated and run-heavy on early downs. Zimmer apparently had issues with Cousins' aggressiveness (or lack thereof), but Kirk has actually been one of the league's best and most frequent deep-ball passers in recent seasons. Last year, he threw 10 touchdown passes and just two interceptions on 71 attempts of 20-plus yards, according to PFF. He went deep more often than Patrick Mahomes (69), Matthew Stafford (67) and Justin Herbert (64) despite fewer total attempts.

The arrival of Kevin O'Connell and his staff is a gift

Minnesota's offense was like an expensive piece of high-end technology that hadn't received a software or security update in years while being operated by someone unfamiliar with its full capabilities. But that's not a worry any longer. Here's third-year star receiver Justin Jefferson discussing the new coaching staff:

"Our offensive style, it's not a run-first offense anymore," Jefferson said. "Just us being able to put different people in different positions and distribute the ball, really. I'm so excited in this offense. ... We're all excited. We're all happy to have (O'Connell). It's definitely a different vibe, a different connection in the building with him there. We're just excited to start it up, really."

So that all seems positive. O'Connell and OC Wes Phillips are both relocating from Sean McVay's staff in Los Angeles, yet both also have familiarity with Cousins from their time together in Washington. This year, we can expect creative designs from the Vikings, greater offensive pace, more pre-snap motion and significantly more sets with three or more receivers. This team used 11-personnel at the fifth lowest rate in the league last season; that clearly won't be the case in 2022. Dalvin Cook should see a jump in targets, too. Cousins is a very good bet to clear 600 pass attempts with ease.

Minnesota's receiving corps remains excellent

The NFL's first 2,000-yard receiver is almost certainly in the league right now and Jefferson is the top candidate to be that dude. He's been an unsolvable problem for defenses in his first two seasons, hauling in 196 balls for 3,016 yards, and he just turned 23 in June. We haven't yet seen his best. If you want to draft him first overall in any sort of PPR format, I've got no quarrel with the pick. He has a real chance to be a game-breaking fantasy weapon.

The supporting receivers in Minnesota's offense aren't too shabby, either. Adam Thielen is a two-time Pro Bowler who's made 24 house calls over the past two years, K.J. Osborn was a revelation last season (50-665-7), Irv Smith Jr. is back to full health and, again, we suspect this team is about to unlock Cook as a receiving threat. This offense is loaded.

Even if you're a longtime Cousins skeptic, you should be able to recognize a spectacular fantasy setup when you see it. All necessary pieces are currently in place for Cousins to deliver a massive windfall profit at his ADP. Don't ignore his considerable upside.

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