Finished watching the first two preseason games and wanted to take a chance at guess at the final Vikings roster. However, while trying to come up with a final roster got me looking to the future as well and wanted to add on a quick look at what the current 53 could mean in April 2013. First, the roster:
QB - Ponder, Webb, Sage
Thoughts: The franchise, the curveball, and the veteran. MBT should have no trouble latching on to the practice squad.
FB/RB - Peterson, Gerhart, Asiata, D'Imperio
Thoughts: Wish Todman was healthy because his lateral and downhill speed would be the perfect complement to Toby if Peterson relapses on his injury. Asiata looks much better this year and for now is the only backup to do something with the ball, even if it was against the 2nd/3rd team. He can also function as a FB/H-Back, a versatility that should help him stick. D'Imperio is a main stay on special teams and has done well as a blocker in the past.
WR - Simpson (after wk 3), Harvin, Jenkins, Burton, Wright, Arceneaux
Thoughts: With Simpson's suspension, I can see the Vikings keeping 6 WR even after his return. Most of the corp hasn't stuck out other than Simpson/Harvin, with a few flashes here and there. Could use some extra options and competition. Don't think the other four currently on the roster have shown enough (or been drafted recently enough) to warrant more time on the final 53. What does everyone think the % chance the Vikings sign Simpson to a multi-year deal at some point this season? Think those chances are looking really good for him at this point.
TE - Rudolph, Carlson, Ellison, Shuler
Thoughts: Seems pretty obvious whose making it at TE save the very last spot. Reisner and Shuler are fighting for it and here is why I at going with Shuler: When they lost Shuler last year, Reisner went back and forth from the PS and roster. As soon as they could, they went to get Shuler. Right now its a very close race, but I think Spielman leans Shuler.
OL - Kalil, Johnson, Sullivan, Fusco, Loadholt, Berger, Schwartz, Love
Thoughts - Due to Schwartz's injury, the starting 5 seems set. Johnson plays emergency OT and Berger/Schwartz/Fusco can play all three interior OL positions. Love hasn't played yet due to injury, but he is part of Spielman's first draft class and I think they expect him to be ready for backup duty this year.
Offensive Roster Total: 25
DT - Williams, Guion, Ballard, Evans
Thoughts: Even with Williams, this looks like the weakest position on the defense. Tydreke Powell is a dark horse for the roster, but the Vikings could use some more big, talented DTs.
DE - Allen, Robison, Griffin, D. Reed, Guyton
Thoughts: Another position with lots of talent and limited positions. The first three are obvious, but D'aunde and Guyton have the versatility to play inside on rushing downs so they are getting the nod. Nick Reed has looked good and each of the other backups has flashed, but I don't think they make it.
LB - Greenway, Brinkley, Henderson, Mitchell, McKenzie, Cole
Thoguhts: Another position where the starters seem pretty set. Mitchell/McKenzie/Cole have each flashed in the preseason both at LB and special teams. Greenway and Henderson are the top dogs here and would be the likely starting duo in nickel D. Will be interesting to see what the rest of the LB corp brings this season because outside the top two, its a group prime for some turnover/upgrade.
DB - Winfield, Cook, Robinson, Carr, Smith, Raymond, Sanford, Blanton, Burton, Sherels
Thoughts: By the end of the year, I think Robinson will be in the top three CBs with the ability to play inside and outside corner positions. Smith and Raymond are looking like the combo at safety. Sanford probably still rotates in and plays special teams along with Blanton (when he's healthy), Burton, and Sherels
Defensive Roster Total: 25
LS Loeffler, P Kluwe, K Walsh
Thoughts: Walsh seems to be looking to upgrade the Vikings with his added kickoff value. Loeffler and Kluwe are mainstays.
Special Teams Roster Total: 3
So there you have it, my current projection for the final 53. I tried to lean towards special teams value when the position battles were close. Stayed heavy on the DBs because of the other offenses in the division, but one or more could be used to add depth at another position, most likely DT or LB. Also tended to lean towards youth/play making/recent draft pick when spots got tight.
As much as I think that roster looks much better than last years, there are still some obvious holes and depth issues. With that in mind, I took a look toward the 2013 NFL Draft and thought of some guys Vikings fans should keep an eye on this CFB season. Because of the heavy emphasis on offense in the 2012 draft and with more issues with defensive personnel than offensive, I am turning the tables (as I think Spielman will) and focusing on defense in this mock.
2013 NFL Mock Draft
1st - Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State (Jr)
Most mocks have the Vikings in the top 5 picks, but I am going to be optimistic and assume they draft closer to 10th overall than 5th. With that in mind, I think the Vikings miss out on Star Lotulelei (Utah), but could have a great consolation in Hankins. Quite athletic for his listed 6'4", 325, he has a wide frame and upfield ability to wreak terror along side Williams.
2nd - Shane Skov, LB, Stanford
Skov is coming back from a knee injury (and DUI arrest), but before that, he flashed 1st round ability (listed 6'3", 243) both as a rush OLB and a ILB. He could solidify the MLB position (because he's better than Brinkley IMO) while also providing depth in nickel and other sub packages.
3rd - Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall
Even with drafting two WRs in the 4th this past April, the Vikings still need playmakers that can play on the outside flanker positions. Best case scenario with Childs: He starts next season on the PUP list and comes back halfway through 2013 and becomes everything his potential looked before his double patella tendon tear. I'm pretty optimistic, but even I'm not sure that will happen. Even if that were to happen, Simpson is still on a one year contract, both he and Harvin would need to get re-signed this season, and just about everyone behind them could be upgraded (or in some cases given time to develop). So talent is still needed in the WR corp. Dobson is listed 6'3" 200lbs and has been a consistent playmaker for the Thundering Herd.
4th - Nickell Robey, CB, USC (Jr)
The biggest hurdle Robey is going to have to overcome is something he can't change, his size (5'8" 165). Dispite his small stature, he is a very tough defender, has had good games against some of the best WRs in the PAC-12, and has shown time and again he can be a playmaker. He reminds me of Winfield and could be a great replacement for him in his nickel role and as a rotational CB.
4th (From Lions) - John Boyett, S, Oregon
Safety could still use some competition despite Smith's fast accession and Boyett has the playmaking ability to pair well with the Vikings recent 1st round pick. He is a bit smaller (5'10" 202), but has a distinguished career at Oregon and is primed for a big senior season. He's great in zone, reading/reacting to the QB which are skills that translate to the Vikings D.
5th - Dennis Johnson, RB, Arkansas
The RB depth behind Peterson/Gerhart is very much in flux, but Johnson could be the perfect compliment to the group. He caught many scouts eyes replacing Kniles Davis last season, but with Kniles back (a potential high RB draft pick) Johnson will go back to a more reserved role. Johnson has drawn comparisons to the San Diego Charger version of Michael "The Burner" Turner (currently in Atlanta). Uses his blocks well and has been a consistent threat catching out of the backfield. Holds records as a returner too.
6th (From Tennessee) - Kenny Okoro, CB, Wake Forest
Carr and Bowman are two more Vikings playing on a one year deals and Brandon Burton has yet to show much outside a few plays in practice which could mean even more talent needed at this important position. Okoro has size (6'1" 195), shown skills as a zone corner and his full name is Chibuikem Kenneth Okoro. That's badass.
7th - Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Even with a first round pick invested at DT, the talent behind the potential of Williams/Hankins would still need competition/upgrading. Richardson has been a part of the rotation of DL for the Tigers and been successful, but injuries have held him back. Lots of potential, but needs to over come injury labels and show his talents in his first year as a full time starter.