Evaluating the Roster: Offense

We've got two more first rounders to add to our roster. - Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Daily Norseman takes a look at the Vikings roster and using player grades from Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders, attempts to project who will be the starters for the 2014 Season.

As of this writing, the Vikings have 89 players listed on their official roster at Vikings.com, although they could still be in negotiations with OT Austin Wentworth of Fresno State, who was on their initial list of undrafted free agents who agreed to terms, but who has not officially signed yet. Including Wentworth, they added 25 rookies to the roster via the draft and free agency.  With training camp still 2 months out we'll likely see a bit more movement with the roster.  But now that the dust has settled from the draft, it's a perfect time to re-evaluate the roster and see where upgrades can still be made. You can check out some other roster projections in the fanposts from Josh_D and J-Dog: VikingsSuperFan as well.

I'm going to attempt to make some projections for the depth chart utilizing last season's player grades from Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders (where applicable).  Rookies (or anyone who hasn't played a snap in a regular NFL game), will be given a baseline score of zero, until they can prove otherwise.  Today we'll start with the offensive side of the ball, and tomorrow I'll break down the defense and special teams.

Quarterbacks

Player Name

PFF Grade

PFF Rank

F.O. DYAR

F.O. Rank

1st String

Teddy Bridgewater

0

?

0

?

2nd String

Matt Cassel

-5.2

49 of 70

92

23 of 45

3rd String

Christian Ponder

-10.8

59 of 70

-42

31 of 45

The play at the quarterback position last season was dreadful, as the grades above clearly illustrate.  Neither of our two options from 2013 ranked in the top half of the league.  Even though Teddy Bridgewater is a rookie, I would be surprised to see him anything other than our starting quarterback.  I can certainly respect the idea of sitting Bridgewater until he's ready, but based on how bad the other options are I don't see a scenario where he isn't immediately the best starting option on the roster already.  And neither Cassel nor Ponder will have much of a leg up on Bridgewater as they will all be learning a new system and playbook.  That said, after drafting Teddy Bridgewater, our quarterback depth chart suddenly looks a heck of a lot better than it did in 2013.

Other QBs on the roster: Travis Partridge

Running Backs

Halfbacks

Player Name

PFF Grade

PFF Rank

F.O. DYAR

F.O. Rank

1st String

Adrian Peterson

13.4

11 of 55

60

25 of 47

2nd String

Jerick McKinnon

0

?

0

?

3rd String

Matt Asiata

-2.2

116 of 141

41

(27 of 48)

Fullbacks

Player Name

PFF Grade

PFF Rank

F.O. DYAR

F.O. Rank

1st String

Jerome Felton

7.5

7 of 64

n/a

n/a

2nd String

Rhett Ellison (TE/FB)

5.5

9 of 64

n/a

n/a

This is a tough projection to make, mainly for the backup running backs.  I really wanted to try to make a spot for Zach Line, but he really wasn't that great as a fullback last year (especially behind Felton and Ellison) and it's tough to project him ahead of Matt Asiata who was a serviceable 3rd stringer last year (although also not real great).  I think the 3rd string running back spot is entirely up for grabs, but I give the nod to Asiata based on his experience last year.  I don't think the Vikings would have spent a 3rd round pick on McKinnon unless they had serious plans to use him, so he makes the roster as the primary backup to Peterson on that virtue alone.  Having said all that, I wouldn't be surprised to see Line over Asiata in the 3rd spot, and even Joe Banyard could find his way onto the roster.  I think McKinnon is a better fit for Norv Turner's offense than Toby Gerhart would have been, but our running game will probably look different than it has over the past 3 years under Bill Musgrave.

Other RBs on the roster: Joe Banyard, Zach Line, Dominique Williams

Wide Receivers

Player Name

PFF Grade

PFF Rank

F.O. DYAR

F.O. Rank

1st String

Greg Jennings

5.4

43 of 216

127

37 of 90

2nd String

Jerome Simpson

6.8

35 of 216

20

70 of 90

3rd String

Cordarrelle Patterson

6.8

35 of 216

4

73 of 90

4th String

Jarius Wright

4.6

52 of 216

117

(41 of 91)

5th String

Rodney Smith

-0.1

117 of 216

n/a

n/a

I put Greg Jennings first on the ranking, because of his high Football Outsiders rank compared to the others, which carries more weight than his PFF score and rank (which was similar to Simpson and Patterson).  I put Simpson ahead of Patterson for one simple reason: his Football Outsiders ranking broke their PFF tie.  After that I think the rest is pretty self-explanatory.  It's worth pointing out that a more accurate depth chart would list them as "Split End", "Flanker", and "Slot", but for the purposes of this article I have them ranked as simply as possible one through five.  I think the 5th wide receiver spot on the roster is going to be a wide open race, but because Jennings, Wright and Patterson all have experience in the slot, I would expect the 5th spot to go to a bigger wide receiver who can be a red zone target and line up on the outside.  I wanted to insert 4-year veteran LeStar Jean put his PFF score and rank was well below average last year, and he didn't qualify with enough passes for Football Outsiders.    We didn't draft any wide receivers, but I wouldn't be surprised to see one of the undrafted free agents we just signed or practice squad guys from last season be given a shot.  So, because of Rodney Smith's speed and size combination, he gets the nod for me.  I think it's significant that between he and Adam Thielen, Smith got a few snaps last season while Thielen did not.   Of the undrafted rookies this season, I like Erik Lora and Donte Foster who both have prototypical size and good college production.  They could both find their way to the practice squad, but neither has the towering red-zone size of Smith.  I have a feeling our wide receivers are going to look totally different in Norv Turner's offense and with Teddy Bridgewater at the helm (man, that still feels good saying that!).

Other WRs on the roster: LeStar Jean, Adam Thielen, Kain Colter, Donte Foster, Erik Lora

Tight Ends

Player Name

PFF Grade

PFF Rank

F.O. DYAR

F.O. Rank

1st String

Kyle Rudolph

-0.1

43 of 134

-21

43 of 51

2nd String

Chase Ford

3.5

18 of 134

6

(37 of 52)

3rd String

Rhett Ellison (TE/FB)

n/a

n/a

3

(38 of 52)

4th String

A.C. Leonard

0

?

0

?

Interestingly, Rhett Ellison does not show up in the tight end stats for Pro Football Focus.  This is likely because he lined up as a fullback more often than not (and was listed as a FB by PFF), and was primarily in a blocking role when he was lined up as a tight end.  Ellison has Jimmy Kleinsasser's old role as a workman, blocking tight end.  Chase Ford flashed a lot of talent at the end of last year after Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson were injured and Ford actually scored higher than John Carlson by PFF last year, so I like Chase Ford to move up into the 2nd string, backup role behind Rudolph.  And because Ellison lines up as a fullback so frequently, I could see a place on the roster for undrafted free agent A.C. Leonard, who most had projected as a 5th-7th round selection in the draft.  He was one of the most athletic tight ends at the combine, and went undrafted mostly because of his height (only 6'2") and questions about his blocking, durability (two knee injuries) and off-the-field issues (several arrests).  If he can overcome those issues and show that he has matured during training camp, he could find a spot on the roster.

Other TEs on the roster: Allen Reisner

Offensive Tackles

Player Name

PFF Grade

PFF Rank

F.O. DYAR

F.O. Rank

Starting LT

Matt Kalil

-1.5

86 of 128

n/a

n/a

Starting RT

Phil Loadholt

25.0

10 of 128

n/a

n/a

Backup #1

Mike Remmers

0

63 of 128

n/a

n/a

Backup #2

Antonio Richardson

0

?

n/a

n/a

Despite Matt Kalil having a bit of a down year compared to his excellent rookie campaign, he will slot in as the starter at left tackle barring some unforeseen freak occurrence.  The Vikings have traditionally only kept eight offensive lineman the past couple of years, but if they keep nine, Richardson has a very good shot at making the roster.  Richardson was a consensus 3rd round draft pick in terms of value and the Vikings got an absolute steal signing him as an undrafted free agent.  He's got prototypical size and athleticism at 6'6" and 330 pounds, but slid in the draft due to his being man-handled by Jadeveon Clowney during the 2013 season.  He may not project as a starter, but he should provide good depth and insurance.  I was skeptical of the offensive tackle depth last year, but the Vikings have addressed it by signing free agent Mike Remmers from San Diego, and signing a slew of undrafted free agents.

Other OTs on the roster: Kevin Murphy, Burton Pierce, Matt Hall

Guards

Player Name

PFF Grade

PFF Rank

F.O. DYAR

F.O. Rank

Starting LG

David Yankey

0

?

n/a

n/a

Starting RG

Brandon Fusco

14.5

9 of 144

n/a

n/a

Backup #1

Jeff Baca

4

41 of 144

n/a

n/a

Backup #2

Charlie Johnson (OG/OT)

-6.4

108 of 144

n/a

n/a

Perhaps I'm being too optimistic, but in my opinion David Yankey should be able to unseat Charlie Johnson for the starting LG spot.  Actually, so should Jeff Baca, based on the limited snaps and grade he got from PFF.  One way or the other, I would expect Yankey or Baca to have a very good shot to unseat Charlie Johnson this year (who has not looked very good the past couple of seasons).  David Yankey was a consensus 2nd round pick in the draft, who mysteriously fell to the 5th round and he is almost a lock to make the roster.  I do think Johnson will make the roster, and he would provide good value as a swing backup able to cover both guard and tackle.  And his $1.5 million signing bonus (and therefore $1.5 Million in dead money if he is cut) also makes him an almost lock for the roster.  If the Vikings only keep three guards (and there's a very good chance they do), Jeff Baca would be the odd man out.

Other Gs on the roster: Vladimir Ducasse, Conor Boffeli

Centers

Player Name

PFF Grade

PFF Rank

F.O. DYAR

F.O. Rank

Starting C

John Sullivan

17.9

3 of 64

n/a

n/a

Backup C

Joe Berger (C/OG)

0.6

19 of 64

n/a

n/a

John Sullivan has turned into one of the premiere centers in the NFL and the Vikings will need to begin looking for his replacement in the next few years.  But this year is not one of those years.  Joe Berger has been a reliable backup for several years and offers excellent value at both the center and guard spot.  At this point I have 10 offensive lineman on the roster, which is probably two too many.  Like I mentioned above, if I had to cut two it would be Jeff Baca and Antonio Richardson, and Richardson would have a spot on the practice squad.  With Berger and Johnson having veteran experience and position flexibility, keeping both of them to backup multiple positions would be the smartest move and allow the Vikings to only carry eight lineman.  Making those two final cuts would bring the total offensive number to 24, which is the number the Vikings have carried the past two years.

When it's all said and done our offense is looking much improved over last year.  Just look at the differences:

QB: Drop Josh Freeman for Teddy Bridgewater
RB: Drop Toby Gerhart for Jerod McKinnon
WR: Drop Joe Webb for Rodney Smith
TE: Drop John Carlson for Chase Ford
OL: Drop J'Marcus Webb and Kevin Murphy for Mike Remmers and David Yankey

The offense certainly isn't getting any worse, aside from everyone else aging by 1 year.  When you factor in the new head coach and new offensive coordinator this is an offense that looks very good on paper.  Heck, last year the offense had the 8th best rushing offense and 23rd best passing offense according to Football Outsiders and the 10th graded offense overall by Pro Football Focus.  I would expect the offense to be able to improve on those numbers for 2014 and they shouldn't have to address too many more pieces this off-season, barring freak occurrences (*knocks on wood*).  At the end of the day the 2013 offense was ranked 13th overall in both points scored and yards gained per game.  We were able to move the ball and score last year, and with the upgrades we've made to the roster and coaching staff, and development from young players like Patterson, Kalil, Wright, Ford and Ellison I would expect that ranking to improve.  Things look great for the Vikings offense in 2014.

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