We're halfway through the pre-season, and there's one more pre-season game to be played before the first set of roster cutdowns, which must occur before 4 PM ET on August 26th. At that time, teams must pare their rosters to 75 players. On August 30th, teams must make the final cut to 53 players.
So where does the Vikings roster stand right now? Some positions are pretty much set, some are very close to being settled, and some...clear as mud. Let's take a look and see how things will shake out.
On the roster: Matt Cassel, Teddy Bridgewater, Christian Ponder
Final prediction (3): Cassel, Bridgewater, Ponder
I was firm in my belief that the Vikings would carry three quarterbacks, but after Saturday I'm starting to waiver. I don't think Ponder will be an outright cut, but can you talk me in to a scenario where he's traded for a late round pick or maybe secondary depth? Yeah, I can buy that. Him not playing on Saturday was kind of telling, but if the Vikings can't move him for something, even a 6th or 7th round pick, he'll be on the roster. So for now, we'll call it as such.
On the roster: Adrian Peterson, Matt Asiata, Jerick McKinnon, Joe Banyard, Dominique Williams
Final prediction (3): Peterson, Asiata, McKinnon
Peterson's the most no-brainer of no-brainer picks, obviously. As a third round pick with a ton of raw talent and upside, McKinnon is a lock, too. So that leaves Banyard v. Asiata. Banyard had a nice 53 yard run against the Cardinals, but take that away and he did nothing. Of course, neither did Asiata, so that's kind of a wash. To this point in the pre-season, Asiata has been more consistent, and has looked better than Banyard overall, so this is still Asiata's spot to lose.
On the roster: Jerome Felton, Zach Line
Final prediction (1): Felton
I know both Felton and Line have been used kind of sparingly in the first two pre-season games, and in camp the Vikings have been using a lot of three receiver or two tight end sets. It sort of begs the question on whether either of these guys will make the final roster, but if we keep saying that Norv Turner likes a Darren Sproles-like running back, he also likes having a Mike Tolbert-like fullback. In that case, they keep a fullback, and if they do, it's Felton.
On the roster: Kyle Rudolph, Allen Reisner, Rhett Ellison, Mike Higgins, Kory Sperry, Chase Ford (currently on the PUP)
Final prediction (3): Rudolph, Ellison. Reisner/Ford
The first two spots seem pretty secure, and if Ford can make an impression when he finally starts playing, which should be this week, he should make it. That said, Reisner looked like a good red zone target for Teddy Bridgewater, and he seems to be very much in the mix. Could the Vikings go with four tight ends and forego and fullback? They could, but at this point, I don't see it, so it's either Reisner or Ford.
On the roster: Kain Colter, Andy Cruse, Donte Foster, Greg Jennings, Kamar Jorden, Erik Lora, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jerome Simpson, Rodney Smith, Adam Thielen, Ty Walker, Jarius Wright
Final prediction (5): Jennings, Patterson, Simpson, Wright, Thielen
The first four guys are locks, contrary to the popular belief that a lot of fans want to see Simpson cut. It's simply not happening, as Jerome is hands down better than any of the other receivers in camp not named Jennings, Patterson, or Wright. So, let's just stop with the 'let's cut Simpson talk', because I just don't see it happening. So, that leaves Rodney Smith and Adam Thielen. Thielen's been better since day one, both in practice and in game conditions, than Smith has. Does Smith have more natural ability? Maybe, but Thielen runs better routes, is the more consistent pass catcher (Saturday's TD drop aside), and has been more versatile on special teams. Thielen has been the better player, and he will win the spot.
On the roster: John Sullivan, Zac Kerin
Final prediction (1): Sullivan
This is pretty simple. Sullivan will be the starter, and the backup center role won't be filled by Kerin.
On the roster: Jeff Baca, Joe Berger, Vladimir Ducasse, Brandon Fusco, Charlie Johnson, Austin Wentworth, David Yankey
Final prediction (5): Fusco, Johnson, Ducasse, Yankey, Berger
The first four are the primary starters and backups, and Berger is the 'super sub' that can play anywhere, and will also be the primary backup to John Sullivan at center. It's a good mix of youth an experience, both starting and in reserve. As long as Yankey continues to develop, this is a decent to very good group of interior linemen.
On the roster: Pierce Burton, Matt Kalil, Phil Loadholt, Kevin Murphy, Mike Remmers, Antonio Richardson
Final prediction (4): Kalil, Loadholt, Richardson, Wentworth
Both Richardson and Wentworth are listed on the 2nd team depth chart, and din't play themselves down to the third team. Conversely, Remmers and Murphy didn't play themselves into the second team, either. I think Tiny Richardson is safe at this point, and as an undrafted free agent, he's a good story.
On the roster: Colin Loeffler, Blair Walsh, Jeff Locke
Final Prediction (3): Loeffler, Walsh, Locke
Yeah, no surprises here. Seeing as how, you know, there isn't a long snapper, kicker, or punter in camp to compete for a job.
So for offense and special teams, we have a total of 28 guys, with 25 offensive players. Let's take a look at defense.
On the roster: Chase Baker, Fred Evans, Isame Faciane, Shariff Floyd, Tom Johnson, Linval Joseph, Kheeston Randall, Shamar Stephen
Final prediction (4): Joseph, Floyd, Johnson, Evans
I know some folks are making some noise about guys like Faciane and Stephen, but I just haven't seen them do enough to overtake Evans and Johnson. Could they make the practice squad? Yeah, I think they're both solid candidates, and they could develop into quality players one day, but right now I think the veterans Johnson and Evans hold on to their spots.
On the roster: Scott Crichton, Everson Griffen, Brian Robison, Scott Tyler, Jake Snyder, Justin Trattou, Corey Wootton
Final prediction (4): Robison, Griffen, Crichton, Wootton
I hate to say that this position group was settled at the end of the draft...but this position group was settled at the end of the draft. Robison and Griffen were done deals, and as soon as the Vikings signed Wootton and drafted Crichton in the third round, the defensive end battles were done, barring a major push by one of the other guys. There hasn't been said push, so these will be your defensive ends, barring injury.
On the roster: Anthony Barr, Jasper Brinkley, Audie Cole, Larry Dean, Dom DeCicco, Chad Greenway, Gerald Hodges, Michael Mauti, Brandon Watts, Mike Zimmer
Final prediction (7): Barr, Brinkley Greenway, Cole, Hodges, Watts, Mauti
We're finally getting some clarity here, and the first six guys are your first and second team. Mauti has played some with the second team, and is a first team special teams guy, and I think that keeps him on the roster. One guy that's really stepped up his game has been Hodges, who was kind of a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing performance by the defense against the Cardinals.
On the roster: Derek Cox, Kendall James, Captain Munnerlyn, Julian Posey, Shaun Prater, Jabari Price, Xavier Rhodes, Josh Robinson, Marcus Sherels, Robert Steeples
Final prediction (6): Munnerlyn, Rhodes, Robinson, Price, Sherels, Cox
For me, this is where things start getting cloudy. Could they only go with five CB's, and keep another linebacker or defensive lineman for special teams? Yeah, Larry Dean could maybe make a roster spot in that case, but which one of these CB's do you drop?The first four seem pretty solid, Sherels is in not only because of his improved coverage skills but he's also the primary punt returner. Cox has played well in camp and in the pre-season so far, and seems like the top guy in the dime package, or is at least pushing hard for it.. So for now, I'm going with six CB's, and we'll see what happens with the first set of roster cuts.
On the roster: Brandon Bishop, Robert Blanton, Kurt Coleman, Chris Crocker, Antone Exum, Mistral Raymond, Jamarca Sanford, Andrew Sendejo, Harrison Smith
Final prediction (4): Smith, Blanton, Coleman, Sanford
Let me admit something right off the bat: I'm basing this projection on the Vikings depth chart, because as of right now, I don't believe even the Vikings staff knows who the four guys are that they will keep. If you make me give you locks right now, I'll give you Smith and Coleman, but I don't see Coleman as a starter when the season opens. That's because he's listed as Smith's backup at free safety, and injuries have really clouded this position group. At strong safety I think they want Blanton, who started out strong but has been hampered by nagging injuries. Sanford has been okay, but I don't see him starting, and Chris Crocker, who was brought in as a guy to compete for a job, seemed to have an inside track as a former player for Zimmer. But he really hasn't done much, and played sparingly against the Cardinals. So we'll go with the four guys the Vikings have listed, and see how it shakes out.
So by my count, that's 25 offensive guys, 25 defensive guys, and three special teams guys, for a grand total of 53 players.
There you go, let me have it.