Well, Arif has done his, and wludford has done his, so as we sit here about 24 hours from the NFL's final roster cutdown, I wanted to take a stab at putting together a 53-man roster for the Minnesota Vikings myself. As I said in the post about the cutdown to 75, the 53-man roster that we see at 3:00 PM Central on Saturday isn't going to be the same as the one that makes the trip to San Francisco for Week 1. Shoot, the 53-man roster we see at 3:00 PM Central on Saturday probably won't be the same as the 53-man roster we see at 3:00 PM Central on Sunday.
But, at this point, all I can predict is what the final cuts are going to look like, so here we go.
Quarterback (3) - Teddy Bridgewater, Shaun Hill, Taylor Heinicke
Mike Zimmer has said that he sees the team keeping three quarterbacks. Since he has at least a little bit of a say in the composition of this roster, I'm going to believe him. The team could try to sneak Heinicke onto the practice squad, I suppose. He won't make it there, but they could try. Again, I need to remind everyone that the Vikings kept three quarterbacks last season, and by Week 5 all three of them had started games. (Cue endless whining about the existence of Christian Ponder.) I can't think of a good reason for Heinicke to not make the roster. . .he can hold the clipboard now, and could very easily end up being Bridgewater's primary backup as early as next season if Hill proves to be ineffective.
Running Back (3) - Adrian Peterson, Jerick McKinnon, Matt Asiata
No real mystery to be had here. The run game has been nothing short of a disaster this preseason, and while I'd like to believe that everything is magically going to fix itself prior to the season opener, nobody was going to be running through the "holes" that the offensive line was "creating" during these preseason games. That needs to be fixed in a hurry, or it won't matter if Adrian Peterson is lining up in the backfield or not.
Don't see a reason to keep Zach Line or Blake Renaud. The Vikings are dialing back at the fullback position, and neither Line nor Renaud was terribly impressive this preseason.
Wide Receiver (6) - Mike Wallace, Charles Johnson, Jarius Wright, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Cordarrelle Patterson
Wallace and Johnson are your starters, with Wright as the primary slot guy. Diggs will see a lot of time on returns. . .consider that a spoiler for later. Thielen is going to see more time at receiver than we probably think, though his main calling card is still going to be special teams. Then there's Patterson, who may or may not be in Mike Zimmer's doghouse at any given moment depending on what day it is, moon phases, and things of that nature. I don't know if Patterson is trade bait at this point. . .honestly, I'm not sure how much trade value he actually has. . .but he's on the roster for now.
Tight End (4) - Kyle Rudolph, Rhett Ellison, Chase Ford, MyCole Pruitt
Another reason that the Vikings don't have to keep a fullback has a lot to do with the presence of Rhett Ellison. If the Vikings feel they need to go to a two-back set, they could always flex Ellison (or even Asiata) to act as a lead blocker. However, as we've detailed, that's becoming less of a priority. With Rudolph's health being a constant worry, the Vikings probably need to keep both Ford and Pruitt to act as backup receiving tight ends should something happen to him again. The Vikings have a lot of talent at this position, I think.
Offensive Line (9) - Matt Kalil, Brandon Fusco, John Sullivan, Mike Harris, T.J. Clemmings, Joe Berger, Austin Shepherd, David Yankey, Zac Kerin
Do the Vikings keep nine offensive linemen, or do they roll with eight? I think they're going to keep nine. . .but if they only keep 8, I think Shepherd ends up being the odd man out. The Vikings keep Kerin around because he's performed well this preseason and, with Sullivan having health issues, they need to keep an extra center around (though Berger is the primary backup there and at guard). This unit is going to be the key to the entire season, quite frankly. . .if they can get to a level of play that hovers around "average," this is a 10-win football team.
Defensive End (5) - Everson Griffen, Brian Robison, Scott Crichton, Daniell Hunter, Justin Trattou
Trattou has played too well this season to not find a spot on this roster. Frankly, he should probably be the third defensive end at this point. The team probably wants to rotate defensive ends a little more than they did last year, given Robison's age and health issues, so it makes sense to go with an extra defensive end.
Defensive Tackle (4) - Sharrif Floyd, Linval Joseph, Tom Johnson, Shamar Stephen
Absolutely no surprises here. Stephen has missed nearly all of this preseason, but the team likes him, and he got some experience as a starter last season. Of all the positions on the roster, this one might have the least amount of drama surrounding it. (Well, with the exception of special teams. . .guess I should specify positions where there's actually a competition).
Linebacker (7) - Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Chad Greenway, Gerald Hodges, Audie Cole, Michael Mauti, Brandon Watts
Probably the toughest position to project on the roster, I think the first five names on the list are locks. . .it's those last two spots where things get a little tricky. I think that Mauti survives because of his special teams prowess, as he's been very good in that role for the Vikings. I really, really wanted to put Edmond Robinson in that last spot, but I think the Vikings are going to try to sneak him onto the practice squad. He has a decent chance to make it there, and I hope he does. . .it's nice to see the small school guys do well. I almost kept Watts and Robison and cut Mauti loose. . .it's a very close battle between those three. Like I said, this is the most intriguing position to keep an eye on over the next 24 hours.
Cornerback (5) - Xavier Rhodes, Terence Newman, Trae Waynes, Captain Munnerlyn, Josh Thomas
An important thing to remember is that Jabari Price won't count against the 53-man roster for the first two weeks of the season as he's serving his suspension. Josh Robinson won't count either, but the team has to see how his pectoral injury plays out. Yes, I have this as the year that Marcus Sherels doesn't make the roster. . .he's a guy you want to cheer for, but Stefon Diggs has made him expendable on returns, and he just isn't as good a corner as any of the guys I've listed, in my opinion.
Safety (4) - Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton, Andrew Sendejo, Antone Exum
The Vikings seem determined to keep Blanton as the starter, much to the consternation of many, but the team has plenty of other options at the position if necessary. Not a whole lot else to be said about this position, either.
Special Teams (3) - Blair Walsh, Jeff Locke, Kevin McDermott
Because. . .well, because they're the only guys at their positions on the roster. Though if the Vikings wanted to replace Locke with the recently released Brandon Fields, I don't think I'd hate that or anything. Of course, I don't know how much that would screw up field goals and extra points, and we certainly don't need any drama on those fronts with the way things have gone this preseason.
That's what I have for the 53-man roster, folks. Did I include someone I shouldn't have? Boot off someone that should be kept? We'll know in about 24 hours or so.