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101 Roster Cuts that Caught My Eye

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A lot of teams cut players. Could any of them help the Vikings now or down the road? Possibly.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The roster is never done changing. The Vikings have a 53-man roster set, but there's a good chance that because they changed their mind on Michael Mauti and their expressed interest in offensive line depth, they could very well go after players that weren't around for Vikings training camp.

Naturally, the trade for Jeremiah Sirles alters things (and the Vikings changing their mind on Mauti could have been related to Sirles), but it's worth taking a look at some players that are at the very least intriguing.

Last year, the Vikings added two players to their roster that weren't in training camp and one of them is now the starting right guard for Minnesota.

Though I did try this project with limited success last year (I tracked 53 released players, only one of them made contact with the Vikings—TE Ryan Otten was on their practice squad for a moment), most of the players mentioned in that piece ended up on 90-man rosters this year, and some made the 53-man squad for their new teams.

A few—Jackson Jeffcoat and cornerback Mike Harris (from Jacksonville State)—had great preseasons to go with making the rosters for their teams.

This year, we're looking at 101 of them, but we'll separate them into categories. Some of the players would provide interesting practice squad looks, while others could even threaten a roster spot. For the most part, the categories are separated into why they're intriguing and less about what role they would play if the Vikings were interested in them.

We'll have the relevant category data (consensus board rank, SPARQ data, etc.) their "adjusted" PFF grade from the preseason (prorated to 60 snaps) and some notes as well as name and position.

Draft Favorites

For this, I'll be using the two consensus boards from the 2014 and 2015 draft. That way, we're not biased by an individual evaluator, but instead looking at the top 150 draft prospects as determined by 35-40 evaluators in the last two years who have busted out early with their original teams. These players may have had attitude problems, been overprojected or simply were not system fits for their original teams. Because they're young (in terms of NFL experience), they'll all have practice squad eligibility.

Player Position Draft Rank Notes Adj PFF Grade
Louis Nix DT 22 Drafted later than rank, but still a strong, big-bodied guy. May be best fit for two-gap role. Supposed maturity issues. No snaps in 2014 -3.12
Cyril Richardson G 71 Big but a lot of bad weight. Motivation questions. Generally smartly positioned and good in pass pro. Has balance. -1.27
Stanley Jean-Baptiste CB 73 Long, tall and strong. Not a lot of speed or agility but good explosion. Old and relatively raw, but good ball skills. -1.36
Tre McBride WR 96 Athletic, tall and dominated lower level competition. Great body control, but speed doesn't appear in pads. Incredible catch radius. -1.13
Jaylen Watkins CB 98 Good weight and speed, alright length. Looks thin despite weight. Agile. Needs functional strength, and not physical. Needs more burst. Could be a safety. -0.48
Kelcy Quarles DT 101 Quick, productive and a good tackler. Plays too light, has rumored character issues. Has leverage issues. -0.69
Kevin White CB 111 Small and slow, but instinctive, physical and routinely shut down top WR prospects in college (except Ty Lockette). Great hands and timing. -0.3
Ed Reynolds S 115 Has size and instincts, but average athleticism at best. Stiff and not super versatile 0.63
Jordan Tripp LB 123 Fast and physical with good instincts. Lacks on-field agility and needs more work shedding blocks. Long-snapping ability. -2.63
Reese Dismukes C 131 Quick, aware and solid movement. Has strength/leverage problem and stops feet. Could possibly be racist? -0.94
Craig Loston S 139 Physical and strong, but not agile or fast. OK instincts, but can be fooled. Old for his draft class. -2.42
Max Valles DE 140 Athletic and in college, was productive. Not much technique and needs more weight. -3.15
Hayes Pullard LB 141 Instinctive and technical, but not always aggressive. Not athletic but does possess agility. Smart but needs more strength. 1.08
B.J. Finney C 142 Really unathletic and it shows, but solid understanding of leverage. Can get caught unawares, though. -0.2
Ben Koyack TE 143 Height-Weight-Speed. Good catcher, great technique in run and pass blocking. Needs size, strength. Raw route-runner. -2.67
Arthur Lynch TE 148 Strong, with good size, but limited hands and speed. Lacking agility. Needs much more technique. Old for his draft class. -1.38
Rashaad Reynolds CB 150 Versatile, twitchy and instinctive. Great in run support. Good ball awareness. Size, injury and technique concerns. -1.13

SPARQ Gawds

These are players who scored well in SPARQ (or rather, pSPARQ, an approximation of SPARQ), a Nike metric designed to test all-around athleticism that adjusts for size, and it's something the Seahawks employ heavily in their scouting. 100 is meant to be average. If you're familiar with baseball, the metrics below are very much like "plus" metrics, where every 15 points is one standard deviation above or below the average.

That would mean a SPARQ of 115 implies an athlete who is "more athletic" than 84 percent of the population. A SPARQ of 130 is an athlete who is two standard deviations above average, or more athletic than 97 percent of the population.

I have included all the athletes who I found interesting who also happened to score a SPARQ of 125 or higher (1.67 standard deviations, or 95 percent of the tested population). In addition to the players below, Tre McBride and Jordan Tripp in the list above had a SPARQ score above 125, while Rashaad Reynolds' SPARQ was 124.2.

Player Position SPARQ Notes Adj PFF Grade
Brian Mihalik DT 138.7 Phenomenal testing, but it doesn't show up on the field. Long and plays with good leverage but needs to react faster -3.77
Raheem Mostert RB 136.4 More a returner than RB, but obvious potential. Will need coaching to become a scatback. Switched between WR and RB too often in college. Flashes instincts. 1.51
Chris Owusu WR 134.9 Other tests show up on field, but not his 40. Long arms, good catch radius and good hands. Solid route-runner. Too many concussions in college. 1.38
Damiere Byrd WR 133.4 Short, light and needs work running routes, but extremely quick, fast and explosive. Good hands and body control. Often open deep -0.74
B.W. Webb CB 133.0 Limited experience in coverage, thin and had competition level concerns, but athleticism (speed, explosion, quickness, strength) shows up on field. Reputed to be smart. -1.08
Bronson Hill RB 129.3 Inconsistent in everything—vision, on-field athleticism, instincts. Incredible when he's on and mediocre when he's off. Very physical, hard to tackle. Solid pass pro. -1.15
Howard Jones LB 128.5 Sudden, powerful and quick. Speed and strength show up on field. Undersized, limited technique and inconsistent instincts. 2.4
Trevor Roach LB 128.3 Too often injured in college to get clear scouting report, but athleticism seemed to show up and had great instincts for the ball in run support. Very efficient in the preseason. Somewhat light, may be Will only. -2.18
Chandler Worthy WR 127.2 Small and light, but as his SPARQ implies, an incredible athlete. Good character and productive at Troy. May be returner only. Hands issues as a receiver. -1.22
Cedric Thompson S 127.1 Inconsistent athlete and inconsistent in coverage, but with a higher floor and more reliability than Bronson Hill at RB. Good in the box and solid tackler. Potentially questionable instincts. -1.24
Shakim Phillips WR 127.0 Bounced around colleges with run-heavy systems and suffered from a lot of injuries. A lot of speed, but needs technical work as well as physicality. Flashes complete skillset at times. -0.51
Josh Watson DT 126.7 Old for his draft class. Quick, flexible and long arms. Problems with technique and strength, especially of lower body. Potential effort problems. 0.32
Daryl Richardson RB 126.5 Excellent in space, and blessed with lateral quickness. Size and physicality concerns coming out, but played physical in the NFL. Suffered head injury in preseason. Good vision and solid in pass pro. -1.08
Jawon Chisholm RB 125.9 Tweener between power back and change-of-pace back. Not enough power for bellcow work or speed for CoP work, but good overall athleticism, including balance and quickness. Alright vision. Issues with pass pro. -3.09
Josh Furman S 125.8 Athletic skill-set perfectly suited for safety, with plus quickness and explosion. Hard hitter but coverage problems. Reliability issues (instincts) and not versatile (yet?) -1.21
Brandon Ghee CB 125.8 History with Zimmer in Cincinnati. Signed with SD and TEN after CIN, cut by both (and now CIN again). Constant injury issues. Versatile (right/left/slot). Fluid, good recovery and decent size. Solid tackler with instincts. N/A
Robertson Daniel CB 125.4 Fluid with good recognition, but difficulty reading receivers. Issues with tackling. Very good speed and zone anticipation. Good size. -0.67
George Atkinson RB 125.4 Timed fast, sometimes runs even faster on the field. Unfortunately, agility testing does not show up on field and is a one-cut runner with OK vision. Doesn't play with power or elusiveness. Pass pro issues. 0.12
Robert Turbin RB 125.2 Looks like and has the strength of a power back but with unusual quickness and elusiveness. Waived/injured, so he'd have to be on a roster, but he may only be out 5 weeks. Reliable with high success rate and improved in pass pro. -1.5
John Crockett RB 125.1 Vision, patience and fantastic cutting ability with good speed. Lacks power and leverage when running. Needs technique work both as a runner and in pass pro. Very intelligent. -0.64

Of the above players, John Crockett (219th), Howard Jones (243rd) and Cedric Thompson (267th) ranked above 300 on the consensus draft big boards.

Position-Specific Athletes

There are all-around athletes, and there are athletes who have athletic skills that tie directly to the positions that they play. Below are the athletes that scored a 6.0 or better on my position-specific athletic grades (scale: 1-10), but did not get 125+ in the SPARQ metric. It could be that they lack straight-line speed, but are defensive linemen—or don't have a good bench press, but play defensive back. Either way, they are athletically attuned to the position they play.

Player Position POS Score Notes Adj PFF Grade
Durell Eskridge S 8.4 FS/SS Tweener. Needs either better run or pass diagnosis but can be trained in both. Not a world-beater on the track, but good quickness and power, as well as size. Good recognition and awareness. Needs better tackling and faster reactions. -1.02
Philip Wheeler LB 7.5 You know who he is. Liability in pass coverage, but great in run support. Speed issues, but good instincts. Very good technique against the run and a good blitzer. 3.71
Lamin Barrow LB 6.8 Size issues with diagnosis problems, but great technique and very physical. Good special-teamer. Problems with tackling angles and finishing tackles. 1.73
Taiwan Jones LB 6.6 Underrated athlete, but not elite either. Fantastic blitzer, good tackler, lots of power and the ability to shed blocks. Stiff and poor running angles, with issues in coverage. 1.62
Rob Crisp T 6.2 Great length and size, good footwork and recovery. Generates drive in run game. Needs to add to frame and punch. Balance and leverage issues at times, and sometimes loses minor details. No preseason snaps, because of knee—but not waived/injured. N/A
Terry Poole T 6.2 Cut by a team lacking in OL. OT in college, maybe OG in NFL. Lateral agility issues, but good angles in run and pass blocking. Strength and speed in testing, but technique robs him of on-field drive and burst. Good recovery. -0.64
David Bass DE 6.1 Outstanding preseason, but lacks technique. Small-school player with competition questions (played well in East-West Shrine practices). Needs more weight to be 4-3 DE, but has the frame. Good burst and body control. 2.58

Lamin Barrow (161), Taiwan Jones (161), Durell Eskridge (179), Terry Poole (234) and Rob Crisp (256) all had consensus rankings above 300.

PFF Preseason Superstars

Aside from the players above, the players below did well on a per-snap basis in the preseason in Pro Football Focus' grading. It may be worth something and it may not. The players below all had an adjusted PFF grade of 2.0 or higher and played at least 40 preseason snaps.

Player Position Adj PFF Grade Notes
Da'Quan Bowers DE 6.7 Mostly a name at this point, has been sluggish in the regular season. Versatile and can play both DT and DE. When flashing, has a lot of quickness and bend. When struggling, he falls short after the first move and struggles against strength. Knee issues. Positive PFF grade in every preseason game.
Ryan Mueller DE 4.8 Positive PFF grade in every preseason game. Too light to play 4-3 DE, but no experience in coverage. Not a ton of speed. Solid leverage and technique, sound in run support.
L.J. Fort LB 4.74 Light SS/LB hybrid. Good instincts for the ball, above-average speed, great on-field quickness. Good technique, but size and strength concerns at NFL level (did not present too often in college). Decent coverage ability, and pretty good rookie showing in 2012.
Ben Gardner DE 4.63 Projected to be 3-4 DE, but Dallas took him to be 4-3. Arm length and leverage concerns in college. Quickness issues despite excellent testing. Good strength. Needs better hands. May not be able to add weight (262 pounds).
Matt Longacre DE 4.11 Best PFF 4-3 DE preseason grade, 10.1 total. Most of it in the final game, but positives in nearly every other game. Career NWMSU sack leader. Explosive with good leverage, but questions about size. College film may not be that useful, played most of it with bum ankle. Flexibility questions, but good speed.
Josh Chapman DT 2.96 2-gap nose tackle clogger without much penetration ability. Did well for IND in preseason but may not be system fit in MIN. Anchors well with both upper and lower body strength, but little quickness and very little creativity (which can be good because he's disciplined).
Mike Catapano DE 2.53 Great quickness and change of direction. Good first step. Very good awareness. Played 3-4 DE for KC but could play DT or DE for MIN. Strength and block-shedding concerns could make him an edge player.
DeShawn Williams DT 2.29 1-gap nose tackle type that is a little small. Still decent penetrator with a great first-step and high-level awareness. Very good hands and anchor ability. Short with short arms. Flexibility and balance problems with change-of-direction issues.
Andy Studebaker DE 2.09 Undersized for 4-3 DE but mostly played edge role in KC, IND and TEN. Good backup with years on him. Largely a pass-rusher but decent in run defense. Not a fit for MIN.
James Wilder Jr. RB 2.05 Lots of character issues, and didn't feature at FSU or test very well. Seems extremely athletic when given the opportunity and when healthy. Great build but needs to run better. Can play with rare combination of speed, power, and balance, but isn't consistent.
Henry Hynoski FB 2 Has hands, pass pro and great lead-blocking to his name. Pretty decent wheels for a fullback, too. Despite cut, was a "top" FA, played well in preseason and in previous regular seasons. Cut because competition was much younger and incredibly strong (Nikita Whitlock). Reliable veteran and a top FB.

Naturally, I gravitate to Hynoski—who I identified as a top FA target for the Vikings in the offseason.

The Others

They didn't fit into a neat category, but their names caught my eye. Some of them may not have been worth a draft pick in 2015 or 2014 back when I was thinking about them then, but that doesn't exclude them from seeing time on the roster as depth or on the practice squad.

Player Position Draft Rank Notes Adj PFF Grade POS Score SPARQ
Shane McDermott C 346 Good at a lot of things, but critical lack of strength. Could add some on a PS? -0.19 N/A 99.3
Barrett Jones C N/A Whip-smart, and maybe one of the best college players of his era. Played all 5 line positions and won awards for all of them. -2.12 N/A N/A
Dax Swanson CB N/A Lot of late-breaking draft buzz. Has some real ability 1.68 3.6 105.1
Troy Hill CB N/A Slight, but great 2014 campaign for Oregon. Versatile but short with short arms. Quick but needs better footwork 0.5 2.7 109.8
Charles James CB N/A Happy Socks! -1.07 N/A N/A
Houston Bates DE 405 Not well-sized for 4-3 DE for the Vikings, but aware and often technique sound with ability to add weight. Maybe worth 4-3 LB transition. 1.69 N/A 100.6
Travis Raciti DT 270 3-tech only, but might be a 4-3 DE position convert. Testing numbers are bad but athleticism pops out. -0.76 N/A 104.7
Montori Hughes DT N/A Nose tackle, good burst and great anchor. Good pass-rush tools for an NT and very quick and violent. Needs better balance and leverage. -1.06 5.0 100.9
Spencer Ware FB N/A Very good fullback that kept on finding his way on rosters already stacked with great fullbacks (Michael Robinson and Anthony Sherman) -0.36 N/A N/A
Lamar Mady G N/A Impressive in limited snaps 6.52 N/A 77.9
Josue Matias G 157 A well-regarded guard prospect from FSU 1.52 N/A 80.2
Kaleb Johnson G 384 Great on-field athleticism despite lack of testing. Needs to play with more leverage to unlock strength and still raw technically. 1.22 N/A 97.0
Patrick Omameh G N/A Started at guard for 16 games 1.04 N/A N/A
Gabe Ikard G 191 I thought he was underrated in the draft, but I guess I was wrong. Still seems good. 1.04 N/A 99.6
Ryan Groy G 228 Wisconsin talent with good strength but limited athletic ability -1.94 N/A 104.8
Joe Looney G N/A Maybe the Vikings can fix him. Well-regarded in 2012 draft and still only 25. Terrible preseasons, didn't see the regular season until last year, as an injury/holdout replacement -2.67 N/A N/A
Takoby Cofield G/T 288 Very shocked by this cut. Thought he was very good. -3.19 4.1 93.6
Zaire Anderson LB 760 Very small and may be ST-only or SS convert. Very good instincts, solid coverage. 1.57 N/A 110.3
Brennen Beyer DE 584 Thought he played well in preseason. Not athletic but has football IQ. Could add weight and play as a base end. 1.48 N/A 112.6
Jeremiah George LB 302 Should be faster for his size but has sideline-to-sideline ability. Needs to react faster, but a lot of tools to work with. 1.08 3.4 98.9
Deion Barnes DE 217 Assignment-sound and plays with some athleticism. Can get caught up in blocks and needs to add technique. 0.94 N/A 112.6
Gabe Martin LB 438 Athletic and smart, but small and it shows. At his size should be better in coverage. -1.16 N/A 120.7
Najee Goode LB N/A Thought he would make the roster, but stacked depth chart. Talented. -1.26 N/A N/A
Jameel McClain LB N/A Started for some time. Not outstanding but good depth. -3.49 N/A 105.9
Bryn Renner QB 317 Heady QB who may need to quicken his decisionmaking time -1.23 N/A N/A
Stephen Morris QB 220 What an arm! -1.44 N/A N/A
Cody Fajardo QB 262 Smart and accurate, but slight. Needs time to learn footwork. Issues against pressure -4.11 N/A N/A
Keith Wenning QB 235 Worth development but a terrible preseason. -4.77 N/A N/A
Jonas Gray RB N/A More than just a fantasy one-hit wonder. Has vision and tools. 1.03 N/A N/A
Storm Johnson RB 152 Great power and feet, but not speed. Good vision and hard to tackle. Not agile. Needs pass pro work. -4.59 3.7 111.9
Jonathan Meeks S N/A Fast and powerful. Great explosion and range. Very physical and good tackler. Agility issues. -0.91 N/A N/A
Craig Dahl S N/A Veteran who has never been great, but definitely starter-quality. Had a decent preseason. 1.07 6.6 120.7
Gerod Holliman S N/A His allergy to tackling didn't seem to show up in the preseason, but neither did his incredible coverage. Hopefully that allergy in 2014 was only because of injury. -2.16 N/A N/A
Wes Saxton TE 191 Great combine but kind of old? -1.38 N/A 113.8
Ify Umodu WR N/A Impressive in limited snaps 2.68 N/A 107.7
Josh Lenz WR N/A Good preseason and some ability 0.52 N/A N/A
Issac Blakeney WR N/A Big (6'5" and 220 pounds) and with good hands, but slow. -0.36 N/A 123.1
Uzoma Nwachukwu WR N/A You watched Hard Knocks, right? Anyway, he's got great after-catch ability, but needs to learn to catch. -0.44 N/A N/A
Dezmin Lewis WR 165 A lot of size but admittedly overrated athleticism. -0.51 2.7 105.6
Austin Pettis WR N/A Certainly talented but decent competition. Has NFL experience -0.96 3.3 117.6
Duron Carter WR N/A You know who he is. Stacked WR corps in Indy and honestly not a bad talent. -1.32 N/A N/A
Shaquelle Evans WR 198 Underrated receiver hurt by stacked draft class -1.85 5.9 122.2
Vince Mayle WR 155 Highest draft pick cut. I thought he was overdrafted, but he was still drafted -2.4 2.7 110.7
Joe Don Duncan FB/TE N/A Incredibly athletic, with good pass-catching ability. Would love to pick him up 2.6 N/A N/A

I really, really like Joe Don Duncan. Some of the players described above don't really excite me, but I included them because I ultimately wouldn't be upset at giving them a flier.

For some reason or another, I wasn't interested in other players, like Jared Abbrederis (the Packers need receivers and he's always injured, so his cut is ominous), Jalen Saunders (a combination of size, system and his availability this offseason), Jacoby Ford (the Vikings have returners), Vincent Brown (he's an obvious system-fit and is athletic, but it seems like he's lost all of it since going on IR in 2012), Ras-I Dowling (great preseason, but aged and injured), John Moffit (inconsistent at best and could just retire at any time), Jerrelle Powe (never lived up to his high school hype) and Darnell Dockett (system fit, age and injuries).

My favorite pickups would include Henry Hynoski, Joe Don Duncan, Takoby Cofield, Troy Hill, Cedric ThompsonBarrett Jones and Durell Eskridge.

I hope this was at least fun to go over.