It would appear that the Minnesota Vikings have reached the point in free agency where they can start focusing more on the draft and less on free agency. They may have a minor signing or two here or there, but at this point things should be pretty settled before this April's selection meeting.
So, that gives us an opportunity to take a look at the depth chart on both sides of the ball. This is just one man's guess as to how things currently sit. There might be players that are the primary backup at more than one position, but I'm only going to list each player once.
|QB||Teddy Bridgewater||Shaun Hill||Taylor Heinicke|
|RB||Adrian Peterson||Jerick McKinnon||Matt Asiata|
|FB||Zach Line||Blake Renaud|
|WR1||Stefon Diggs||Cordarrelle Patterson||Isaac Freuchte|
|WR2||Adam Thielen||Charles Johnson|
|WR3||Jarius Wright||Terrell Sinkfield|
|TE1||Kyle Rudolph||MyCole Pruitt|
|TE2||Rhett Ellison*||Brian Leonhardt|
|LT||Matt Kalil||Austin Shepherd||Carter Bykowski|
|LG||Alex Boone||T.J. Clemmings||Zac Kerin|
|C||John Sullivan*||Joe Berger||Nick Easton|
|RG||Brandon Fusco||Mike Harris||Jeremiah Sirles|
|RT||Andre Smith||Phil Loadholt*|
So, to go down the list here. . .
QB - This is just about as set as it gets. The only drama is whether or not the Vikings think that Heinicke has a chance to pass Hill as Bridgewater's primary backup. If they do, they might look at a late-round pick at quarterback or even another UDFA to round out the depth chart. But, at this point, it looks like a pretty low priority for the team going forward.
RB - Similar to the quarterback situation, with the three main spots being set, but is likely a slightly higher priority for the team due to Peterson's age and his contract situation for 2017. If the Vikings were looking to the draft for Peterson's understudy, Asiata would likely be the odd man out.
WR - Honestly, your guess is as good as mine. The only guys on the depth chart right now that are really guaranteed anything are Diggs and Wright. I don't know what's going to end up happening with Johnson and Patterson at this point. They were both hyped as players that were set to make big jumps in recent years (Patterson prior to 2014 and Johnson prior to last season), and they both wound up in the doghouse for various reasons. If either of them were to return to their past form, it would make things even more interesting at this position for the Vikings. Thielen will continue to be a player on special teams, and could end up playing his way into more snaps at receiver as well. Freuchte and Sinkfield will have their work cut out for them to make an impact. In any case, I'd be surprised if the Vikings didn't take a receiver early in this year's draft, and double up at the position with another pick later on.
TE - Not a lot of drama here, either, outside of Ellison's recovery from his torn patellar tendon. The Vikings might take a flier on a guy that could serve in a similar role to Ellison, able to line up in the backfield and along the line, in the event that they don't like how his rehab is going. They could also use that person to serve as Line's backup and open up a roster spot.
LT - I've seen some scenarios floated around that Andre Smith could, potentially, challenge Kalil at left tackle. Frankly, I don't think the Vikings brought Kalil back at $11M to have him sit on the bench. . .if they wanted to try Smith at left tackle, they could have dumped Kalil before free agency and signed Smith then. So, left tackle is Kalil's to lose at this point. I've got Shepherd listed as his backup based solely on the fact that Shepherd replaced Kalil when he missed some snaps against the Giants with an injury last year. Bykowski was getting some looks at the position before his injury last season.
LG - The Vikings brought in Boone to protect Teddy Bridgewater, and the left guard spot is where he'd have the best opportunity to do that. Brandon Fusco had his struggles at the position in 2015, so he gets bumped back to his previous spot on the right side. I've got Clemmings as his backup at the position because the prevailing wisdom is that he'd be a better fit at the guard spot at this level than at tackle. Kerin battled to finally get on the big club last year after a couple of seasons on the practice squad, and has the ability to play center as well.
C - I've got Sullivan in the starter's role at this point, but without knowing how his recovery from back surgery is coming, his hold on the spot could be pretty tenuous. Berger did an outstanding job last season, and the battle between him and Sullivan could be one of the more interesting ones of camp. If Sullivan does win the job, Berger has the ability to be a backup at all three interior line positions. Easton was a part of the Gerald Hodges trade last season, but couldn't find his way onto the active roster.
RG - We mentioned Fusco earlier, and his play on the right side got him a significant contract extension with the team early in 2014. . .after which he immediately got injured. I think he's going to get the first opportunity to claim his spot at right guard back, which means that Harris goes back to backup status. Following the pattern of some of the other offensive line positions we've looked at already, having Harris as a backup gives the Vikings even more flexibility, though I don't think we can entirely count out the chance of him getting a starting spot. The Vikings traded a draft pick for Sirles last season, but he couldn't find any opportunities, either.
RT - Right now, Smith is ahead of Loadholt until we can see how Loadholt comes back from his Achilles issue. Smith, a former top-10 selection, was up-and-down in his last couple of seasons with the Bengals, but got a one-year "prove it" deal from the Vikings in the hopes that he can regain his past form. Even though Clemmings was the starter at this position last year, it looks like this is going to be a fight between Smith and Loadholt for the starting spot.
We'll shift our focus to the defensive depth chart tomorrow.