A few days back I did a way too early 53 man roster projection, and ridiculous prognostications this far out from training camp aside, one thing struck me as I went through each position group:
This roster, for the most part, is stacked. I'm not kidding when I say that at every position group, the Vikings have quality NFL starters. Seriously, go have a look-see for yourself and tell me they don't. Like everyone, I have a few concerns. I'm not happy with how the other safety position was addressed in the off-season, the Vikings need either a new punter or some serious competition for Jeff Locke, and backup quarterback is less than desirable.
On the flip side, though, if two of your three biggest concerns are punter and backup quarterback...your team is in a pretty good place talent-wise. I know that a lot of you are still concerned about the offensive line, particularly Matt Kalil, but I really like the depth the Vikings have. With what they've done in free agency combined with the declaration of open competition for everyone except Alex Boone, I have a good feeling about that group moving forward.
And that leads to the overall theme of this post--don't be surprised if most of this draft class doesn't make the cut, or ends up on the practice squad. And that's okay, and two or three years from now, it won't necessarily reflect poorly on the draft class. Oh sure, first and second round picks Laquon Treadwell and Mackensie Alexander are locks, barring injury. But after that...name me a sure thing for the final 53. Let's go down the list, shall we?
The Vikings had no third round pick due to a trade. A really good trade, and when you put that in the context of Spielman's 'no jobs available' comment, it becomes a great trade that sets the Vikings up for making a yuuuuge move in next year's draft, if they want to. Or, if they lose a lot in free agency, they now have stockpiled six picks in the first four rounds to do just that.
But I digress. Let's get back to this draft class and how they'll fare. The 4th round pick was OT Willie Beavers. I chuckle at the guy's last name because I am perpetually 12 years old and I cannot help it. For that reason alone I hope he makes the roster, because jokes like 'Beavers really got penetrated there', or 'that Beavers is just snapping today', or 'leave it to Beavers to miss/make that block' make for fine blogging. But, from a practical standpoint, the guy is a project, and is one of the worst rated offensive linemen coming out of the draft. When you add that to the amount of guys on the offensive line that were either signed as a free agent (Boone, Andre Smith), re-signed (Mike Harris), or coming back from injury (John Sullivan, Phil Loadholt) his ceiling, I think, is the practice squad.
But maybe I'm being too hard on the Beavers. I'M SORRY I CAN'T HELP IT I AM PERPETUALLY 12 YEARS OLD.
In the fifth round, the Vikings drafted OLB Kentrell Brothers, and like Beavers, is entering a position group that has new blood from free agency, and a re-signed veteran. Emmanuel Lamur looks like an early favorite to move into a starting slot, with Chad Greenway still in the mix for some playing time in the base 4-3. That said, with Audie Cole coming back from injury, there might be a backup spot for him there depending on how well Cole has healed. Still, if Cole is back to 100%, I'll place my bet on him. And that leaves Brothers on the outside looking in.
In the sixth round, the Vikings had two picks, WR Moritz Boehringer and TE David Morgan. As great a story as Boehringer is, he has a steep hill to climb to make the Vikings active roster. Athletically, he's probably one of the top five players on the team, but from an NFL talent perspective, he's not better than Laquon Treadwell, Stefon Diggs, Jarius Wright, Cordarrelle Patterson, Charles Johnson, or Adam Thielen. That's not to say he can't or won't get better, but he has to get so much better in such a short period of time, he's a long shot to make the roster. Morgan, however, is one guy I think can make the final 53. With Rhett Ellison coming back from a serious knee injury, the Vikings drafted Morgan more for his blocking ability than anything, and if the Vikings go with four tight ends again, Morgan making the roster as the fourth tight end is a distinct possibility.
Finally, the Vikings had two seventh round picks, OLB Stephen Weatherly and S Jayron Kearse. Reports about Weatherly moving to DE aside, he's still got a long road to make the roster, either as a DE or a LB, especially at linebacker. The Vikings defensive ends are solid as starters, and Scott Crichton and Justin Trattou are better than most as rotational guys. Maybe you could make an argument for Weatherly over Crichton, as Crichton has been underwhelming as a third round pick...but I'm still betting on Crichton.
And a lot of people love Jayron Kearse because he plays safety, and everyone thinks the spot opposite Harrison Smith is a tire fire waiting to happen. The Vikings, however, don't, or they would have drafted a safety before the seventh round. And those same people who think Kearse is a stud like to ignore that there was a reason he's a seventh round pick, and also ignore the fact the Vikings signed Michael Griffin as a probable starter. So let's just throw some cold water on this right now--the Vikings are going to roll with Smith and Griffin as the starters, and the primary backup is going to be Andrew Sendejo. That leaves one spot open, and that's going to go to one of Anthony Harris or Antone Exum, Jr. Exum was hit and miss when he played last year, Harris was encouraging. I can see Kearse leap frogging one of those guys, but not both.That still leaves him standing when the music stops.
As much as we like to say every draft pick from the fourth round on 'is a steal', the fact is that steal or not (probably not) these guys have long odds facing them. I don't say this to take a shot at them, and please don't take it that way. This is more a testament to the roster re-build Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman have done since 2013. They've gone from a roster full of more holes than a block of Swiss cheese to a roster of high caliber NFL talent, up and down the roster, on both sides of the ball.
So as the Vikings open rookie minicamps, then OTA's, and then training camp, these roster battles will be interesting, and there is always a surprise or two. But other than a couple guys, this draft class faces some long adds to be on the week one active roster.