With the Minnesota Vikings set to descend on Mankato for the 52nd straight year next month, it appears that there aren’t a lot of open roster spots available for guys that are chasing their NFL dream. Sure, there will be a few key positional battles, like at center and nickel back, for example, but whoever loses out on the starting job is pretty much guaranteed the number two job.
So with that in mind, let’s try and figure out who makes the cut, and who doesn’t.
In: Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum
Out: Taylor Heinicke, Wes Lunt
Rationale: Whether Bridgwater starts the season on the PUP or IR-eligible to return is immaterial in terms of the final roster. Once he’s healthy, he’ll be put on the active roster, and I think there’s a legitimate shot he’ll be there on opening day. If he is out the first half of the season, then Heinicke is in while Teddy finishes rehab. Once Teddy comes back, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Vikes keep Heinicke and let Keenum go. We’ll see.
Running back (3):
In: Latavius Murray, Dalvin Cook, Jerick McKinnon
Out: Terrell Newby, Bishop Sankey, C.J. Ham
Rationale: The trio of Murray, Cook, and McKinnon is about a stone cold, lead pipe lock as there is on this roster. The tough call for me is whether or not the Vikings go with a fullback or not. I don’t think they will, because of more talented players elsewhere, and with the improvements in the line and the ability of Murray to score down on the goal line, I don’t know that the fullback is a requirement for this team now.
Wide receiver (6):
In: Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell, Jarius Wright, Michael Floyd, Rodney Adams
Out: MoBo, Stacy Coley, Isaac Freuchte, Cayleb Jones, R.J. Shelton
Rationale: If Floyd is suspended, which I think is a near certainty, he won’t count against the 53 man roster, which means the Vikings will add someone for the length of his suspension. Depending on how long it is, I can see them starting the season with five WR’s, and adding another o-lineman, d-lineman, or linebacker until Floyd returns. Diggs, Thielen, and Treadwell should be locks, Wright is a near lock, and Floyd’s status is up in the air. For whatever reason, Zimmer’s staff has never really seemed to embrace Jarius Wright, so I could see a scenario where he is supplanted by the rookie Adams for playing time, whether Floyd is suspended or not.
Tight end (3):
In: Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Bucky Hodges
Out: Kyle Carter, Josiah Price, Nick Truesdell
Rationale: Pat Shurmur’s offense really incorporates the tight end, and we saw that last year with Rudolph. When Norv Turner resigned about halfway through last season, Rudolph stood at 31 catches, 322 yards, and three TD’s. The fact that Rudolph ended the season with 83 catches and 840 yards just reinforces that, and this position group is going to be asked to do a lot. These are the three best pass catching tight ends on the roster, and they’ll see a lot of targets. With no projected fullback I could probably be talked in to four tight ends and only nine offensive linemen, but I explain the 10 linemen below, so be patient.
Offensive line (10):
In: Riley Reiff, Alex Boone, Pat Elflein, Joe Berger, Mike Remmers, Nick Easton, Zac Kerin, Danny Isidora, Rashod Hill, Jeremiah Sirles
Out: Freddie Tagaloa, Aviante Collins, Willie Beavers, T.J. Clemmings, Reid Fragel, Austin Shepherd
Rationale: I’m actually rooting for Clemmings to make the final 53 as a guard if he can play the position, and I like Reid Fragel as a darkhorse surprise to outplay someone and make the roster. My guess is he could supplant Hill, although Hill played well in very limited action last year. Just because I am still scarred over all the injuries sustained by this unit last year, I am putting 10 on the active roster, where some folks might prefer to use only nine. Sorry, not sorry.
Defensive line (9):
In: Linval Joseph, Tom Johnson, Datone Jones, Shariff Floyd, Jaleel Johnson, Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Brian Robison, Ifeadi Odenigbo
Out: Dylan Bradley, Will Sutton, Shamar Stephen, Tashawn Bower, Caleb Kidder, Sam McCaskill, Stephen Weatherly
Rationale: Looking at the defensive line, Shariff Floyd’s injury is the wild card here, and will have a domino effect if he goes on IR. I’m going to play the optimist and say he’ll be ready to go and be on the active roster week one. I know, I know, ‘optimism’, ‘Vikings’, and ‘injury’ generally don’t go together, but indulge me. But if Floyd does go on IR, add Stephen to the active roster. This is probably the one position group that has the most competition for backup spots, and after studying up on Odenigbo, and reading about him from people who seem to be in the know, I like his chances to make the final 53. It’s a long shot for a 7th round pick, and if he doesn’t make the roster he’s almost assured a spot on the practice squad. The competition for down roster spots here will be as intense as a knife fight in a phone booth.
In: Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Ben Gedeon, Kentrell Brothers, Emmanuel Lamur, Edmond Robinson
Out: Elijah Lee, Shaan Washington, Eric Wilson
Rationale: The only real intrigue I am seeing here in camp is who wins Chad Greenway’s Will position. That appears to be a battle between Lamur and Robinson based on off-season OTA and minicamp reporting, and I expect Gedeon to play the Mike in the base 4-3. How much the Vikings will be in their base 4-3 remains to be seen, though.
In: Xavier Rhodes, Terence Newman, Trae Waynes, Mackenzie Alexander, Jabari Price, Marcus Sherels
Out: Horace Richardson, Tre Roberson, Terrell Sinkfield
Rationale: The first four are guaranteed, with Alexander and Newman splitting time in the slot, if off-season OTA and mini camp reports continue into training camp. I’m going with the veteran Price over the other guys, but Tre Roberson really intrigues me. I thought he played well in pre-season last year, and the longer a guy like that hangs around, eventually he finds a roster spot. It won’t be the one Marcus Sherels holds, though. Because say it with me, kids: when the Apocalypse hits, the only three things left on this earth will be Twinkies, cockroaches, and Marcus Sherels (Copyright Chris Gates).
In: Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo, Jayron Kearse, Anthony Harris
Out: Antone Exum, Jr., Jack Tochco
Rationale: With Exum missing most of the off-season workouts and practices with an injury, along with his overall subpar play when he was on the field, I gave the nod to Harris here. I would expect Tochco to make the practice squad and come in next year ready to go after an active roster spot.
Special Teams (3):
In: Kai Forbath, Taylor Symmank, Kevin McDermott
Out: Marshall Koehn, Ryan Quigley
Rationale: Forbath stabilized the kicker position last year, and was 15/15 on field goal attempts. He did miss three extra points, though, but missed extra points are up all over the league since they backed it up. Koehn has a stronger leg than Forbath, but I don’t know that the Vikings want to run the risk dealing with an untested kicker after Blair Walsh got the yips, and all the ensuing drama from that. Forbath’s 2016 season goes a long way in him keeping his job in 2017. Conversely, I selected the punter with the bigger leg as opposed to the veteran, because I’m inconsistent like that. Seriously,
McDermott Symmank appears to have a better hang time and is a better directional punter, so I give him the nod over Quigley and his ‘meh’ career to this point. Although ‘Ryan Quigley Down Under’ would pair nicely with ‘Kobra Kai Forbah’ to make the best special teams nickname duo in the NFL.