Now that the draft is over, UDFAs are signed, and Terence Newman too, the Vikings roster is full-up at 90 players.
And so, without so much as a practice together, let the speculation begin as to who makes the final 53-man roster at the end of training camp.
Projecting the Vikings 53-Man Roster
Of course the one thing that makes speculating about the 53-man roster a lot easier is that most of it is not speculation. Most roster spots are locks. Especially with a fairly loaded Vikings roster. The reality is that only about a dozen or so roster spots are up for grabs, and in some of those cases, there are players that have the inside track.
Let’s break it down by position group.
Roster (3): Kirk Cousins, Trevor Siemian, Kyle Sloter
Cut: Peter Pujols
The Vikings, getting back to normal after last year, will likely keep 3 QBs on the roster (2 on active roster). Highly unlikely Pujols or any other QB makes the final roster. Doubtful, but not out of the question, that Sloter overtakes Siemian as the primary backup.
Running Back / Full Back
Roster (4): Dalvin Cook, Latavius Murray, Mike Boone, CJ Ham (FB)
Practice Squad: Roc Thomas
Cut: Mack Brown, Kamryn Pettway
The Vikings will likely keep 3 RBs on the roster, and it will be a real competition for that last spot. I’ll give Boone the advantage. He’s got a Kareem Hunt running style, and he appears more physical than Thomas- and I expect may be able to show more as a blocker and on special teams as a returner or more likely a gunner. I also expect CJ Ham to keep the fullback spot, in part because of his special teams ability.
Roster (3): Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Tyler Conklin
Practice Squad: Blake Bell (assuming he’s eligible)
Cut: Tyler Hoppes, Josiah Price
I don’t see any of the other tight-ends to be a legitimate challenge to Conklin as a pass-catching tight end, which is what the Vikings were looking for. I expect the Vikings to keep three TEs on the roster, and another on practice squad.
Roster (6): Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Laquon Treadwell, Stacy Coley, Jeff Badet, Korey Robertson.
Practice Squad: Jake Wieneke
Cut: Kendall Wright, Caleb Jones, Brandon Zylstra, Tavarres King, Armanti Foreman
The Vikings will likely keep 6 WRs on the final 53-man roster. No question Diggs and Thielen are locks, and Treadwell is a lock based on his contract. That leaves three roster spots remaining. You could make a good argument for several of the remaining WRs, and it will definitely be a camp battle, but I’m gonna project it this way:
I’ll give one spot to Stacy Coley, projecting that he continues to improve.
The second one I’m gonna give to Jeff Badet. I’m going on a hunch, but there’s a few things to back it up:
1) He’s a legitimate deep threat, and I think that’s what DeFilippo wants. 4.27” makes him so, along with his tape. He also had a 39.5” vertical, and 10’ 11” broad jump.
2) He’s got the quickness and cut ability to progress as a route runner, and has four years experience- likely to be a little more advanced and has played against NFL-caliber corners.
3) He’s got some leadership, maturity, high-character and some swagger he brings on the field- reminiscent of Stefon Diggs.
4) All that suggests he may show-up better in practice and particularly in pre-season games- which will help him secure a roster spot.
The last spot is the hardest to project, but I think it will come down to Kendall Wright and Korey Robertson. Wright is a six-year veteran, and Robertson may be the most NFL-ready of the remaining WRs. A number of factors make this last spot more difficult to project, because it may depend on how comfortable the coaching staff is with Coley and Badet (and Treadwell) being able to take snaps as needed. There is some comfort in going with a veteran, even if somewhat diminished, to go out and be serviceable at least.
The other factor is how each of these two do in the pre-season and practices. If Robertson does well enough that they feel they will lose him if they put him on the practice squad, while Wright is just okay, they may opt for Robertson. On the other hand, if Wright impresses, it may be difficult to keep Robertson. It would be easier to pick Wright overall in this scenario, but I’m gonna go with Robertson. I think there’s enough experience ahead on the depth chart where the coaching staff doesn’t need to go with a veteran, and I suspect Robertson will do well enough to be poached from the practice squad, so he gets the last spot.
Jeff Wieneke goes to the practice squad, and possibly Armanti Foreman. I suspect Wieneke will need more time to get up to NFL-speed, and part of that maybe strength training, but also just general technique-work. I think that may show up in pre-season and will keep other teams from poaching him.
Roster (9): Riley Reiff, Brian O’Neill, Mike Remmers, Pat Elflien, Josh Andrews, Danny Isidora, Colby Gossett, Aviante Collins, Rashod Hill.
Practice Squad: Chris Gonzalez, Dieugot Joseph, Cornelius Edison.
Cut: Nick Easton, Tom Compton, Storm Norton
It may be surprising that I have Nick Easton being cut, but there are some ‘reading of tea-leaves’ behind it. First, the Vikings were hesitant about extending Easton under his restricted free agent deal. They did, at the last minute, but appeared to be struggling with what to do. Easton now is on a one-year, $3 million deal with no dead cap. The starting left guard last year, Easton is curiously listed as a center on the Vikings roster. Last, the Vikings met with a lot of guys that play center in the pre-draft process, and brought in Josh Andrews, who John DeFilippo knows from Philly, who could function as a backup interior lineman. All that, combined with the talk of moving Remmers to left guard- as they did late last season- and there is reason to believe Easton is not in the Vikings future plans. He was ranked #58 of 77 guards last year by PFF, and has never been rated above the low-40s overall (poor) in his two seasons with starting duty for the Vikings.
The last spot I have a bit of a toss-up between Tom Compton and Rashod Hill, but gave it to Hill as they probably need a swing tackle more than another interior lineman. I’m expecting Mike Remmers to move to left guard, and Gossett, Collins and Hill battle it out for the starting right tackle spot. Gossett will also compete with Isidora at right guard.
Roster (3): Daniel Carlson, Ryan Quigley, Nick Dooley.
Cut: Kai Forbath, Kevin McDermott
When you draft a kicker, the writing is on the wall for the incumbent. Carlson was the highest rated kicker in this year’s draft, and has a better leg than Forbath. Unless Carlson shows accuracy issues or the yips in camp, it’s his job to lose. Similarly, I think Special Teams coach Mike Priefer wanted an upgrade on the long-snapper position. Dooley is bigger, younger, cheaper. I expect Mike Hughes to return punts and kicks.
Roster (9): Everson Griffen, Sheldon Richardson, Linval Joseph, Danielle Hunter, Jaleel Johnson, Jayln Holmes, Dylan Bradley, Tashawn Bower, Ifeadi Odenigbo
Practice Squad: Ade Aruna
Cut: Brian Robison, Stephen Weatherly, Curtis Cothran, Jonathon Wynn
I’ll leave open the possibility that Robison doesn’t retire and makes the roster, in which case Odenigbo would go to the practice squad again. Weatherly just hasn’t shown enough since he’s been with the Vikings, and I expect them to move on from him. I think Holmes may end up more of a Robison replacement than a backup to Richardson, in part because I bet Dylan Bradley earns that spot.
Roster (6): Anthony Barr, Hercules Mata’afa, Eric Kendricks, Devante Downs, Ben Gedeon, Kentrell Brothers
Practice Squad: Garrett Dooley, Eric Wilson
Cut: Reshard Cliett, Antwione Williams
I expect Wilson could remain on the roster until Brothers clears his suspension, but otherwise this position group seems a pretty easy projection. The backups look fairly specific to each LB spot.
Roster (6): Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Terence Newman, MacKenzie Alexander, Mike Hughes, Holton Hill.
Cut: Marcus Sherels, Horace Richardson
The only question here really is if Holton Hill can pass drug tests. If he does, he makes the roster. If not, I wouldn’t be surprised if they brought in a free agent to replace him.
Roster (4): Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo, Anthony Harris, Jayron Kearse
Practice Squad: Jack Tocho
Cut: Tray Matthews, Trevon Mathis
Another fairly easy group to project. Not expecting many surprises here.
This is shaping up to be an excellent roster for the Vikings, and I think deeper than last year as well. The one carry-over concern remains the offensive line. Losing Berger, the best offensive lineman on the team the past several years, hurt. But there are a few guys from last year, along with the draft picks, that could step up- Collins and Isidora are the two most likely. I think they’ll move Remmers to left guard, and Hill, Collins and Gossett with battle for the starting right tackle job. But if Collins and Isidora (or Gossett) can step up, the Vikings offensive line could take another step in the right direction this season. I expect Elflein will improve at center, and hopefully Reiff as well at left tackle. Remmers should be an upgrade at left guard. Lots of competition to fill out the right side spots.
Hopefully Kirk Cousins will make everyone forget about his contract with his play on the field. Obviously getting Dalvin Cook back will be an instant upgrade at RB, and hopefully a 3rd wide receiver will emerge to put more pressure on opposing DBs beyond Thielen and Diggs.
Defensively, not much change- except for the key upgrade at 3-tech in Sheldon Richardson. I think the depth at defensive line should be improved as well, allowing more rotation to keep the starters fresh.
I think both the linebacker and cornerback depth will be improved as well, although there is some projection there, particularly at linebacker.
Lastly, special teams - which was the number one ranked unit last year by PFF - may see noticeable improvement as well- both in the kicking and return game. That could really help the field position battle, and hopefully scoring as well.
Which NFL Team Looks to have the Best Roster going into the 2018 Season?
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