The Vikings have wrapped up their mini-camp, and with it their last work until training camp begins at the end of July.
Based on the known starters and various news tidbits and tea leaf readings on the depth guys, here is my projection of how the Vikings roster stacks up at each position - including some notes on competitions and other positional insights, along with rising stars and most to prove among depth players in each position group where warranted.
- Kirk Cousins
- Sean Mannion
- Kyle Sloter
- Jake Browning
Behind Cousins, the competition for the primary backup spot should be pretty solid. To be honest, I was disappointed Mannion appears to have been inserted ahead of Sloter in the depth chart. I’m not sure his resume warrants that. Anyway, the real competition won’t get started until pre-season games get going, and that is where Sloter has shown up best. I’m not sure Sloter looks as good on the practice field or meeting room, however, which may be why the coaching staff seems to have doubts about him - despite his mostly impressive pre-seasons the past two years.
I doubt rookie Browning has a chance to be the primary backup, which leaves that key competition between Mannion and Sloter.
It’s not out of the question for the Vikings to keep all of these QBs (with Browning most likely on the practice squad). But like last season, I wish the Vikings would go with two QBs on the roster, and one on the practice squad- saving a roster spot for another position group.
Most to Prove: Kyle Sloter. With Mannion brought in ahead of him, Sloter has to prove he can be the primary backup. Mannion doesn’t have much game experience either, so that shouldn’t be a big factor in who gets the primary backup job. Who can show the coaches the most by the end of training camp should win the job.
- Dalvin Cook
- Alexander Mattison
- Ameer Abdullah
- Mike Boone
- Roc Thomas
Behind Cook, I expect Mattison to take the #2 spot formerly occupied by Latavius Murray. But I expect the competition to be based more on style, so Mattison vs. Boone and Abdullah vs. Thomas.
If I had to guess based on hunches, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Thomas give Abdullah a run for his money. I suspect Thomas will do well in Kubiak’s outside zone scheme. Not sure that’ll be enough, but Thomas could surprise come August.
I’ll give Mattison the nod over Boone, as the more dynamic and versatile of the two, and I’d be surprised if Mattison isn’t the one spelling Cook come the regular season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mattison prove to be an upgrade over Latavius Murray either.
Rising Star: Dalvin Cook. In Kubiak’s offense, Cook is set for greatness if he can stay healthy.
- CJ Ham
- Khari Blasingame
Ham will be hard to displace because he does a lot of things well, and has had a good spring. He’s a good blocking back and one of the best core special teamers on the team. Blasingame is the Jerick McKinnon of fullbacks, however, and has the athleticism to impress if he can pick up all the techniques.
But this could come down to a more of a business decision. Ham will be a restricted free agent next year, which means his salary would go up by over $2 million. I’m suspect that may exceed the Vikings salary cap budget for fullbacks, so if Blasingame can approach Ham’s ability as a FB and special teamer, Ham could be dealt, cut or ultimately be a cap casualty. Ideally, perhaps, Blasingame could be placed on the practice squad and take over next season if he shows potential, but not quite ready this season.
- Adam Thielen
- Stefon Diggs
- Chad Beebe
- Jordan Taylor
- Laquon Treadwell
- Brandon Zylstra
- Jeff Badet
- Olabisi Johnson
- Dillon Mitchell
- Davion Davis
- Alexander Hollins
I suspect at this point there are only two roster spots in question - WR5 and WR6. Based on the off-season so far, it appears that both Chad Beebe and Jordan Taylor have passed Laquon Treadwell on the depth chart, and Gary Kubiak mentioning that Beebe had as good a spring as any offensive player bodes well for him. Taylor has also been getting some positive buzz, and first-team reps when Diggs was out, so that bodes well for him too.
The Vikings typically keep six wide receivers, so that means there are seven guys competing for the remaining two spots. I would expect at least one receiver to be placed on the practice squad as well.
Rising Star: Chad Beebe. He’s had the best spring of any player on offense according to Gary Kubiak, and appears to have risen to #3 on the WR depth chart.
Most to Prove: Jeff Badet. I could have put Treadwell here, but he’s not going to prove anything in training camp at this point. For Badet, he needs to prove he’s more than just a 4.27” 40 time. That means improving his technique and showing he’s worthy of playing time.
- Kyle Rudolph
- Irv Smith Jr.
- Tyler Conklin
- David Morgan
- Cole Hikutini
- Brandon Dillon
I expect the Vikings to keep four TEs, and I don’t see much chance of Dillon or Hikutini breaking into the top four, although perhaps a slim chance for Hikutini. Overall not much doubt in this group, except maybe between Conklin and Morgan for #3.
Rising Star: Irv Smith Jr. The rookie 2nd round pick is generating positive buzz and could be a significant factor in the Vikings offense if he’s able to transition well into the NFL.
Most to Prove: David Morgan. As a primary blocking TE, Morgan’s blocking performance slipped significantly last season. He also missed this spring with an injury - rehabbing after having surgery to clean out his knee after an injury he suffered last season. He’ll need to show his new coaches he can get that mojo back in a contract year.
Starters (L-R): Riley Reiff, Pat Elflein, Garrett Bradbury, Josh Kline, Brian O’Neill
2nd String: Aviante Collins, Dakota Dozier, Brett Jones, Danny Isidora, Rashod Hill
3rd String: Storm Norton, John Keenoy, Cornelius Edison, Dru Samia, Oli Udoh
These were the lineups in the 13 spring practices, and they didn’t change except for when guys were out. Apparently this is new OL coach Rick Dennison’s emphasis on working together as a unit, which makes sense. A notable change from Tony Sparano as well, who experimented more. We’ll see if any changes are made once pads come on.
Rising Star: Aviante Collins. He was moving up the depth chart and got the most reps of any offensive lineman last year in pre-season before he tore his bicep at the very end of pre-season. He’ll likely challenge Rashod Hill at swing tackle, based on his taking 2nd team reps at LT so far.
Most to Prove: Danny Isidora. A 5th round pick entering his third year, he could end-up third string with Dru Samia behind him - which would likely be the end of the line for him.
Defensive Ends: Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, Stephen Weatherly, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Tashawn Bower, Ade Aruna, Anree St. Amour, Karter Schult, Stacy Keely
Defensive Tackles: Linval Joseph, Shamar Stephen, Hercules Mata’afa, Jaleel Johnson, Jayln Holmes, Armon Watts, Curtis Cothran, Tito Odenigbo.
The exact depth charts for defensive line are a bit trickier, because of multiple position players, but I suspect Stephen Weatherly may be the backup at both DE spots, and may also move inside in some sub-packages on passing downs. It will be interesting to see if Ifeadi Odenigbo has progressed enough to get some significant reps in rotation this year.
Shamar Stephen looks to be the starting 3-tech at the moment, but also the primary backup behind Joseph at nose tackle. Hercules Mata’afa has a chance to be a pass-rushing 3-tech, and even become the starter if he can do in training camp and pre-season what he did in OTAs. He has the traits the other 3-techs simply don’t have - quick first step, agility, leverage, speed. I’m not sure about his hand usage, other pass rush techniques, and his command of the scheme, but we’ll find out in August. Jalyn Holmes and Jaleel Johnson will battle for a backup DT/NT spot as well, but the Vikings signing Shamar Stephen is a reflection of how the coaching staff views their starting potential at this point.
Rising Star: Hercules Mata’afa. He’s generated more positive buzz than anyone on the team this spring at 3-tech after coming off an ACL tear this time last year.
Most to Prove: Hercules Mata’afa. He needs to prove he can do in pads what he did in shorts. If he can, he’ll be a nickel 3-tech at minimum, with a chance to be the full-time starter. Jaleel Johnson is a close second here. A 4th round pick that hasn’t shown much his first two seasons, Johnson needs to show up in training camp in an increasingly crowded DT field.
WLB: Ben Gedeon, Kentrell Brothers, Cameron Smith
MLB: Eric Kendricks, Devante Downs, Greer Martini
SLB: Anthony Barr, Eric Wilson, Richard Cliett
Not much question Barr and Kendricks are the two starters. Kentrell Brothers, Eric Wilson, and Ben Gedeon were the top three performers on special teams last season, in that order.
Most to Prove: Cam Smith. The Vikings usually keep six linebackers, so Smith will need to show up well in training camp and pre-season to get a roster spot. Downs was the 8th best performer on special teams
Outside Starters: Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes
Slot: MacKensie Alexander
Backups: Mike Hughes, Holton Hill, Kris Boyd, Craig James, Nate Meadors, Terrance Alexander, Isiah Wharton
Five of the six CB spots are filled, so the only real competition here here is for the last spot. Kris Boyd seems to have the inside track so far, but incumbent Craig James is still in the running as well.
Most to Prove: Mike Hughes. He needs to show he’s 100% after his ACL tear last season.
Rising Star: Holton Hill and Mike Hughes. Both look poised for more action in the future, once they get healthy (Hughes) and off suspension (Hill). Hill may have the size advantage to replace Waynes outside when the time comes, while Hughes seems likely to be the primary backup at the other corner positions.
Starters: Harrison Smith, Anthony Harris
Backups: Jayron Kearse, Marcus Epps, Derron Smith, Duke Thomas, Micah Abernathy
I suspect three of the four safety jobs are settled, leaving the rest to compete for the last spot. Epps generated a lot of positive buzz in the spring program, which gives him an edge going into training camp. But like a lot of positions, things can change once pads come on.
Kicker: Dan Bailey
Punter: Matt Wile
Long Snapper: Austin Cutting, Kevin McDermott
Punt Returner: Chad Beebe, Jordan Taylor, Davion Davis
Kick Returner: Ameer Abdullah, Holton Hill, Mike Hughes
It doesn’t appear there will be competition for either kicker or punter this year, and the only question about the long snapper job is whether Austin Cutting will get a deal from the Air Force Academy to allow him to play. If so, he’s in and McDermott is out.
For the returner jobs, it looks like Chad Beebe has the inside track as punt returner, while I suspect Abdullah, having returned kicks last season, may have the inside track for that job. Pre-season should provide more definitive, and I expect several candidates will get an opportunity to win the jobs. I’d be surprised if Beebe doesn’t win the punt returner job at this point, but I’m less certain about Abdullah at kick returner. There are many candidates for both return jobs not listed here, who could still get opportunities to win a returner job.
Who will be the biggest rising star among non-starters for the Vikings in training camp / pre-season ?
This poll is closed
Irv Smith Jr.