After OTAs, mini-camp, training camp, and 3 pre-season games, I’m going all out with my final Vikings initial 53-man roster prediction - complete with depth charts, a 10-man practice squad and injury designations.
Some surprises too.
- Kirk Cousins
- Sean Mannion
- Kyle Sloter
If it were up to me, I’d go with Cousins and Sloter, with Browning on practice squad. But it’s not. Mike Zimmer made it pretty clear Mannion is the primary backup, and I don’t see them cutting or trading Sloter, so that means they keep 3 QBs on the roster again. After all, Trevor Siemian played worse than Mannion last year and they still went with him over Sloter.
The other thing that could weigh on the decision is overall allocation of roster spots, and are there players at other positions they’re willing to sacrifice to have 3 QBs on the roster.
Running Back / Full Back (4)
- Dalvin Cook
- Alexander Mattison
- Mike Boone
- Khari Blasingame
Ameer Abdullah didn’t lose his roster spot here, Mike Boone simply beat him out. He’s really improved in every facet of being a backup running back, whether running, receiving, blocking, or playing special teams. He’s actually giving Mattison a run for his money at RB2 at this point.
Khari Blasingame beating out C.J. Ham at fullback would be something of a surprise, as C.J. Ham has played well as fullback while also being a top performer in previous years on special teams. But Blasingame simply has more athleticism as a fullback - and is a better fit in Kubiak’s offense - while also doing well so far on special teams. C.J. Ham hasn’t really done anything to stand out this year in preseason either, so that combination gives Blasingame the upset for the fullback roster spot.
Wide Receiver (5)
- Adam Thielen
- Stefon Diggs
- Olabisi Johnson
- Chad Beebe
- Jeff Badet
I’m not sure there will be much of a distinction between WR3 and WR4 this year, and I doubt the combination will have as many reps this year as Treadwell did last year as WR3. For that reason, and the quality of WR depth on the roster, the Vikings will only keep five wide receivers this year.
There is also the chance that they Vikings pick up a veteran wide receiver if the right guy is cut by another team. Bisi Johnson seems to be rising up the depth chart, and may eventually be WR3 by the end of the season. Chad Beebe hasn’t shown much in preseason games this year, despite all the off-season hype on how well he’s done. He does play multiple roles on special teams, so he’ll get a roster spot by being able to contribute there as well. The same is true of Jeff Badet. He may be ahead of others in terms of his combination WR and ST ability, so he gets the last spot. His speed helps in that regard too.
It’s not out of the question that Treadwell makes the roster - he’s been given the most reps of any WR in preseason so far - but perhaps that was simply to showcase him for a potential trade.
Tight End (3)
- Kyle Rudolph
- Irv Smith Jr.
- Tyler Conklin
I expect David Morgan to be on the PUP list to begin the season, and we’ll have to wait and see what happens when he’s able to return. There’s no guarantee he gets a roster spot. The TE group depth is pretty good, and combined with Blasingame, there is some position flexibility here that fits well with Kubiak’s offense.
Offensive Line (10)
LT: Riley Reiff, Rashod Hill
LG: Pat Elflein, Dakota Dozier
C: Garrett Bradbury, Brett Jones
RG: Josh Kline, Dru Samia
RT: Brian O’Neill, Rashod Hill, Oli Udoh
Offensive line may be the toughest in terms of allocating roster spots, in part because there are a lot of guys around the same level among depth players. I’m going with the Vikings keeping ten offensive linemen, one more than usual. The extra guy is Oli Udoh. Udoh is still in need of development before he could be a primary backup at RT, but he’s shown a lot of development in a short time, and is a prototypical RT with starter potential. That makes him a prime candidate to be poached if the Vikings try to get him to the practice squad.
That may seem like over-accommodation for a 3rd team right tackle, but the progress and development is there. He’s been given It’s not hard to imagine him overtaking Rashod Hill in the not too distant future, and eventually becoming a starter if the Vikings decide to move O’Neill to LT and can’t afford Riley Reiff anymore. Udoh could be used in jumbo formations as well.
Brett Jones has had a very good preseason, and Dozier and Samia have shown the most improvement at guard - more so than Isidora. Dozier can also play tackle, which is a plus for him.
Defensive Line (9)
RDE: Everson Griffen, Ifeadi Odenigbo
DT: Shamar Stephen, Hercules Mata’afa, Jalyn Holmes
NT: Linval Joseph, Armon Watts
LDE: Danielle Hunter, Stephen Weatherly
Armon Watts moving up the depth chart and even getting first team reps on occasion seems to be coming at the expense of Jaleel Johnson, who simply hasn’t shown enough in his third season to indicate he’s got more upside. Ifeadi Odenigbo looks like the heir-apparent to Everson Griffen at RDE next year, assuming Hunter remains at LDE. Weatherly is given the nod over Karter Schult, who had a good preseason and could likely get picked up by another team after he’s cut. Mata’afa secures his spot with his interior pass rush ability, while Jalyn Holmes beats Jaleel Johnson out of the last roster spot for the group.
- Anthony Barr
- Eric Kendricks
- Ben Gedeon
- Kentrell Brothers
- Eric Wilson
- Devante Downs
- Cameron Smith
That’s a lot of linebackers, and the last few spots may be decided in the last preseason game. Reshard Cliett could possibly beat out Cameron Smith for a spot. Or Devante Downs. They’re all very close.
LCB: Xavier Rhodes, Mike Hughes
SCB: MacKensie Alexander, Jayron Kearse
RCB: Trae Waynes, Duke Thomas
I believe the Vikings will look to have Hughes off the PUP list to start the season, but probably won’t play him much at first until he’s up to speed. But they need him as the other CBs aren’t doing much, and with Holton Hill suspended for the first 8 games.
Duke Thomas, after having a bad game to start preseason, looks to have improved enough to win a roster spot ahead of guys like Kris Boyd and Bene Benwikere. Jayron Kearse is effectively the backup (big) slot CB, and I don’t know that there is anyone else really in competition, except for Hughes when he’s healthy.
- Harrison Smith
- Anthony Harris
- Jayron Kearse
- Derron Smith
I count Kearse here, even though he’s a backup slot CB, as he’s also the primary backup at safety. The last spot is close between Smith and Epps, but Smith has done better so far between safety and special teams.
K: Dan Bailey
P: Kaare Vedvik
LS: Austin Cutting
KR: Olabisi Johnson, Jeff Badet
PR: Chad Beebe, Olabisi Johnson
Vedvik gets the nod over Matt Wile, which means Chad Beebe will be the holder. Part of the reason Vedvik gets the nod is he’ll do kickoffs, and potentially 50+ yard field goals, while being able to backup Bailey as well if he falters or is injured.
Practice Squad (10)
- QB Jake Browning
- WR Dillon Mitchell
- WR Brandon Zylstra
- TE Brandon Dillon
- LB Reshard Cliett
- OT Storm Norton
- OG John Keenoy
- S Marcus Epps
- DL Karter Schult
- CB Craig James
These are the top candidates for practice squad. Of course there’s the possibility than one or more of them will be picked up by another team off the waiver wire.
PUP / IR / Suspended
- Ade Aruna (IR/PUP)
- David Morgan (PUP)
- Aviante Collins (PUP/IR)
- Holton Hill (Suspended)
It’s not clear at this point for any of the injured players whether they’ll be given a roster spot when they’re healthy enough to return. Aruna is extremely unlikely in that regard, and even Morgan and Collins are questionable. Hill is likely to get a spot when he returns, but it may be that a linebacker is let go when he comes back. We’ll see how it plays out.
Which is the most unlikely surprise pick I made ?
This poll is closed
Blasingame beats out C.J. Ham at fullback
Oli Udoh makes the roster
Vikings keep only 5 wide receivers
Armon Watts beats out Jaleel Johnson at NT
Jeff Badet beats out Zylstra, Mitchell, and Treadwell
The Vikings keep 7 linebackers