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Early Vikings 53-Man Roster Projection

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An early look into how position battles may play out

NFL: SEP 25 Vikings at Panthers Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Now that the draft has been completed, and 87 of the Vikings’ 90-man roster spots have been filled, let’s take an early shot at projecting the Vikings 53-man roster.

Of course there has yet to be any camp competition, and there may still be a few key roster additions that could end up on the 53-man roster. Nevertheless, we can begin to make some insights into the composition of the roster based on known roster-locks, high draft picks, contractual commitments, etc., which narrow down the number of “open” roster spots available, along with typically how many spots are allocated to each position group.

Here we go.

Quarterback - 2

Kirk Cousins

Sean Mannion

I suspect a third QB will be given a spot on the practice squad, presumably either Jake Browning or Nate Stanley, depending on how the camp competition goes, and whether one or both make it through waivers.

Running Back - 3

Dalvin Cook

Alexander Mattison

Mike Boone

The surprise cut here is Ameer Abdullah, but I’m going to project Mike Boone moves up to the #3 spot ahead of him. Boone is a more powerful running back than Abdullah, and his pass blocking grade is now about the same as Abdullah’s as well, which makes him a complete back worthy of more playing time. At the same time, Abdullah is replaced as a punt/kick returner by K.J. Osborn, which leaves him without a roster spot.

Tony Brooks-James is also on the roster, and is a small, scat-back type RB with speed but not blocking ability. He has a good shot at the practice squad.

Fullback - 1

C.J. Ham

Ham was extended this off-season, and is basically a contractual commitment for the next two years.

Jake Bargas is also listed here, although he may compete more as a TE in an H-back type role at 6’3”, 250 pounds.

Wide Receiver - 5

Adam Thielen

Justin Jefferson

Tajae Sharpe

Bisi Johnson

K.J. Osborn

Also on the roster at WR is Quartney Davis, Chad Beebe, Alexander Hollins, Dillon Mitchell, Davion Davis, Dan Chisena, and Bralon Addison.

The first two spots are roster locks, and the next two are pretty well set - it would take an excellent camp performance by someone further down the list, or a significant disappointment from either Sharpe or Johnson to displace them.

K.J. Osborn gets the final WR roster spot as the designated punt and kick returner.

Tight End - 3

Kyle Rudolph

Irv Smith Jr.

Tyler Conklin

Also on the roster at TE is Brandon Dillon, Jake Bargas and Nakia Griffen-Stewart, who looks more like a blocking TE. I expect at least one, and perhaps two, of the TEs who didn’t make the roster to be placed on the practice squad.

Offensive Line - 11

Riley Reiff

Oli Udoh

Garrett Bradbury

Dru Samia

Brian O’Neill

Ezra Cleveland

Aviante Collins

Brett Jones

Kyle Hinton

Rashod Hill

Tyler Higby

Also on the roster are Pat Elflein, Dakota Dozier, Blake Brandel, Brady Aiello, and Jake Lacina.

This is a pretty bold projection representing some turnover, and there is a significant possibility that Riley Reiff is released as well. There is also a possibility that Josh Kline is re-signed.

Bradbury, O’Neill, Cleveland, Samia, and Udoh look to be roster locks, for different reasons. Rashod Hill’s $887K salary is fully guaranteed, so that would seem to indicate they’ll keep him, even though that’s not a huge amount by any means. But he’s filled in well as a swing tackle in pass protection.

The most well-known cut of course is Pat Elflein. Mike Zimmer has stated his unofficial ‘you have 3 seasons to make it’ view of young players, and Elflein has had his 3. He’s also too expensive to be a backup at $2.3 million, so the Vikings move on from him and save $2 million in cap space in the process. Another notable name that I’m projecting doesn’t make it is Dakota Dozier. Blake Brandel is the highest drafted player I project to not to make the roster.

Kyle Hinton is a C/G that is a surprise projection to make the roster, and so too is guard Tyler Higby. Both are very athletic, strong, versatile interior lineman, and could potentially be part of a jumbo package as well. I’m projecting both make the roster in part because the Vikings feel they won’t pass through waivers to the practice squad. Similar to Oli Udoh last year.

This is obviously a very young group, and without Reiff it may get even younger. But clearly there is a move for more athletic linemen across the board, and those are the guys that seem more likely to have a future with the team.

Defensive Line - 10

Danielle Hunter

Michael Pierce

Armon Watts

Shamar Stephen

Jaleel Johnson

Hercules Mata’afa

James Lynch

Ifeadi Odenigbo

D.J. Wonnum

Kenny Willekes

Others on the defensive line roster include Jayln Holmes, David Moa, Anthony Zettel, Eddie Yarbrough, and Stacy Keely. Holmes is the biggest projected casualty here, but he saw very limited snaps last season, only a handful a game, and regressed from his rookie year.

I would not be the least bit surprised if the Vikings added a notable free agent defensive tackle, such as Damon Harrison or Mike Daniels, or possibly re-sign Everson Griffen. Jaleel Johnson looks especially vulnerable on this above list, and Shamar Stephen is also a relatively high cap hit at $5 million this year and next, that could be upgraded.

Linebackers - 5

Eric Kendricks

Anthony Barr

Eric Wilson

Troy Dye

Cameron Smith

Also on the roster are Ben Gedeon, DeMarquis Gates, Blake Lynch, and Jordan Fehr.

The big cut here is Ben Gedeon, who has played well as a 2-down thumper and special teamer for the Vikings. The problem for Gedeon is he is a liability in coverage, and even on first or second down, teams can dial up a pass to exploit him in coverage. He also suffered two concussions last season, and was put on IR toward the end of the season.

Wilson at $3.2 million this season is expensive as a part-time defensive player and special teamer, but his skill set is a better fit for the Vikings at linebacker than Gedeon going forward. The Vikings seem more committed to having big guys in front of their linebackers to allow them to flow freely, and therefore minimize their relative small size, which is the trend for linebackers in the NFL these days.

Cornerbacks - 6

Mike Hughes

Holton Hill

Jeff Gladney

Cameron Dantzler

Kris Boyd

Harrison Hand

Others on the roster at cornerback include Nate Meadows, Marcus Sayles, Nevelle Clark, Mark Fields, and Kemon Hall.

The first four spots on this list are pretty much locks. I kept Kris Boyd here, although he may get a look at safety too, or at least could play both in a pinch. Harrison Hand has some flexibility as a potential outside or slot cornerback, and gets the last spot.

Safety - 4

Anthony Harris

Harrison Smith

John Metellus

Brian Cole II

Myles Dorn is also on the roster here, but Cole looks to have a better overall skill set and special teams value, so I give the last spot to him, with Metellus above him. The two starting spots are obvious roster locks.

Special Teams

Dan Bailey

Britton Colquitt

Austin Cutting

I don’t believe there are any challengers to these spots, and both Bailey and Colquitt just signed multi-year extensions, so pretty cut and dried here.

Practice Squad

In addition to the 53 players above, under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Vikings can now have 12 players on the practice squad, with relaxed limitations on half of them, allowing 2 players with any number of accrued seasons to be placed on the practice squad, and 4 others with no more than two accrued seasons. Here is a good summary of the new practice squad rules.

So, for example, the Vikings could potentially sign Ben Gedeon or Ameer Abdullah to the practice squad, unless they got a better offer elsewhere.

Additionally, the new rules allow teams to add one or two players per week to the active roster from the practice squad, with limitations, and to dress 47 players for each game, and potentially one more if at least 8 players are offensive linemen. I suspect that will be the standard practice, because why wouldn’t you have as many players dressed for each game as you can?

Some likely candidates for practice squad include Jake Browning or Nate Stanley, Tony Brooks-James or Ameer Abdullah, Tyler Higby, Blake Brandel, Myles Dorn, Nate Meadows, Ben Gedeon, David Moa, Anthony Zettel, Quartney Davis, Brandon Dillon, Jake Bargas and/or Nakia Griffen-Stewart, and another wide receiver like Chad Beebe, Dillon Mitchell, or Alexander Hollins.

Bottom Line

This is about the same number per position group as last season, although I have the Vikings keeping 11 offensive linemen, and one less tight-end, projecting it may be easier to get a tight-end through waivers to the practice squad than a promising offensive lineman.