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Vikings 53-Man Roster Projection

The Vikings had an off-day on Saturday after hitting it pretty hard this past week - the first of padded practices.

There doesn’t seem like a lot of position battles in the sense of win-or-go-home, and among those that are battling for starting positions, it would seem that in most cases the loser might still get a number of reps. In any case, the Vikings will have to slim down to a 53-man roster and a 16 man practice squad, so in theory only 11 guys need be cut completely to meet the requirements.

Beyond that, there is the question of the depth chart, always a tricky one, particularly as the Vikings have yet to release one this year- for what that’s worth at this point in time. Still, even without the type of training camp and coverage we’re used to, it’s possible to glean some things from the reports from camp, and piece together some more likely scenarios in terms of final roster and depth chart.

Here is my projection, in order of depth, with italitcs for practice squad, and strikethrough for cuts:

Quarterback (2)

Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion, Jake Browning, Nate Stanley.

Difficult to say who’s ahead in the QB3 competition, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Vikings initially kept both QBs on the practice squad in order to let things play out a bit longer.

Running Back / Fullback (4)

Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah, Tony Brooks-James

FB: C.J. Ham, Jake Bargas

In one slight surprise, I’ll project that Mike Boone surpasses Ameer Abdullah on the RB depth chart, while KJ Osborn takes over return duties, putting Ameer Abdullah out of a roster spot. With the changes to the practice squad size and rules, Abdullah could land there.

Wide Receiver (5)

Adam Thielen, Bisi Johnson, Justin Jefferson, Chad Beebe, K.J. Osborn, Tajae Sharpe, Alexander Hollins, Quartney Davis, Dillon Mitchell, Dan Chisena.

I wouldn’t have guessed it, but apparently Chad Beebe has been getting as many reps with the ones in 3WR sets as Justin Jefferson has, so I guess that means he gets a roster spot. No news isn’t really good news for Tajae Sharpe getting a roster spot, so I have him going to the practice squad under the new rules, but unclear if another team may poach him. K.J. Osborn gets a roster spot primarily as a return man, but also potential as a receiver. Alexander Hollins has had a good camp this year as well, but not good enough to get a roster spot in this very competitive group.

The Vikings don’t use a lot of 3WR sets, which is why they only keep 5 on the roster- as they did last year.

Offensive Line (11)

LT: Riley Reiff, Rashod Hill

LG: Dakota Dozier, Aviante Collins, Ezra Cleveland, Blake Brandel

C: Garrett Bradbury, Brett Jones, Kyle Hinton. Jake Lacina,

RG: Pat Elflein, Dru Samia

RT: Brian O’Neill, Oli Udoh

If at any point this off-season, and particularly after the draft, someone said Dakota Dozier and Pat Elflein would be the starting guards this season, the voices of displeasure would’ve been deafening. And yet here we are. For all the talk about Oli Udoh, Dru Samia, Aviante Collins, and Ezra Cleveland, the Vikings appear to be going with experience over potential and talent. Perhaps with the shortened off-season and training camp they felt that was the safest option, but it’s beyond belief that it’s the best. I’m not surprised Cleveland isn’t there yet with his technique- he is a loser from the shortened off-season- but Dozier and Elflein have never been good, and it’s staggering that they haven’t at least looked at Udoh inside at guard, or that there isn’t someone better than Elflein for the other guard spot. Brett Jones, for example. If you asked me earlier this summer if Dozier, Elflein and Reiff would be on the 53-man roster I would have guessed not, for different reasons, and yet they’re all likely starters at this point.

The report from Friday’s more intense practice was that Shamar Stephen and Jaleel Johnson were having their way with the interior offensive line. As much as I’d like to believe that’s because both defensive tackles have taken a big, and totally unprecedented, step forward in their game, the more likely reason is because the competition along the Vikings interior offensive line is simply inferior to even mediocre defensive tackles.

Prior to Friday’s practice Mike Zimmer was asked who his starting left guard is, as he said they’d likely make a decision after only a few padded practices, but he said that was still a work in progress. Gary Kubiak said they’d have meetings about the offensive line this weekend, but based on how things are playing out one wonders if they’ll give anyone else a real shot at a starting job. It’s pretty late to start giving Udoh reps at guard, but perhaps giving some other interior linemen some reps with the ones may be worthwhile.

And so here we are, for the umpteenth year, looking at pretty much the same situation. Why did they cut Josh Kline again? One wonders if a guy like Samia, who they expected to step-up, just hasn’t done so. One also wonders what the plan is for Udoh, who looks like he should be among the best five, certainly compared to guys like Dozier and Elflein, and yet he seems an afterthought.

Tight-Ends (3)

Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Tyler Conklin, Brandon Dillon, Nakia Griffen-Stewart

Next to nothing to go on regarding either Dillon or Griffen-Stewart, but I suspect one of them makes the practice squad. Dillon has an extra year of experience, so I’ll favor him for now.

Defensive Line (10)

DEs: Danielle Hunter, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Jalyn Holmes, D.J. Wonnum, Kelly Willekes, Eddie Yarbrough, Anthony Zettel, Stacy Keely.

DTs: Shamar Stephen, Jaleel Johnson, Hercules Mata’afa, Armon Watts, James Lynch, David Moa.

I’ll go with this for now, but wouldn’t be surprised by a free-agent DT acquisition, and Willekes then going to the practice squad.

DT Michael Pierce opted-out for the season.

Linebackers (5)

Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Eric Wilson, Troy Dye, Hardy Nickerson Jr., Jordan Fehr. Blake Lynch.

The Vikings going out and getting Hardy Nickerson Jr. is a bit of a commentary on Jordan Fehr and Blake Lynch. Ben Gedeon remains on the PUP list, and Cam Smith is on the Reserve/Non-Football Illness list.

Cornerback (6)

Holton Hill, Cameron Dantzler, Mike Hughes, Jeff Gladney, Kris Boyd, Harrison Hand, Nevelle Clarke, Mark Fields II.

There’s not much of a question of which six CBs make the roster at this point, although the question of who starts remains a question. Holton Hill looks to have one of the starting outside corner spots, and Dantzler is making a strong bid for the other one, although Mike Hughes remains ahead of him for now. Hughes is also the lead for slot corner, although Jeff Gladney could eventually take over that role. Mike Zimmer has said that Hughes is struggling with his confidence level, which isn’t an issue for his competitors, apparently. Ultimately I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hughes backing up both the slot and outside corner spots. Kris Boyd looks to be another outside corner backup, while Hand could be another candidate to play in the slot.

It may not happen right away, but a Holton Hill, Cameron Dantzler, and Jeff Gladney combo could prove very formidable. In any case, this group is shaping up well.

Safety (4)

Harrison Smith, Anthony Harris, Steven Parker, Nate Meadors, Brian Cole II, Myles Dorn, Josh Metellus.

The Vikings picking up Steven Parker recently doesn’t say much for the rookie safety picks at this point, and they’ve also moved Meadors to takes some safety reps as well. Kris Boyd is also a candidate to play safety if need be.

Special Team Specialists (3)

K: Dan Bailey

P: Britton Colquitt

LS: Austin Cutting

No competition here, so easiest group to project. I’ll also project K.J. Osborn as the new return man.

KR: K.J. Osborn

PR: K.J. Osborn

Overall

This leaves 25 players on the roster on each side of the ball, along with the 3 specialists. I have 15 on the practice squad, so there’s room for one more- maybe one of the safeties. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Vikings pick-up a defensive tackle, so that could change things a bit, probably move a DE to the practice squad to make room.