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Final Vikings 53 Forecast

Last update on the initial 53 man roster before we find out on Tuesday.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The last preseason game is in the books for the Vikings, a 23-13 loss to the Broncos, and now the Vikings will need to cut their roster to 53 men by Tuesday afternoon.

As always, player evaluations will include preseason action, previous experience and performance, practice performance including joint practices and team scrimmage, and development trend and potential. For players near the bottom of the depth chart, special teams ability can be a deciding factor.

Roster spots for many players are locked in contractually when it’s more expensive to cut a player than keep him, top of the depth chart performance, and in some cases draft status as a top three round pick- although not always. For non-starters, their ability to contribute as competent backups and special teamers is important. Experience as a starter and development potential are also important factors. In some cases the ability to play multiple positions is also an advantage.

With all that in mind, here is my final 53-man roster forecast for the Vikings.

Quarterback (2)

  • Kirk Cousins
  • Nick Mullens
  • Kellen Mond
  • Sean Mannion

The Vikings trading for Nick Mullens spelled out how the Vikings feel about their existing backup QBs in Sean Mannion and Kellen Mond, both of whom have fared poorly in preseason action. Based on the performances of Mannion and Mond in preseason and in training camp, I suspect the Vikings are willing to let them test the waiver wire rather than waste a roster spot on them. If Mond clears waivers, the Vikings may offer him a spot on the practice squad. But neither Mond nor Mannion have shown they can come in and deliver if something happened to Cousins. I don’t see the Vikings carrying three QBs on the roster in hope that Mond develops down the road. They have too many needs for that roster spot elsewhere.

Running Back / Fullback (5)

  • Dalvin Cook
  • Alexander Mattison
  • Ty Chandler
  • Kene Nwangwu
  • CJ Ham
  • Bryant Kobeck
  • Jake Bargas

The Vikings’ RB group has been pretty well established prior to the last preseason game, and nothing has changed except Ty Chandler may have leapfrogged Kene Nwangwu for the RB3 spot. He has certainly outperformed him in preseason action, including as a pass blocker. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Vikings were open to trading Alexander Mattison. A trade may not happen, but Chandler has even made a case for himself as RB2.

Offensive Line (9)

  • Christian Darrisaw
  • Ezra Cleveland
  • Garrett Bradbury
  • Ed Ingram
  • Brian O’Neill
  • Oli Udoh
  • Chris Reed
  • Blake Brandel
  • Kyle Hinton
  • Jesse Davis
  • Wyatt Davis
  • Austin Schlottman
  • Vederian Lowe
  • Timon Parris
  • Josh Sokol

The starting offense line appears to be set with Ed Ingram appearing to win the starting right guard job. So the competition is really among the backups. That said, I don’t think the confidence level is high regarding Bradbury, so that could factor into some decision-making on the center depth chart.

The Vikings had their backup offensive lineman play different positions against the Broncos, in what was a test of versatility and ability to play more than one position. The results of that, and some other trends and considerations lead me to make some surprising changes here.

The first thing is that Jesse Davis has not impressed in training camp or in his limited preseason action. He played 21 snaps at left guard against the Broncos 2nd and 3rd string, and didn’t do that well run blocking (54.1 PFF grade), and did worse in 8 snaps as a starter against the Raiders. He finished preseason with a 49.5 overall grade. He also appears to have lost the starting right guard job to Ed Ingram. The Vikings may favor his experience, but his overall PFF grade last year was 52.5, which was a ten point decline from the previous year- which was his best. At age 31, it’s reasonable to think this is as good as it gets for Davis, although he’s fared better at guard in the past, but who may also be near the end of his career. Just not seeing a lot of fire or motivation from him. I expect the Vikings will try to trade Davis, but ultimately take a dead cap hit if no trade partner can be found.

The battle for swing tackle is between Oli Udoh and Blake Brandel, and it’s a close battle. Brandel has outperformed Udoh in preseason PFF grades, and both have done a good job at right tackle. But I’m not sure if the Vikings are ready to send Brandel to play left tackle if something happened to Darrisaw. Udoh isn’t perfect by any means, but has starting experience, so I expect this to be a close call. Ultimately I have both of them making the roster with Jesse Davis, a possible tackle, not making it. Another reason is that there may be questions about how well either of them will hold up against top edge rushers, so better to have more than one option.

Chris Reed came in third place in the battle for right guard, and since then has been out most of the time with an injured elbow. They’ve moved him to center, and he played center and right guard in his first preseason action. He was the highest graded offensive lineman overall at 84.4 according to PFF in 34 snaps. That may have helped Reed’s roster chances after disappointing and then missing a lot of training camp and preseason with an elbow injury. Uncertainty about Bradbury as starting center may tip the scales toward keeping Reed as a viable alternative if Bradbury falters.

Kyle Hinton had done well in extensive reps the first two preseason games at left guard with the injuries to Reed and Davis, and repeated that performance at right guard against the Broncos. He was the highest graded pass blocker (87.5), and second in overall PFF grade (75.8) among offensive linemen to Reed in 44 snaps- most of any offensive lineman. Hinton has played the most snaps of any offensive lineman in every preseason game. He also held up well against Javon Kinlaw (better than Ed Ingram) in the 49ers game. Hinton doesn’t have starting experience (like Ingram), which may give the Vikings pause, but he’s made a great case for himself as the backup guard, and I think he wins the job.

Austin Schlottmann played exclusively center in all three preseason games, and at least for the moment appears to be the backup center. Schlottmann has done a good job in all the preseason games, particularly as a run blocker. He hasn’t graded as well in pass protection but hasn’t given up a QB pressure either. Schlottmann played at Denver with Vikings’ OL coach Chris Kuper, so he’s well known to him. Looking at his past PFF grades, Schlottmann grades best at center, and not as well at guard, and given he’s only played center in preseason, he may be viewed as a center-only player, and only a guard in last resort. As such, the roster-spot question for Schlottmann is whether he’s a better center than Chris Reed, who’s played center in preseason games in the past, with good results, but has only played guard in regular season action. Schlottmann played a game at center last season against the Raiders and did poorly. Has he improved since then? Which player is better at calling protections? My sense is that Reed may fare better than Schlottmann as a starting center, and more than Schlottmann could be an upgrade over Bradbury if he falters. So, I have Schlottmann being cut, despite a good preseason performance. I’m sure the Vikings would welcome Schlottmann on the practice squad, but not sure if he’ll get an offer elsewhere or not.

Further down the depth chart, third-round pick Wyatt Davis simply hasn’t played or practiced well enough to move up the depth chart, and so he’s cut. He has graded better in preseason games, but too little, too late. Timon Parris has not fared particularly well at the back end of the depth chart, and is an easy cut. Vederian Lowe has struggled, but expect him to be offered a practice squad spot. Josh Sokol has done okay as third-string center, and wouldn’t be surprised to see him offered a practice squad spot as well, particularly if Schlottmann is cut and goes elsewhere.

Wide Receiver (6)

  • Justin Jefferson
  • Adam Thielen
  • KJ Osborn
  • Ihmir Smith-Marsette
  • Jalen Nailor
  • Dan Chisena
  • Blake Proehl
  • Myron Mitchell
  • Trishton Jackson
  • Bisi Johnson

The first four spots have been pretty well solidified, which really makes it a competition for the last two spots. Bisi Johnson tore his ACL in the Broncos game and is out for the season- his last under contract with the Vikings. So while extremely unfortunate for Johnson, that simplifies the equation for the remaining two spots on the depth chart.

Jalen Nailor has done a good job in limited reps of catching the catchable balls thrown his way and has shown more play-maker ability after the catch than his competitors. Nailor was credited with a drop by PFF in the Broncos game, but it was on a slightly overthrown pass that may have been more of a PBU by the defender than a drop by Nailor. Keenan McCardell wanted Nailor in the draft, and I expect that will help him gain a roster spot as well. Nailor has elite acceleration and explosion traits from his RAS testing (8.09 RAS), which gives him some good traits to develop his upside.

The last spot comes down to Trishton Jackson and Dan Chisena.

Trishton Jackson is the other receiver that is a contender for a roster spot but has a more limited athletic profile (6.45 RAS). This is his third year in the league as a UDFA signed originally by the Rams in 2020, but cut at the 53-man deadline last year and was signed by the Vikings to their practice squad a few days later. He’s made some plays both in practice and preseason, but WR6 needs to contribute on special teams, and I’m not sure Jackson has edged out Dan Chisena in that regard.

Dan Chisena did well in limited (8) wide receiver snaps against the Raiders but hasn’t played since due to a lower leg injury. Prior to that, I was surprised to see Chisena more involved as a wide receiver than he had been in previous training camps. Chisena checks a lot of boxes in terms of desirable WR traits at 6’3”, 203 lbs., and reportedly having run a 4.32” 40 prior to the draft in 2020. Chisena was also a track & field sprinter at Penn State. But Chisena has contributed mostly as a core special teamer since being signed by the Vikings in 2020, and if he makes the roster again this year, that will be his main role. My guess is that the Vikings will give him a roster spot for that reason.

Myron Mitchell is also in the mix for a WR roster spot, and was actually listed ahead of Nailor, Jackson, and Chisena on the first official depth chart, but seems to get most of his reps at the end of preseason games- behind Jackson and Nailor. Mitchell’s PFF grades the last two preseason games have not helped his cause, and at 6’1”, 180 lbs., he’s pretty small as a blocker and even special teamer. Having said that, he graded okay on special teams this preseason, but only a total of 9 snaps. Ultimately, Mitchell doesn’t stand out enough as either a receiver or special teamer, and so I don’t see him getting a roster spot.

Tight End (3)

  • Irv Smith Jr.
  • Johnny Mundt
  • Zach Davidson
  • Ben Ellefson
  • Nick Muse
  • Shaun Beyer

The first two spots here were virtual locks for a while now.

Zach Davidson did a lot to help his chances of gaining a roster spot over Ben Ellefson, and I think he will do so. Muse didn’t help himself with a couple drops, but I could see him getting a place on the practice squad. Same for Ben Ellefson. With CJ Ham as a blocking back, I don’t see the need for two blocking tight-ends on the roster, which is why I have Ellefson being cut. Smith Jr. and Mundt as TE1 and TE2 hasn’t been in doubt, although we haven’t seen much of them on the field. Davidson could challenge Mundt in time for TE2 if his run blocking improves. He seems like he’s already a better receiver, despite his drops against the 49ers, and grades better as a pass blocker.

It’s worth noting that Davidson has easily the highest RAS score (8.79) of all the tight ends above him including Irv Smith Jr. (4.78) and Johnny Mundt (6.68). He’s also the highest graded pass blocker among tight-ends in the preseason. Nick Muse has the same RAS as Davidson, and also has done well as a blocker in limited preseason reps. I expect Muse and Ellefson to be offered spots on the practice squad if they clear waivers, and Muse could gain a roster spot next year if that works out and he develops as Davidson has- or better.

Defensive Interior Line (5)

  • Harrison Phillips
  • Dalvin Tomlinson
  • Armon Watts
  • T.Y. Magill
  • Jonathan Bullard
  • Esezi Otomewo
  • James Lynch
  • Jaylon Twyman
  • TJ Smith

The first three interior defensive line spots have been set from the beginning of training camp, with Phillips at NT and Tomlinson and Watts the two DEs. Watts hasn’t looked good in run defense during preseason (48.5 PFF run defense grade in 12 run defense snaps), and so I suspect the Vikings may be on the lookout for another defensive tackle who’s more stout against the run.

Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said last week that he wants his interior linemen to be able to play either NT or DE, so that will have an impact on IDL roster spots. Run defense is the primary function of interior defensive linemen in this light box scheme, with pass rush secondary.

With all that in mind, T.Y. Magill has stood out in preseason, more for his sacks than run defense, but nevertheless he’s fared better in run defense than most of his competitors. He suffered an ankle injury in the Denver game but is expected back in a week or two. He’s been the star of the backup interior defensive linemen in preseason, registering 3.5 sacks.

Bullard, a former 3rd round pick in 2016, has been ahead of both Lynch and Twyman on the depth chart and I don’t think the preseason performances changed that. Lynch really doesn’t have the body type to play NT, and his extended play against Denver didn’t help him at all. Twyman was the lowest graded defensive player in preseason for the Vikings. Lynch and Twyman were not helped much in the change to a Fangio 3-4 scheme.

Fifth-round pick Esezi Otomewo is a bit undersized at this point, and doesn’t hold up as well in run defense, but hopefully he can find his way onto the practice squad with a chance to bulk up over the next year.

Edge Rushers (5)

  • Danielle Hunter
  • Za’Darius Smith
  • D.J. Wonnum
  • Patrick Jones II
  • Janarius Robinson
  • Zach McCloud
  • Luigi Vilain

The first four spots here were set early on, with Wonnum and Jones backing up Hunter and Smith. That left the remaining three edge rushers competing for what may be the last spot among edge rushers.

Janarius Robinson was not active for the Denver game, apparently due to injury. The Vikings may see more potential in Robinson than production at this point and may not want to risk a guy with his athleticism and length to hit the waiver wire. He was okay in run defense but hasn’t developed much as a pass rusher. Still, as essentially a red-shirt rookie having missed all of last season, OTAs and training camp with a leg injury, and a 4th round pick with prototypical measurables for an edge rusher (9.33 RAS), the Vikings may look to develop Robinson rather than let him go.

Zach McCloud and Luigi Vilain were both promising UDFAs that could find their way to the practice squad. McCloud had a good training camp and preseason but is limited athletically (6.45 RAS). He’s also a 24-year old rookie, having spent 6 years in Miami. Vilain, also 24, has the RAS to develop (8.85 RAS) and had a decent preseason. But he seems more likely for a practice squad spot than a roster spot at this point, with hope he can develop into a roster spot guy next year. McCloud and Vilain both saw a lot of reps on special teams, but didn’t grade higher than Robinson and Jones, albeit the latter two just had 9 reps each.

Inside Linebacker (5)

  • Eric Kendricks
  • Jordan Hicks
  • Brian Asamoah
  • Troy Dye
  • Blake Lynch
  • Chazz Surratt
  • William Kwenkeu

The first two spots are locks, and Asamoah has already been told he’ll make the team, so the rest are competing for the last spot or two here. I’m also giving this group an extra spot for special teams. And for that reason, I give the last spots to Troy Dye and Blake Lynch based on special teams more than anything else. Both Dye and Lynch have been very good core special teamers for the Vikings- Dye was an elite graded special teamer last season- and Lynch had decent or better grades as a linebacker last season too.

Chazz Surratt was not active for the Denver game, apparently due to injury, but hasn’t done well as either a linebacker or special teamer. He’s graded at or near the bottom of the team in PFF grades in both areas. Surratt does have an RAS to support development (8.47 RAS), but the former QB was so raw coming out of North Carolina, his development could take a while or never come to fruition. Could offer him a practice squad spot if they think they can get there with him, otherwise best to end the experiment.

Cornerback (6)

  • Patrick Peterson
  • Cameron Dantzler
  • Andrew Booth Jr.
  • Chandon Sullivan
  • Akayleb Evans
  • Kris Boyd
  • Harrison Hand
  • Nate Hairston
  • Parry Nickerson
  • Tye Smith

The first four spots were never in doubt, and when Harrison Hand got cut, that pretty much solidified the cornerback roster. Kris Boyd gets the last spot. Boyd was the highest graded corner in the preseason, with an elite PFF coverage grade (90.2) in 55 coverage snaps, so that won him the last spot. Boyd is probably ahead of Akayleb Evans based on preseason performance, but Evans has the traits to develop (9.56 RAS) and did okay for a rookie in coverage. Needs to improve his run defense, and just develop in general, but worthy of a roster spot.

Nate Hairson, Parry Nickerson, and Tye Smith haven’t shown enough to displace anyone above them for a roster spot.

Safety (4)

  • Harrison Smith
  • Cam Bynum
  • Lewis Cine
  • Myles Dorn
  • Josh Mettelus
  • Mike Brown

The first three spots here were locks from the get-go, but Myles Dorn has given Josh Mettelus a real challenge for the last spot. I’m giving the last spot to Dorn, who was about even with Mettelus in PFF grades as a safety, but who also outperformed Mettelus on special teams last season, and in preseason, albeit Mettelus only had a handful of special teams snaps.

Specialists (3)

Kicker: Greg Joseph

Punter: Ryan Wright

Long Snapper: Andrew De Paola

Kick Returner: Kene Nwangwu

Punt Returner: Ihmir Smith-Marsette

The specialist group had pretty much been decided prior to the Denver pre-season game as Ryan Wright won the competition for the punting job and has shown the Vikings made the right decision with his performance against the Broncos. Fun fact about Wright: despite all the linebacker comparisons (he’s 6’2”, 240 lbs.), Wright was actually a quarterback in high school. I imagine we may see that aspect of his game at some point when the Vikings go with a fake punt.

Greg Joseph and Andrew De Paola were unopposed in training camp- Brkic was released early on- and Joseph has earned nothing but praise for his performance really all off-season. Expect good things from him this season.

We didn’t see Nwangwu return a kick in preseason, but he earned the job last year by taking two kickoffs to the house- most in the NFL.

Ihmir Smith-Marsette did solidify his hold on the punt returner job with a couple good returns against the Broncos. He fumbled on a punt return the week before, but the Vikings have stuck with him as punt returner.

Practice Squad

Rules for the practice squard are a limit of 16 players, ten of which can have no more than two accrued seasons. The six others don’t have limitations.

  • Vederian Lowe
  • Josh Sokol
  • Kellen Mond/Sean Mannion
  • Ben Ellefson
  • Nick Muse
  • Luigi Vilain
  • Chazz Surratt
  • Josh Mettelus
  • Trishton Jackson
  • Austin Schlottmann
  • Nate Hairston
  • Zach McCloud
  • James Lynch
  • Jaylon Twyman
  • Bryant Koback
  • Myron Mitchell


Will the Vikings trade away a player before the start of the regular season?

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Will the Vikings acquire more than one new player for their 53-man roster this week?

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