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Updated Vikings 53-Man Roster Projection

NFL: Minnesota Vikings Training Camp Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

As we get further into training camp, I thought I’d make an updated 53-man roster projection now that there is a little more info out there on apparent depth charts and player performance. I’ll skip the practice squad roster for now. Here it is:

Quarterback (2)

  • Kirk Cousins
  • Kellen Mond
  • Sean Mannion

Neither Mond or Mannion has looked that good so far, and I expect there might be some discussion within the new regime about what that means going forward. But I don’t think that means they’ll keep two questionable backups instead of one. To the extent they think Mond has upside and can develop into a decent backup, they’ll keep him instead of Mannion, who might be available later in the season if need be or could go on the practice squad if he doesn’t get picked up. Or they may look to pick up someone else on the practice squad. Mannion has gotten good reviews for his performance in the quarterback room, as opposed to on the field, but I’m not sure that cuts it with the new regime, and he’s also more redundant with a former backup QB as head coach.

Running Back / Fullback (5)

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

I have CJ Ham on here largely because Kevin O’Connell’s comments about him don’t seem to indicate he won’t make the team- just the opposite- and they have put some thought into how they plan to use him. That also figures into how many tight ends make the roster. Ty Chandler’s college experience, versatility, and performance so far in training camp may help him to reach the RB3 spot ahead of Nwangwu, but both backs have secure roster spots with Nwangwu also kick returner, and both likely moving up next year as Mattison will likely move on.

Offensive Line (9)

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

The starting five are pretty well set, although the competition may not be over at right guard and at center. Jesse Davis seems to have the right guard spot pretty well sewn up for now, and it looks like Ed Ingram is becoming the backup. Kevin O’Connell’s comments about Garrett Bradbury put his starting job in at least a bit of doubt, and it appears that Chris Reed may be moving from right guard to center as a result of the dynamics at both positions. That doesn’t reflect well on Austin Schlottmann- who is the backup center. My guess is that Chris Reed will be groomed to challenge Bradbury over the rest of training camp and pre-season, with right guard set between Davis and Ingram. I’m guessing the Vikings keep Bradbury even if he’s displaced as the starter. So, given all that, eight of the nine spots I’m allocating to the offensive line are taken. The last spot may come down to Blake Brandel and Kyle Hinton. Wyatt Davis seems like a lost cause at this point, and Vederian Lowe needs a year on the practice squad before he is ready to compete for a backup tackle spot. The question is whether Brandel would be the next man up at tackle after swing tackle Oli Udoh, or if it would be Jesse Davis- who’s started at both tackle spots in Miami. It may be the latter to the extent the coaching staff feels Ed Ingram is ready to step into a starting role if need be. Should that be the case, Kyle Hinton might land the last roster spot as a backup guard, rather than Brandel as a backup tackle. For now I have Brandel getting the last spot, but we’ll see. Hinton doesn’t get much attention, but he’s done a decent job at left guard and fits well with the new regime prototype offensive lineman.

Wide Receiver (6)

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

The first three are roster locks and depth chart locks. It’s hard to see how Smith-Marsette doesn’t make the roster at some level on the depth chart, and Bisi Johnson would seem to have the advantage over the rest as well. I’m going with Nailor for the last position here instead of Chisena as a special teamer, because of his upside as a receiver rather than special teams contributor- although he may get a shot at punt returner. I’m guessing the special teams job Chisena had may go to another non-WR player. And with WR coach Keenan McCardell pounding the table for Nailor, I’ll give him the nod over the others.

Tight End (3)

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

Mundt and Davidson both have seen time with the 1s in Smith’s absence, which gives them the nod over the others. I suspect the new regime will opt for two receiving tight ends and one blocking in Mundt, given CJ Ham at fullback. Ellefson likely lands a practice squad spot, and perhaps one other. Smith is expected back in time to start week one.

Defensive Line (10)

  • Danielle Hunter
  • Harrison Phillips
  • Dalvin Tomlinson
  • Za’Darius Smith
  • Patrick Jones II
  • DJ Wonnum
  • Armon Watts
  • Esezi Otomewo
  • Janarius Robinson
  • James Lynch
  • Jaylon Twyman
  • Jonathan Bullard
  • Zach McCloud
  • TJ Smith
  • TY Magill
  • Luigi Vilain
  • Andre Mintz
  • Jullian Taylor
  • Tyarise Stevenson

The first seven here are pretty well set, as Patrick Jones II and DJ Wonnum appear to have established themselves as the backup edge rushers all through training camp, and Watts as the third defensive tackle. Beyond that it gets sketchier. Esezi Otomewo seems like he’ll get a roster spot, but like the others further down the depth chart, we haven’t seen much from him yet. Last year’s fourth round pick Janarius Robinson seems the most likely for the third backup OLB spot, and perhaps Lynch for the last defensive tackle spot- although that’s really sketchy. It’s been reported that the Vikings have interest in Ndamukong Suh. And while they may not acquire Suh, that suggests the Vikings aren’t content at defensive tackle. A guy like Tyarise Stevenson, at 6-3, 365 pounds, if he could show consistency as a run stuffer, could have a shot to make the roster as they don’t have anyone else much over 300 pounds besides Tomlinson to anchor the interior.

I’m not hearing much about Luigi Vilain, who is a UDFA I thought had a chance to make the roster, but he appears well down the depth chart. Jaylon Twyman’s strength in college was his pass rush, but he was often moved in the run game based on his size and technique, so he’ll need to show more as a run stopper to gain a roster spot. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Vikings brought in a free agent to fill a defensive tackle spot, however.

Inside Linebacker (5)

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

The first three spots are locks, and I give the last spots to Troy Dye and Blake Lynch based on special teams more than anything else. Also giving an extra spot here for special teams. There is a chance for Chazz Surratt to beat out Lynch if he shows up in pre-season games and the rest of training camp, but for now I’ll go with Lynch. Surratt was a decent special teams player last year, but not a core one like Lynch. But he may have more upside as a linebacker if he can figure some things out.

Cornerback (6)

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

Cornerback looks to be pretty well set. Some chance Hairston could be out Hand for the last spot, but Harrison may have the upper Hand right now. The other three stand little chance at this point of making the roster.

Safety (4)

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

I thought Mike Brown might challenge for the last safety spot, but that doesn’t appear to be happening. The first three spots were locks from the get-go, and so it comes down to Mettelus and Dorn as special teamers primarily. I’ll give the nod to Mettelus for now, but Dorn could win the spot potentially.


Kicker: Greg Joseph

Punter: Jordan Berry

Long Snapper: Andrew De Paola

Kick Returner: Kene Nwangwu

Punt Returner: KJ Osborn

In the specialist group, Joseph and De Paola are unopposed, so no question for them. Jordan Berry is competing with Ryan Wright, who appears to have the stronger leg, but Berry has more control and consistency in his punts, so that gives him the job. Nwangwu is pretty well assured the kick returner job after last season, but punt returner is up for grabs. KJ Osborn and Ihmir Smith-Marsette have been catching punts recently so they’re probably the two leading contenders, but among them I’ll give Osborn the nod as perhaps more reliable than Smith-Marsette. There could very well be others the Vikings try out as punt returner- Jalen Nailor returned some punts in college for example.

Overall Roster Thoughts

If 75% of the roster spots were virtual locks right after the draft, it’s probably up to about 90% now- even before the first pre-season game. There’s still time for players on the outside looking in to earn a roster spot, and also for players to move up or down the depth chart.

The weakest starting position appears to be center at this point, but with some question marks at the guard spots, and in the defensive secondary, particularly at cornerback. But at the same time, depth appears good in the defensive secondary- there are just some questions on how good the starters will be. Between Cam Dantzler, Patrick Peterson, and Andrew Booth Jr., I suspect at least a couple of quality cornerbacks will emerge- and maybe all three. Chandon Sullivan at slot corner is also a question mark, but he may also not play as much if the Vikings opt for a third safety at times in the slot position.

Offensively, all the starters in the skill positions are strengths of the roster, with depth good at running back, okay at wide receiver, not ideal at quarterback, and a question mark at tight-end. Offensive line depth is okay/average at this point.

Defensively, the starting defensive front looks pretty solid throughout, with a little question mark at the third defensive tackle spot in Armon Watts.

On special teams, Greg Joseph is having a good camp and the new special teams coach is guaranteeing his best year, so there’s that, and no reason to think the Vikings won’t have at least an average punter as well, and at least a pretty good kick returner in Nwangwu.

Overall the talent is there for the Vikings, with more question marks than weak spots where there aren’t proven quality starters- which there are at most positions.

Defensively if the front seven can stay healthy, and the young guys in the secondary turn into quality starters, there is lots of upside and the defensive could be quite formidable.

Offensively, it’s all there except at center and a couple question marks at guard. With at least average guard play, weakness at center can be mitigated. Otherwise the biggest issue offensively is staying healthy.

There is also execution risk when it comes to players executing the new schemes mistake-free, and there could be some growing pains here and there, but I don’t expect extended issues in that regard.