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Vikings roster projection: Who will survive training camp?

The first full-squad practice of Vikings training camp is scheduled for five weeks from today. But we are already ready to declare which 53 men will make the final roster heading into the regular season opener.

OK, not really. By my count, there are 27 players I feel certain will be on the team this season and another dozen or so who are pretty close to locks in my opinion. The rest of the roster spots will be decided down in Mankato and in the team’s four preseason games.

But, because spring workouts are done and (thankfully) there is nothing newsy to write about (because it’s usually not good this time of year), I figured I would give you guys an early Vikings roster projection.

Feel free to use the comments section to let me know where I erred.

Quarterbacks (3): Sam Bradford, Taylor Heinicke, Case Keenum

Notes: This is under the assumption that Teddy Bridgewater, who was not cleared to practice this spring, begins training camp on the PUP list. … The Vikings under coach Mike Zimmer have preferred to roster three QBs.

Running backs (4): Dalvin Cook, Latavius Murray, Jerick McKinnon, C.J. Ham

Notes: I’m not sure if the Vikings will even bother rostering a fullback this year. And if they do, I’m not sure it will be Ham, a converted tailback.

Wide receivers (5): Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell, Jarius Wright, Rodney Adams

Notes: Michael Floyd is not included in this projection because he seems likely to be suspended by the NFL following his drunken driving arrest in December. If Floyd is indeed suspended, he would not count against their 53-man roster, assuming he is still on the team in September following his latest legal incident. … Stacy Coley, a rookie seventh-round pick, must show promise on special teams to avoid the practice squad.

Tight ends (3): Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Bucky Hodges

Notes: This is a position where the Vikings could add a veteran at some point unless Hodges, a sixth-round rookie, impresses this summer.

Offensive line  (9): Riley Reiff, Mike Remmers, Alex Boone, Joe Berger, Pat Elflein, Nick Easton, Rashod Hill, Jeremiah Sirles, T.J. Clemmings

Notes: Hill, snagged off Jacksonville’s practice squad last season, is the leading candidate to be the top backup tackle. … Clemmings, now at guard, must show he is still capable of improvement after two rocky years at tackle. … Willie Beavers, a 2016 fourth-rounder, is also in the mix.

Defensive line (9): Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Brian Robison, Stephen Weatherly, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Linval Joseph, Tom Johnson, Datone Jones, Jaleel Johnson.

Notes: Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd is expected to start the season on the PUP list and could wind up on injured reserve. … I went with five defensive ends in this projection. If the Vikings go with four, the final spot here could come down to Weatherly and Odenigbo. … The additions of Jones and Jaleel Johnson could lead to Shamar Stephen getting cut.

Linebackers (6): Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Edmond Robinson, Emmanuel Lamur, Kentrell Brothers, Ben Gedeon

Notes: Robinson and Lamur are battling to start at Chad Greenway’s old weak-side linebacker position. … The Vikings used fourth-round picks on Brothers and Gedeon in 2016 and 2017, respectively. … The Vikings have some interesting UDFAs here in Shaan Washington and Eric Wilson.

Cornerbacks (6): Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Terence Newman, Jabari Price, Marcus Sherels

Notes: Rhodes and Waynes, barring injury, will start on the outside. Alexander, a 2016 second-round pick, and Newman, who turns 39 in a couple of months, are competing to be the top slot guy. Price, in the final year of his rookie deal, can play inside, too. … Sherels makes the cut because of his prowess on punt returns and on special teams coverage.

Safeties (5): Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo, Anthony Harris, Jayron Kearse, Jack Tocho

Notes: Harris got the call during spring workouts whenever Smith, who had offseason ankle surgery, was held out. … Tocho, a smart safety who is converting from corner, seems like the kind of player Zimmer would hope to develop. … Intriguing but oft-injured safety Antone Exum missed most of the spring due to a leg injury and could soon be out of chances. … A veteran safety could be added as depth is a concern here.

Specialists (3): Marshall Koehn, Taylor Symmank, Kevin McDermott

Notes: Koehn outkicked incumbent Kai Forbath during spring workouts and has the bigger leg for kickoffs, which coordinator Mike Priefer surely likes. … Based on upside, I gave Symmank the nod over veteran Ryan Quigley, who is now with his seventh team in five years and has yet to hit a 40-yard net punting average in any of his four NFL seasons.

Five position battles to watch in Vikings training camp

1051157 bytes; 1320 x 990; Minnesota Vikings center Nick Easton (62) does drills with Vikings tackle Aviante Collins (76) runs

With the Vikings’ turnover in free agency and a slew of rookies added, more than a handful of positions are up for grabs on offense, defense and special teams.

Some clarity was gained during the offseason program, such as Marshall Koehn’s legitimate chance to unseat Kai Forbath at kicker, but there’s much to sort out for the Vikings in training camp.

Center: Third-year center Nick Easton held down the middle of the offensive line during much of spring practices and has led the competition with rookie third-round pick Pat Elflein, whom the Vikings view fits best at center after one season there with Ohio State. The Vikings moved trusty veteran Joe Berger to right guard to see how Easton and Elflein compete in what is a critical race for the retooled offensive line.

Running back: The Vikings wanted competition in the backfield and they’re set up to achieve that. The offense looks destined for a committee approach with veteran Latavius Murray, rookie Dalvin Cook and Jerick McKinnon replacing Adrian Peterson. But who leads? When will Murray be healthy? He resumed running recently and, by most accounts, is expected to be ready to go by training camp after March ankle surgery. There can be roles for all three, but the most intriguing addition is the dynamic Cook, who started working with quarterback Sam Bradford more as the offseason progressed.

Slot cornerback: Captain Munnerlyn provided an underrated service for the Vikings, especially in a solid past two seasons, manning the slot for the secondary. Without him, second-year talent Mackensie Alexander is expected to take a big step forward with veteran Terence Newman also taking reps in the middle of the defense. As the Vikings found when they parted ways with Antoine Winfield before the 2013 season, it can be difficult to find a steady hand at nickel back, which plays about 60 percent of the snaps in today’s NFL.

Linebacker: The other 40 percent of defensive snaps will fall at weak-side linebacker, where Edmond Robinson and Emmanuel Lamur swapped reps this offseason in the role vacated by Chad Greenway’s retirement. The Vikings need to shore up the run defense, which ranked 16th in yards per carry (4.2) last season, and playing a critical role on first and second downs will be either Robinson (6-3, 245) or Lamur (6-4, 245), the biggest linebackers on the roster this side of Anthony Barr.

Kicker: The Vikings have played in at least six one-score games per season since Mike Zimmer took over and effectively lowered the water level with a renewed defense. Low-scoring and tight games enhances the role of kicker, which has been under the microscope since Blair Walsh started to go off the rails in Minnesota. So the importance of the competition between Kai Forbath and Marshall Koehn shouldn’t be understated. The Vikings like Koehn’s big leg, but he’ll also need accuracy to get the edge on Forbath (15-15 on field goals last season).

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