Training camp is in the books. Half of the preseason has already been played. What better time to unveil the Star Tribune’s first 53-man roster projection for the 2019 Vikings?
Of course, this will miss perfection since no trades or waiver-wire additions are predicted. Where did I go wrong? Let me know in the comments.
Note: A (P) next to a projected released player denotes a player projected to be offered a practice squad spot.
Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion and Kyle Sloter
Released: Jake Browning
The question here is would the Vikings dare keep two quarterbacks? History says that’s not likely, so Sloter stays. Each season since Rick Spielman was officially named general manager in 2012, he’s elected to keep at least three quarterbacks under team control for the 53-man roster, this includes 2016 and 2017 when Taylor Heinicke (non-football injury list) and Teddy Bridgewater (PUP) were stored on injury lists by Week 1.
Running backs/fullback (5)
Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, C.J. Ham, Ameer Abdullah and Mike Boone
Released: DeAngelo Henderson, Khari Blasingame (P)
If the Vikings don’t keep Mike Boone, he’ll be on another team’s 53-man roster by Week 1. They know this, so it’s likely the Vikings keep five running backs once again. Fullback C.J. Ham is entrenched in multiple roles in the offense, and isn’t going anywhere. A promising camp may land Blasingame on the Vikings’ practice squad.
Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Chad Beebe, Brandon Zylstra and Olabisi Johnson
Released: Laquon Treadwell, Jeff Badet (P), Dillon Mitchell (P), Jordan Taylor, Alexander Hollins and Davion Davis
The Vikings seem likely to keep just five receivers in the pivot to an under-center offense with more backs and tight ends, especially when young receivers like Badet and Mitchell may be easy to sneak onto the practice squad. In this projection, the Vikings move on from Treadwell before his fourth NFL season, saving more than $600,000 in cap space with his release.
Tight ends (3)
Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Tyler Conklin
PUP: David Morgan
Released: Cole Hikutini (P), Brandon Dillon
The Vikings have not made public a recovery timetable for tight end David Morgan, who “had some stuff done” this offseason, according to assistant head coach Gary Kubiak. Morgan has not even rehabbed off to the side of practice, which is an ominous sign with only three weeks before the regular season opener. His status is the only uncertainty among tight ends. If healthy, he’d make the roster. Should Morgan start the season on PUP, by rule he would have to miss at least six games.
Offensive linemen (9)
Riley Reiff, Pat Elflein, Garrett Bradbury, Josh Kline, Brian O’Neill, Rashod Hill, Aviante Collins, Dakota Dozier and Dru Samia.
Released: Oli Udoh (P), Brett Jones, Danny Isidora, Cornelius Edison (P), John Keenoy and Nate Wozniak
Injuries have been frustrating for Collins, the promising third-year backup who plays guard and tackle. He’s currently recovering from a leg injury and hasn’t played in the preseason, but Collins may have already done enough to again earn a spot. As has Dozier, the free-agent pickup who has played second-team left tackle in Collins’ absence. The question is does Samia, the fourth-round pick, get the nod over the third-year Isidora?
Defensive linemen (9)
Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Shamar Stephen, Stephen Weatherly, Jaleel Johnson, Jalyn Holmes, Ifeadi Odenigbo and Hercules Mata’afa
Non-football injury list: Tashawn Bower (Achilles)
Released: Armon Watts (P), Stacy Keely, Karter Schult, Tito Odenigbo, Curtis Cothran, Anree Saint-Amour and Ade Aruna
The top seven are fairly solidified from Hunter down to Holmes. Odenigbo, entering his third NFL season, has risen quickly to be the Vikings’ No. 4 defensive end in lieu of a healthy Bower. He also has the flexibility to play defensive tackle. Mata’afa has flashed potential as a pass rusher and could be used situationally, so he stays. Rookie nose tackle project Armon Watts is a prime candidate for the practice squad.
Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Ben Gedeon, Eric Wilson, Kentrell Brothers and Cameron Smith
Released: Devante Downs (P), Reshard Cliett, Greer Martini
This is among the toughest positions to sort through. Zimmer recently said the Vikings’ linebacker depth is the best its been entering his sixth season as head coach. The last spot may come down to Smith, the rookie fifth-round pick, Downs and Cliett.
Defensive backs (10)
Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Harrison Smith, Anthony Harris, Jayron Kearse, Bene Benwikere, Duke Thomas, Derron Smith and Marcus Epps
PUP: Mike Hughes (knee)
Suspended: Holton Hill
Released: Kris Boyd (P), Craig James, Isaiah Wharton, Nate Meadors
The secondary is where the Vikings could look to acquire fresh faces whether via trade or the waiver wire. The current depth, including seventh-round rookie Kris Boyd, hasn’t shown much collectively. Benwikere, signed earlier this month for depth, has dove deep into the slot cornerback position, and could stick if he proves adept. It’s worth wondering if the Vikings even keep 10 defensive backs, or perhaps it’s more likely the ninth or 10th player is on a different team right now.
K Dan Bailey, P Kaare Vedvik, LS Austin Cutting
Released: P Matt Wile
The educated — and incomplete — guess here is Vedvik wins the punting job and serves as kicker insurance to Bailey, whether for this season or beyond. Vedvik could handle kickoffs, punts and perhaps the occasional long field goal, while receiver Chad Beebe takes over Wile’s holding duties.