Now that the preseason has concluded, the Vikings will trim their roster from 90 players to 53 by Saturday afternoon, when NFL clubs have to make their cuts by 3 p.m. Central time. Here’s a prediction of what the Vikings’ final 53-man roster will look like:
QUARTERBACKS (3): Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, Taylor Heinicke
The Vikings could think about going with two QBs, after Heinicke’s erratic preseason ended with a 9-for-20 performance. He entered the league’s concussion protocol on Thursday night, and if he’s not cleared by Saturday, the only way the Vikings could release him is by putting him on the waived/injured list. But the Vikings’ stated preference is to keep three QBs, and after they’ve invested three years in Heinicke, the guess here is he stays.
RUNNING BACKS (4): Dalvin Cook, Latavius Murray, Jerick McKinnon, C.J. Ham
Of the players who didn’t see the field in Thursday’s preseason finale, Ham was among the most notable. He’s apparently done enough, both as a blocking back and an option out of the backfield, to land a roster spot. If he does, he’d become the latest Minnesota-born player to make the team after signing with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent, following Marcus Sherels and Adam Thielen.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6): Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell, Jarius Wright, Rodney Adams, Stacy Coley
This group could look different by October, when Michael Floyd can return from his four-week suspension. But for now, his absence clears a spot for another receiver, buying time for Adams and Coley — two Day 3 draft picks — to make a case they deserve to stay on the roster long-term.
TIGHT ENDS (3): Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Bucky Hodges
The Vikings could keep four players here, adding Kyle Carter to the group, or they could take Carter instead of Hodges. The math for four TEs in my projection, though, got difficult when accounting for Heinicke on the roster and Ham carving out a role as a fullback. So if it comes down to Hodges vs. Carter, the edge goes to the draft pick.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Riley Reiff, Alex Boone, Nick Easton, Joe Berger, Mike Remmers, Pat Elflein, Jeremiah Sirles, Rashod Hill, Danny Isidora
The Vikings held the first seven names on this list out of Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Dolphins, indicating all of them have earned a roster spot. The commonly-held assumption among the people I’ve talked to is that the Vikings will give Easton the edge at center over Elflein, sticking with the starter they used for their final five games last season, but Elflein has done enough in camp and the preseason to make a strong case. Isidora, a fifth-round pick out of Miami, has earned praise from coaches since the Vikings’ offseason program.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9): Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Tom Johnson, Danielle Hunter, Brian Robison, Shamar Stephen, Jaleel Johnson, Stephen Weatherly, Tashawn Bower
The Vikings don’t figure to have many surprise cuts, but if Datone Jones doesn’t make the roster, he’d likely be the most notable one. He didn’t play in Thursday’s preseason finale (though he sounded confident after the game his spot was secure) and hasn’t been able to boost himself up the Vikings’ depth chart at defensive tackle. The strong play of Jaleel Johnson, who’s worked at both nose and three-technique tackle, could put Jones in jeopardy.
LINEBACKER (6): Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Ben Gedeon, Edmond Robinson, Emmanuel Lamur, Kentrell Brothers
The last four names on this list will see plenty of special teams work, and the Vikings could try to find a spot for Eric Wilson, the undrafted free agent who had an impressive preseason and could fit in on special teams. As for the starting weak-side linebacker spot, Gedeon isn’t exactly a finished product, but he’s shown the range to make a strong bid for the job over Robinson and Lamur.
DEFENSIVE BACK (10): Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Terence Newman, Marcus Sherels, Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo, Jayron Kearse, Antone Exum, Anthony Harris
Could the Vikings use another corner? There’s a case to be made for that, especially with Sherels mostly being on the roster as a punt returner and Waynes and Alexander being relatively untested, though a reliable option could be hard to find at this point. As it is, the Vikings will likely turn the nickel job over to Alexander, with Newman (who turns 39 this week) there as another reliable option. Exum worked at nickel corner this summer, in what’s been a comeback camp for him after a spate of injuries, and it’s worth noting he didn’t play on Thursday night. Kearse and Harris stick in part because of their special teams contributions.
SPECIALISTS (3): Kai Forbath, Ryan Quigley, Kevin McDermott
Believe it or not, this is one of the more intriguing issues to be solved this weekend. I think Forbath wins out over Marshall Koehn, whose big leg is offset somewhat by concerns about his accuracy (he pulled an extra point wide left on Thursday). Quigley, the more experienced of the Vikings’ two punters, wins out over Taylor Symmank, while McDermott, the long snapper, returns as the only unopposed specialist from training camp.