Now that free agency has died down, we are prematurely projecting the Vikings depth chart heading into next month’s NFL draft. We will start with the offense today then tackle the defensive side of the ball tomorrow.
- Quarterback: Teddy Bridgewater, Shaun Hill, Taylor Heinicke
Comments: No surprises here. Bridgewater is the guy, Hill is his backup and Heinicke might have to battle a late-round pick to be the No. 3 QB.
- Running back: Adrian Peterson, Jerick McKinnon, Matt Asiata
- Fullback: Zach Line, Blake Renaud
Comments: Peterson, who turned 31 yesterday, could again approach 300 carries in 2016, but McKinnon should also see an uptick in snaps, whether he is lined up in the backfield or as a receiver. Steady Asiata is back on a one-year deal. The Vikings have tendered Line, a restricted free agent.
- Split end: Charles Johnson, Cordarrelle Patterson, Isaac Fruechte
- Flanker: Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Terrell Sinkfield
- Slot receiver: Jarius Wright, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen
Comments: Considering that Johnson or Patterson, neither of whom had a role on offense late in 2015, would probably start if the season began today (it doesn’t), the Vikings must address the position in the draft. Diggs was the starter at split end last season, but with Mike Wallace gone, he could be used as the flanker in 2016, depending on whom they add in the draft. Thielen has the skills and the body type to probably be a backup at all three spots.
- Tight end: Kyle Rudolph, MyCole Pruitt, Rhett Ellison, Brian Leonhardt
Comments: With Ellison working his way back from a torn patellar tendon in his knee, Pruitt gets nudged ahead of him on the depth chart. Leonhardt, added Friday, might just be insurance if Ellison can’t return to form.
- Left tackle: Matt Kalil, Carter Bykowski, Austin Shepherd
- Left guard: Alex Boone, Mike Harris, Zac Kerin
- Center: John Sullivan, Joe Berger, Nick Easton
- Right guard: Brandon Fusco, Mike Harris, Jeremiah Sirles
- Right tackle: Andre Smith, Phil Loadholt, T.J. Clemmings
Comments: Where do we begin here after a busy couple weeks of free agency? Loadholt is the incumbent at right tackle, but Smith gets the early nod over Loadholt and Clemmings because he is healthy and received $1 million in guaranteed money in his one-year deal. With Boone slotted in at left guard, Fusco will slide back to right guard and battle Mike Harris for that starting spot. If Sullivan is healthy, he should start over Berger at center, though he probably won’t be handed his job back. The Vikings could eye a left tackle in the draft to potentially replace Kalil, who is in the final year of his rookie contract, whether that is midseason or down the road. Might a youngster such as Shepherd or Easton surprise by jumping into the mix?