I’ve decided not to call this a roster projection or prediction because those are inevitably wrong, and there’s a decent chance that the roster will include players that didn’t participate in Vikings camp this year. In 2012, they added A.J. Jefferson and Mark Asper after cuts. In 2013, it was J’Marcus Webb. The next year, the Vikings added MarQueis Gray and Mike Harris and following that year added Jeremiah Sirles. Last year, they made an inconsequential trade for a little-known player at a position without much value, Sam Bradford.
So yes, it’s largely an exercise in futility to predict a roster. Instead, I’m constructing my own and not calling it a roster prediction.
I was part of a democratically determined roster projection podcast on Purple FTW with Zone Coverage colleagues Luke Inman and Sam Ekstrom, as well as Eric Thompson and Yinka Ayinde of the Daily Norseman and B.J. Reidell and Drew Mahowald of Vikings Territory. That will look a bit different than the roster below.
Michael Floyd is suspended and Teddy Bridgewater is on the PUP list. Defensively, I moved Sharrif Floyd to the PUP list and Kentrell Brothers to injured reserve. I have no idea if his injury is serious enough to put him on IR, but he’s been missing quite a few practices since being carted off the field for his hamstring, and we don’t have a clear timeline. If moving Brothers to IR feels like cheating (and the Vikings have moved multiple players to IR every cutdown day, even when they have been practicing), then feel free to cut the sixth receiver and add Brothers to the defensive roster.
The offense has 26 roster spots and the defense has 24, while the specialists take three. First, the offense:
The Vikings have awful quarterback luck and have started a third quarterback six times in the last ten years and just went through a quarterback scare last year with their third quarterback unable to play.
In this case, I put Taylor Heinicke second on the depth chart because I think that, though his play was uneven in camp, his pattern of play was more likely to help the Vikings win games given his increased proficiency in positional drills and the fact that he could command control at every depth of the field.
The running back room is not a surprise, though it did pain me a little bit to cut Bishop Sankey, who has had a fantastic camp.
I managed to keep both a fullback and four tight ends, figuring that by the time Floyd comes back from suspension, it will be easier for the Vikings to make a decision on whether they want to cut one for the other. If not, they can cut Cayleb Jones for Floyd.
Speaking of which, Jones might stand out as an interesting addition when Rodney Adams doesn’t make the team. I think that Jones has been absolutely a better receiver in camp, and has done a better job getting open, winning contested catches and creating plays when targeted. Not only that, I think that Marcus Sherels is a good kickoff returner and that he can win that job in addition to his punt return duties. If not, Coley does seem able.
I initially was hesitant to keep a fullback when the league feels like it’s phasing them out (though not entirely; 20 teams kept a fullback on their roster last year and two of them kept two), but C.J. Ham has looked quite good at the position, and better than the Vikings have had in the past few years—at least in camp.
Kyle Carter has also been very impressive to me in camp, and has put together a good blend of blocking and receiving at the position that I don’t think he had last year and certainly seems rosterable. He’s more capable than a number of tight ends the Vikings have carried; he’s not as flashy as MyCole Pruitt but more versatile, more polished than MarQueis Gray and more explosive than Chase Ford.
Along the offensive line, the most difficult cut for me was Zac Kerin. He’s had an absolutely fantastic camp thus far and deserves to play somewhere, but the Vikings have three center-capable players in Nick Easton, Pat Elflein and Joe Berger. They have six players capable of playing guard—the three aforementioned centers as well as Alex Boone, Danny Isidora and Willie Beavers.
Beavers has looked surprisingly good at tackle. The Vikings are hurting for tackle depth, and while Riley Reiff and Rashod Hill should both be ready to go as the season begins, paying attention to tackle depth makes more sense to me than keeping another center/guard.
Jeremiah Sirles might seem like he could provide tackle/guard depth, but I chose to keep Willie Beavers above him despite the fact that it was Sirles, not Beavers, who filled in at tackle during the night scrimmage when Hill went down with a sprained ankle. Beavers has just looked better.
As for the starting center job, I gave it to Elflein because he is more versatile and capable as a blocker, and his biggest disadvantage—snapping the ball—isn’t unique to him. Nick Easton has had this issue, though much less often, in camp and in some games last year.
Now, the defense:
I’ve wanted to keep nine defensive linemen, though there’s an argument for letting Datone Jones back up both the defensive tackle and defensive end spots and letting Stephen Weatherly go.
Still, there weren’t a lot of difficult decisions to make, and Weatherly has had a good camp. While I wanted to keep both Tashawn Bower and Ifeadi Odenigbo for how excellently they’ve performed, the decision was fairly clear.
Shamar Stephen has been having a lights-out camp, and he should be included in any defensive 53-man projection.
The linebackers were relatively simple after moving Brothers to injured reserve. Five linebackers is unusual but not unheard of for Mike Zimmer or the Vikings. While Minnesota has trended towards more linebackers instead of fewer over the last several years, it seems as if Eric Wilson, Noor Davis and Darnell Sankey haven’t made enough of an impression to stick as linebackers, while Elijah Lee had ample opportunities to be promoted due to linebacker injury but remained on the third team.
I wanted to include Lee, but felt the roster spots elsewhere were currently more valuable. Lee has had a great camp, but simply hasn’t had to prove much against second- or first-team competition.
I kept Emmanuel Lamur as the starter despite wanting to put Edmond Robinson there; Robinson has looked better in camp, but if he hasn’t won the job outright at this point, it’s difficult to have confidence that he will be consistently better. I could very easily be convinced to switch it around.
There are scenarios where the Vikings may be able to bring Brothers off of injured reserve to add depth or promote from the practice squad if need be.
At defensive back, I was happy to be able to keep 10 players. Marcus Sherels will be the returner on punts and kickoffs, so he needed to be kept, and he’s legitimately had a pretty good camp at the cornerback position.
Terence Newman serves as the primary backup across all three cornerback spots and Antone Exum Jr. is depth at both safety and cornerback. Honestly, I might be more interested in Exum being placed in the nickel than Newman if Mackensie Alexander gets injured or underperforms fairly critically. Exum has played fantastically there.
It would have been nice to add Terrell Sinkfield, but he’ll have to wait until next year to build on his great camp performance.
The specialists were fairly easy for me, though much will ride on the preseason. Taylor Symmank has looked better than Ryan Quigley and not only demonstrates a bigger leg, but enough control that I’m not enormously worried about the errant punt he sends in the wrong direction. The gunners with the Vikings have been good enough to adjust their plans, and Symmank may be able to add control as the season progresses. I don’t think Quigley can add leg.
Kai Forbath beats out Marshall Koehn to me. Koehn has really been far too inconsistent in camp and if his two advantages are kickoffs and deep field goals, he needs to hit those deep field goals with more accuracy. Having the leg to get there is half the battle.
As for the practice squad:
Jack Tocho had a very good camp, but I don’t think he outperformed any of the four safeties ahead of him. I kept Exum on as both corner and safety depth and though Tocho also played cornerback in college, he wasn’t asked to in training camp and therefore didn’t demonstrate the versatility that Exum did.
Bishop Sankey is the only player listed here that qualifies for the exception to normal practice squad eligibility rules; four players can have two years of accrued seasons, and the rest must have fewer. Sankey has two such years, so he barely qualifies.
In the event that players need to be moved to the practice squad after other players come back from injury or suspension, it would be a bit easier for me to lose Isaac Fruechte and Nick Truesdell than anyone else. Fruechte had a fine but not spectacular camp and didn’t show the ability to consistently get open like some of the other receivers—including receivers who didn’t survive the cut or make it to the practice squad.
We’ll see how much this changes tonight as the Vikings take on the Bills in their first preseason game.