Vikings

Final Minnesota Vikings 53-Man Roster Projections

Photo Credit: Rich Barnes (USA Today Sports)

With the preseason now in the rearview mirror, Vikings analysts Sam Ekstrom and Luke Inman predict the team’s final 53-man roster, which will be finalized Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m.

OFFENSE

QUARTERBACKS

Photo Credit: Ben Ludeman (USA Today Sports)
SAM LUKE
Kirk Cousins Kirk Cousins
Sean Mannion Sean Mannion
Kyle Sloter Kyle Sloter

BOTH CUT: Jake Browning

LUKE: Stop the nonsense, you’d be nuts to get rid of Kyle Sloter after another hall-of-fame-type preseason. In a quarterback-driven league you must always be developing someone behind the scenes.

SAM: The Vikings typically keep three quarterbacks, and it doesn’t feel like Jake Browning has done enough to replace Sloter as the team’s new developmental QB. Sloter remains the fan base’s favorite quarterback.

RUNNING BACKS

SAM  LUKE
Dalvin Cook Dalvin Cook
Alexander Mattison Alexander Mattison
Mike Boone Mike Boone
Ameer Abdullah Ameer Abdullah
Khari Blasingame C.J. Ham

BOTH CUT: De’Angelo Henderson
SAM CUTS: C.J. Ham

LUKE CUTS: Khari Blasingame

LUKE: Easily the toughest position to determine for my money. Five seems like a lot, however, if we are keeping the best 53 players then you have to keep Mike Boone. Ameer Abdullah has been just okay, but his kick and punt return abilities save him a spot, for now. C.J. Ham is no lock either after Khari Blasingame’s offensive MVP performance this preseason.

SAM: I agree with Luke that the team keeps five, unless they believe Boone can return kicks, Chad Beebe can be trusted on punts and someone else can be a gunner. They kept five backs a year ago, so why not do it again? As Luke alluded to, the fullback decision is legitimately difficult. Blasingame has been as impactful as a fullback can be this preseason, and Ham is in the last year of his deal. I think Blasingame gets the nod.

TIGHT ENDS

Photo Credit: Chuck Cook (USA Today Sports)
SAM LUKE
Kyle Rudolph Kyle Rudolph
Irv Smith Jr. Irv Smith Jr.
Tyler Conklin Tyler Conklin
Cole Hikutini Cole Hikutini

BOTH CUT: Brandon Dillon
PUP: David Morgan

LUKE: I’m not sure any position group impressed me more as a whole at training camp then these guys. Tyler Conklin and Cole Hikutini made a play or two every practice while David Morgan remained on the sideline. Even Brandon Dillon made himself a strong case for the practice squad. Once Morgan is 100 percent this unit will offer a plethora of versatility and depth for the coaches to deploy at will.

SAM: Hikutini may be on the bubble if the Vikings bring in reinforcements on waivers, but I’ll put him on the team for now. Morgan probably gets a free pass to Week 7 while his knee heals. Dillon feels like a preferred practice squad addition after standing out in the final preseason game.

WIDE RECEIVERS

SAM  LUKE
Adam Thielen Adam Thielen
Stefon Diggs Stefon Diggs
Chad Beebe Chad Beebe
Bisi Johnson Bisi Johnson
Brandon Zylstra Laquon Treadwell

BOTH CUT: Davion Davis, Alexander Hollins, Dillon Mitchell, Jeff Badet
LUKE CUTS: Brandon Zylstra
SAM CUTS: Laquon Treadwell

LUKE: Arguably their weakest position. After the top two wideouts things get thin, and quick. Thank goodness for Bisi Johnson stepping up and taking a spot for himself. He’s got playmaker written all over him once the lights turn on. I’m not giving up on Chad Beebe and neither should you. Hate him or not, Laquon Treadwell is still worthy of the fifth wideout spot in a shallow pool.

SAM: Wow, my jaw is on the floor at that Treadwell prediction! It’s not the worst take ever, considering how bad these depth receivers were, but I think the Vikings and Treadwell need a clean separation. Brandon Zylstra had eight catches in his three games played, definitely enough to take that fifth spot.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn (USA Today Sports)
SAM  LUKE
RIley Reiff RIley Reiff
Pat Elflein Pat Elflein
Garrett Bradbury Garrett Bradbury
Josh Kline Josh Kline
Brian O’Neill Brian O’Neill
Rashod Hill Rashod Hill
Aviante Collins Aviante Collins
Brett Jones Brett Jones
Dru Samia Dru Samia

BOTH CUT: Nate Wozniak, Oli Udoh, Storm Norton, Danny Isidora, Dakota Dozier, John Keenoy, Cornelius Edison

LUKE: I wouldn’t want to be the coach forced to slim down this group. The starting five is easy and from there you have to keep solid veteran backups Rashod Hill and Aviante Collins (even with his injury). I loved the acquisition of Jones last year and am pleased to see his rock solid preseason thus far with position flexibility. Samia has done little but has a fourth-round sticker attached to him so he’s not going anywhere. That means bye-bye-bye to Danny Isidora who, despite an improved offseason, finds himself on the wrong side of the numbers. Throw up a prayer they can sneak Oli Udoh to the practice squad. Would be an absolute shame to lose his raw size and length before getting a chance to develop him.

SAM: Hard to believe we 100 percent agreed on one of the most complex position groups, but that’s what happened. Depending on Collins’ injury, I could also envision the Vikings keeping a 10th offensive lineman, which would either be Dakota Dozier or Oli Udoh. Collins is working his way back but seems like a longer shot to be available Week 1. That being said, the Vikings keep nine OLs like clockwork each year, so 10 would be a change and I’ve already kept an extra offensive player.

SAM’S TOTAL OFFENSE: 26
LUKE’S TOTAL OFFENSE: 26


DEFENSE

DEFENSIVE LINE

SAM  LUKE
Everson Griffen Everson Griffen
Linval Joseph Linval Joseph
Shamar Stephen Shamar Stephen
Danielle Hunter Danielle Hunter
Stephen Weatherly Stephen Weatherly
Ifeadi Odenigbo Ifeadi Odenigbo
Jaleel Johnson Jaleel Johnson
Hercules Mata’afa Hercules Mata’afa
Jalyn Holmes Jalyn Holmes

BOTH CUT: Stacy Keely, Anree Saint-Amour, Ade Aruna, Karter Schult, Curtis Cothran, Tito Odenigbo, Armon Watts
NON-FOOTBALL INJURY: Tashawn Bower

LUKE: Another group with difficult decisions on the horizon, in a good way. This team is stacked with young talent. Saying that, I’m keeping five backup defensive tackles in Jaleel Johnson, Jalyn Holmes and breakout stud Hercules Mata’afa. Wanted to sneak rookie Armon Watts through, but just not enough roster spots. He should make the practice squad for sure. Backup ends Stephen Weatherly and Ifeadi Odenigbo are starters on 20 other teams in the league. Hows that for depth? All hail Andre Patterson.

SAM: The loss of Tashawn Bower to an Achilles injury made this position group less clogged at defensive end, where Weatherly and Odenigbo should have clear paths on the roster. The Vikings will certainly have an active rotation at defensive tackle this season, but like Luke said, keeping Watts is one too many for me. Should be practice-squad worthy, though.

LINEBACKERS

Photo Credit: Harrison Barden (USA Today Sports)
SAM LUKE
Anthony Barr Anthony Barr
Eric Kendricks Eric Kendricks
Ben Gedeon Ben Gedeon
Eric Wilson Eric Wilson
Cameron Smith Cameron Smith
Devante Downs Devante Downs

BOTH CUT: Greer Martin, Kentrell Brothers, Reshard Cliett

LUKE: You know the starting three, and coaches love the development of Eric Wilson as the clear-cut back up. From there things get dicey with Cameron Smith replacing Kentrell Brothers as the special teams demon. Devante Downs squeezes out Reshard Cliett for my money, but I’m banging the table for Cliett to stay put on the practice squad for one more season.

SAM: Mike Zimmer said he’s got the best linebacker depth in his six years as coach, which makes this a tough decision. Smith was very active in the run game Thursday night at Buffalo, and his status as a draft pick probably secures his spot. I was between Downs and Cliett for the final spot, and I think Cliett took a step back Thursday night. He’s constantly been one step away throughout his five-year career, and he may come up just short again. Downs is healthier than he was a year ago.

CORNERBACKS

SAM LUKE
Xavier Rhodes Xavier Rhodes
Trae Waynes Trae Waynes
Mackensie Alexander Mackensie Alexander
Mike Hughes Mike Hughes
Kris Boyd Kris Boyd

BOTH CUT: Craig James, Duke Thomas
SUSPENDED: Holton Hill

LUKE: Try to put yourself in the minds of Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer, who have Holton Hill on an eight-game suspension and Mike HUghes returning from a serious knee injury. That’s why I have them keeping another young Longhorn in Kris Boyd, who has taken the attention of Zimmer plenty this offseason. I’m also keeping two safeties below that can provide depth in the nickel.

SAM: Duke Thomas was given every opportunity to earn a roster spot but put very little on film to help his cause. Kris Boyd showed noticeable improvement from his first preseason action to his second preseason appearance, so he’ll become the insurance policy while Hughes heals and Hill misses half the season.

SAFETIES

Photo Credit: Harrison Barden (USA Today Sports)
SAM LUKE
Harrison Smith Harrison Smith
Anthony Harris Anthony Harris
Jayron Kearse Jayron Kearse
Derron Smith Marcus Epps

BOTH CUT: Nate Meadors, Isaiah Wharton
SAM CUTS: Marcus Epps
LUKE CUTS: Derron Smith

LUKE: Between Marcus Epps and Jayron Kearse you have two safeties who offer rare slot skills while they ease Hughes back into the lineup. Derron Smith was rock solid all offseason, by the way, but just a pure numbers casualty. 

SAM: I thought it was surprising how few second-team reps the Vikings gave Epps in training camp, so for that reason I’ll go with Smith in that final safety spot. Kearse is definitely their first choice to be the big-nickel corner, and it’s not like Epps can play on the outside, which is where they’re thinnest.

SAM’S TOTAL DEFENSE: 24
LUKE’S TOTAL DEFENSE: 24


SPECIALISTS

SAM LUKE
Dan Bailey Dan Bailey
Kaare Vedvik Kaare Vedvik
Austin Cutting Austin Cutting

BOTH CUT: Matt Wile

LUKE: Keep Vedvik at punter as he continues to progress and develop the rare skillset you loved when coughing up a fifth-round pick. Bailey give you the veteran presence you need for a deep playoff push.

SAM: I came very close to cutting Vedvik after his field goal miss and punt return against Thursday night in Buffalo, but Zimmer seemed to take it easy on Vedvik in his postgame remarks. It would certainly be a bad look if they released Vedvik, and they still like his kickoff leg. If they think he can be a serviceable punter this year, he can take another stab at field goal kicking next season.

Also Luke, we agreed WAY too much.

Stay tuned to ZoneCoverage.com for updates on roster cuts.

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