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53 - Man Roster Projection

Tanishka Mhaskar

September 3rd, 2020

Photo: Getty Images/Stephen Maturen

There are officially seven days till the NFL season kicks off and ten days until the Vikings host the Packers at US Bank Stadium. The Vikings finish up training camp this week and are expected to trim their roster down to 53 by Saturday. Here are my projections for the Vikings’ 53 man roster and twelve man practice squad:

Quarterbacks (3):

  • Kirk Cousins
  • Sean Mannion
  • Nate Stanley (R)

Practice Squad: Jake Browning 

Quarterback is one of the easier positions to project for the Vikings. Kirk Cousins is the well-established starter, and behind him, the Vikings prefer to have a veteran backup. Sean Mannion has had an up and down camp with a few questionable decisions turning to turnovers, but no one has challenged him. The Vikings drafted Nate Stanley from Iowa in the 7th round, and I don’t think they would risk leaving him on the practice squad. Recently, the Vikings have almost always kept three quarterbacks on their roster. On the practice squad, they stash Jake Browning as a guy to keep developing. 

Running Backs (4):

  • Dalvin Cook
  • Alexander Mattison
  • Mike Boone
  • CJ Ham (FB)

Lots of questions prevail for Dalvin Cook regarding his contract extension, but he’s made it clear that he will be available this year. Complementing him, the Vikings have Alexander Mattison who is coming off an impressive rookie campaign, and Mike Boone filling in whenever he’s needed. The Vikings used CJ Ham quite a bit last year, whether that be paving the way for the other running backs or in pass protection or catching the ball out of the backfield. The Pro Bowl player should likely be used in the same way again. 

Wide Receivers (4):

  • Adam Thielen
  • Justin Jefferson (R)
  • Bisi Johnson
  • Alexander Hollins

Practice Squad: Quartney Davis (R)

For the first time in ages, the Vikings seemingly have more than two solid pass catchers fighting for spots on the team. Adam Thielen is old reliable, and his connection with QB Kirk Cousins is “seamless” as he called it at camp. Behind him, the Vikings have first-round draft pick Justin Jefferson, who’s been as advertised, according to Gary Kubiak, and Bisi Johnson who hasn’t handed Jefferson the WR2 job. The surprise for the Vikings, my Mr. Mankato winner, is Alexander Hollins. He’s had his way against Cam Dantzler and Mike Hughes a couple of times, providing for an entertaining battle. While he is not listed here, I project KJ Osborn to make the roster primarily based on his special teams' contribution, though he’s made some nice catches in camp. The Vikings paid a lot of money for Quartney Davis to choose Minnesota over Dallas, and I’d think they roll with five receivers and stash him on the practice squad. 

Tight Ends (3):

  • Kyle Rudolph
  • Irv Smith Jr
  • Tyler Conklin

Practice Squad: Brandon Dillon

The Vikings frequently use two tight end sets and keep three on the roster. This projection stays the same as last year with Dillon ready to go if one of the starting three gets hurt. This will be a big year for Smith Jr’s development, and without Stefon Diggs, he will be held responsible to assume some of those targets.

Offensive Tackle (5):

  • Riley Reiff
  • Brian O’Neill
  • Rashod Hill
  • Oli Udoh
  • Ezra Cleveland (R)

It’s been quite a week for starting left tackle Riley Reiff, whom the team gave an ultimatum: take a pay cut or get cut. Luckily for the Vikings, Reiff did indeed take a pay cut to stay with the team. Now, that’s out the way and Minnesota doesn’t have to play musical chairs around a week before the regular season. Ezra Cleveland, who the Vikings have been working at guard all offseason makes the roster as a tackle, but if injuries get worse, he’ll likely step in as guard. 

Interior Offensive Line (6):

  • Garrett Bradbury
  • Pat Elflein
  • Dakota Dozier
  • Aviante Collins
  • Dru Samia
  • Blake Brandel (R)

Practice squad: Kyle Hinton (R), Jake Lacina (R)

The interior of the offensive line, or more specifically the guards, is the largest weakness on the Vikings roster. Now incumbent Garrett Bradbury will assume the guard spot, looking bigger and stronger than last year. Next to him are Dozier and Elflein who won the spots in camp without looking that hot. Samia was a starting favorite before camp, but the Vikings don’t think he’s ready, so they have been playing him with the second and third-string. Brandel was a bit of a surprise. He got work in with the second team, so the Vikings must like the rookie out of Oregon State. On the practice squad, I stashed Hinton and Lacina, two rookies that have held their own in camp.

Defensive End (4):

  • Danielle Hunter
  • Yannick Ngakoue
  • Ifeadi Odenigbo
  • Jalyn Holmes

Practice squad: Eddie Yarbrough, DJ Wonnum (R)

Injured reserve: Kenny Willekes (R)

The Vikings began my Sunday morning early when news broke about the blockbuster Yannick Ngakoue trade. According to Coach Zimmer, they were looking for another pass rusher to add, and it all came together quickly. Now, behind Ngakoue, the Vikings have Odenigbo who can play interior and edge as well as Holmes who transitioned from three-technique back to his college position at defensive end. This provides some nice depth at a position that was lacking until Sunday morning. Yarbrough and Wonnum continue to develop on the practice squad, and Willekes was seen in a walking boot last Friday after the scrimmage at US Bank Stadium. He was placed on injured reserve Wednesday. 

Interior Defensive Line (4):

  • Shamar Stephen
  • Jaleel Johnson
  • Hercules Mata’afa
  • Armon Watts

Practice squad: James Lynch (R)

Opt-out: Michael Pierce

The Vikings interior isn’t left with any household names since Linval Joseph left and Michael Pierce opted out, but it can get the job done. They moved Stephen to nose tackle and Johnson to threes technique, so those are the starters. Behind them, they have high ceilings of Watts and Mata’afa who could threaten for increased playing time. Odenigbo, who was listed at the defensive end above, will play his fair share inside as well. On the practice squad, they stash Lynch, the rookie from Baylor. 

Linebackers (5):

  • Eric Kendricks
  • Anthony Barr
  • Eric Wilson
  • Troy Dye (R)
  • Hardy Nickerson Jr

Practice squad: Blake Lynch (R)

PUP: Ben Gedeon

Kendricks and Barr have been a household duo from their UCLA days and they continue to produce for Minnesota. Eric Wilson showed flashes of development through his extended role. Dye provides nice depth as a hybrid OLB ANd ILB, and the Vikings, who were actively looking for a fifth linebacker after Ben Gedeon hasn’t received clearance from his concussions last season. 

Cornerback (6):

  • Holton Hill
  • Cameron Dantzler (R)
  • Mike Hughes
  • Jeff Gladney (R)
  • Kris Boyd
  • Nevelle Clarke (R)

Practice squad: Harrison Hand (R), Nate Meadors

The Vikings completely revamped the cornerback position this offseason, letting go of all three incumbent starters in Rhodes, Waynes, and Alexander. The young guys have been making plays throughout camp, but the player who has stood out the most in Cam Dantzler. Adam Thielen said, “27’s going to be really good.” to Mike Zimmer, and it’ll be exciting to see how the young corners do. The Vikings were successful with a rotation last year, and they might look to do something like this again. 

Safety (4):

  • Harrison Smith
  • Anthony Harris
  • Steven Parker
  • Josh Metellus (R)

Practice squad: Dan Chisena (R)

The Vikings still have an elite safety duo, but they lost all their depth this offseason. They drafted Josh Metellus out of Michigan and claimed Steven Parker to bolster their depth. Last week, in a surprising fashion, they moved former Penn State WR Dan Chisena to safety because he can hit well and might be able to contribute to special teams soon. 

Special teams (5):

  • Dan Bailey
  • Austin Cutting
  • Britton Colquitt

KR/PR: Ameer Abdullah and KJ Osborn (R)

The Vikings didn’t have special teams competition in camp for the first time in a while this season. While they have stability with their kicking unit, the Vikings have a new player with returns in the explosive KJ Osborn since former returner Marcus Sherels retired.