Draft season and all the speculation that comes with it is finally in the books. So that means it is time to prognosticate to little avail how those draft picks and other faces, new and familiar alike, will fare once training camp breaks. The Vikings added quite a bit of depth to a number of offensive positions. Unlike last year, when several undrafted rookies made the initial roster, Minnesota’s numerous draft picks appear to be the preeminent source of roster additions this season. So without further ado, here are the projections as of May for how the offense will shake out.
Prediction: QB1: Cousins QB2: Mannion PS: Sloter
There is no debate about the starter, so the competition will be for the backup spot. Mannion has more experience as a backup than Sloter or Browning, plus time spend in a high-tempo, outside zone-heavy offense. As such, he gets the edge over the others for now. Between Sloter and Browning for the final spot, Sloter has far more NFL tools: a better release, a stronger arm and more size. He gets the practice squad slot to save room for other spots on the roster.
Prediction: RB1: Cook RB2: Mattison RB3: Abdullah FB: Ham
Again, the top spot is without question. Cook is the primary ball carrier. There is a little more uncertainty as to who will serve as his complement. Mattison makes the most sense, given he is a third-round pick and a downhill runner. That should work best alongside Cook’s shiftier style. Ham also probably figures into the plans as the fullback, as he has the last few years across multiple systems. The final spot here goes to Abdullah, due to his special teams ability. Boone and Thomas both showed some in their rookie year, but Thomas’ legal questions and Boone’s relative lack of dimension leaves them on the outside looking in.
WR1A: Thielen WR1B: Diggs WR3: Treadwell WR4: Mitchell WR5: Johnson WR6: Zylstra
Receiver is consistently the toughest position to project here. While the Vikings have stars at the position there is so much youth and uncertainty that projecting prior to training camp is nearly impossible. All we can do is anticipate how players develop. Thielen and Diggs are locks at the top, and Treadwell is probably a lock as well. That leaves at least two, maybe three spots up for grabs, and a lot of guys in the running. Taylor and Zylstra have size and intrigue. Beebe has a year of solid, but scattered play under his belt. Mitchell and Johnson are the newbies. So much is up in the air. For now, I am going with a roster of new additions with rookies Mitchell and Johnson and the special teams help of Zylstra. But Beebe and Taylor could put out a solid camp and make themselves must-keeps.
Prediction: TE1: Rudolph TE2: Smith TE3: Conklin
Going with six receivers and 10 offensive linemen means the tight end position will keep just three guys. And with Smith on board as a solid blocker and Conklin improving at the craft last year, Morgan becomes more expendable. Here, the Vikings go forward with the current starter Rudolph, the future starter in Smith and the wild card in Conklin.
Prediction: LT: Reiff RT: O’Neill T3: Hill T4: Udoh
10 linemen is a lot, but there are a lot of rookies coming aboard who have to be in consideration. Last year, Minnesota kept nine, so 10 is not a huge reach. The two starters are clear right now with Reiff and O’Neill. From there, I believe Udoh also hangs on as a development guy, even if he is the fourth tackle. The bigger question for me is between Collins and Hill. One of those guys will have to be be the swing tackle. Hill has more experience, but not a ton of success. Collins has more upside with his athleticism. Plus, Collins could function as a reserve guard. The pick for now is Hill, but that will be a competition to watch in camp.
Prediction: LG: Elflein RG: Kline G3: Samia G4: Dozier
A lot of movement on the Vikings’ interior from a year ago. The addition of Garrett Bradbury will probably kick Elflein over to guard where he played at Ohio State. It is a safe bet to lock him in at one of the two spots. A battle for the other spot could be on the horizon between the veteran Kline and rookie Samia. Samia is a better fit for the Vikings’ outside zone scheme, and his quick feet could serve as an upgrade in pass protection. That said, Kline has had a solid NFL career in two stops, so his transition should be quicker. The last spot on the interior will likely be between Isidora, Dozier and Cornelius Edison. The edge here goes to Dozier, with his greater experience and pedigree.
Prediction: C1: Bradbury C2: Jones
Bradbury has more buzz than any Vikings rookie lineman since Matt Kalil. His athletic profile screams zone superstar, so the plan should be to set him up in the middle and let him fly. As for his backup, the veteran Jones is the safe choice. He has a year in purple under his belt and has started 17 games in his career.
–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.
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