24 rookies plus a myriad of others receiving tryouts met last week for Vikings rookie minicamp. This first glimpse of the new additions gave us a tiny peek into prospects for each to make the roster out of camp, and where exactly the Vikings plan on playing certain players. It also opens up a can of worms of questions and projections regarding who has the best chance to stay in purple once the season rolls around.
Last season can give us a decent sense of how the Vikings plan to approach their rookie roster. While they had more undrafted rookies in play for roster spots than they have this year, the overall number of first year player is about the same. The major difference, however, is in the number of rookies who are in play to take on significant roles, perhaps even starting roles, right out of the gate.
Minnesota retained 10 rookies in 2018: four were undrafted free agents (counting Brandon Zylstra), the other six were draft picks. Only two draft picks from last year did not make the roster, with one, Ade Aruna, missing out because of a knee injury suffered in preseason. With 12 players drafted this season, the safe assumption is that some of those selections will ultimately miss the cut.
A few guys are safe to consider locks to make the roster. Garrett Bradbury is probably going to start day one. Dru Samia may be in the same boat. Irv Smith and Alexander Mattison will not be first on the depth chart, but should be a major factor in the Vikings’ offense this season. After that, most of the picks are likely fighting to fill depth, rather than compete for starting time.
So with each of their spots, projection comes from anticipating if a rookie can exceed the value of another depth piece. Without seeing them against other NFL talent, that is a tough task. That said, there are certainly gaps in the Vikings’ depth that are wide open for rookies to fill.
Obviously, offensive line is the main one. Minnesota has done well to fill in starting spots and swing roles in case of injury. But fringe roster guys like Aviante Collins and Rashod Hill will likely have to outduel rookies Oli Udoh and John Keenoy if they want to hold their loose grip on a roster spot. Linebacker is in a similar position, with strong, playable talent through the first four spots. But then there will likely be a battle between fifth-round pick Cameron Smith and second-year linebacker Devante Downs to nab the final position.
The defensive backfield seems fairly open, as well, given the two draft picks Kris Boyd and Marcus Epps, and the signings of undrafted rookies Micah Abernathy and Nate Meadors. Minnesota is set three deep at safety and four deep at corner. But the suspension of Holton Hill opens up a secondary slot for at least four games. Plus, the Vikings have shown that they like to fill special teams slots with defensive backs, which adds value for athletic rookies who may not be ready to contribute defensively.
Sixth-round pick Armon Watts may have the most open path of the late-round rookies. After all, the Vikings still have a relatively thin interior defensive line. They are banking heavily on the development of Jalyn Holmes and possibly Ifeadi Odenigbo to bring depth. But Watts, as a more traditional interior lineman, may have a leg up.
Where things are completely wide open, however, is at receiver. Minnesota is really only set with its two alphas, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Outside of them, nothing is in stone. Laquon Treadwell, Chad Beebe, Zylstra and Jeff Badet are the returning guys from last year, but not a single one is a lock. And Minnesota brought in plenty of competition for them. Jordan Taylor has NFL experience, but is a newcomer. Two draft picks went to receivers Olabisi Johnson and Dillon Mitchell. Davion Davis and Alexander Hollins signed as undrafted free agents. All of those names are heavily in play for a roster spot. And until training camp, it is impossible to tell who has the best shot.
Based on the current roster makeup and past preference for roster construction, a safe guess would be around 10 rookies making the 53-man. That would push likely involve pushing out some veterans and perhaps some surprising cuts. But it is clear that Minnesota valued quantity with the draft this year. As such, a lot of competition awaits the players in training camp.
–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.
Latest Vikings News
- Fall from Grace for the Once-Proud Minnesota Vikings Defense
- Vikings at Buccaneers: Preview and Prediction
- NFL Monday Night Football Odds: Vikings Favored to Claim Rare Win in Chicago
- Lions Commit Three Turnovers, Get Run Over in Loss to Minnesota
- Disappointing Vikings Poised for a Second Half Run