The Vikings OTAs are in the books and mandatory minicamp kicks off this week. After that, we will have about a month of free time before training camp starts in earnest. Spring practice typically does not provide much insight as far as player performance or coaches’ thoughts. But the Vikings did in fact shed some light on their roster plans moving forward, most notably on the offensive line. As such, here is an update for the Vikings’ 53-man roster projections.
Prediction: QB1: Cousins QB2: Mannion PS: Sloter
The top of the depth chart here is set in stone. However, we are still yet to see any major developments with regard to Cousins’ backup. Mannion has taken more second-team reps, but that hardly suggests finality. The assumption is that Mannion and Sloter are competing for the job and Browning is on the outside looking in. That said, Browning got all reps ahead of Sloter for multiple press-open OTAs, so he may figure into the battle more than initially thought. Preseason games will likely play a significant role in the final decision, but for now, Mannion appears to have a modest leg up.
Prediction: RB1: Cook RB2: Mattison RB3: Abdullah FB: Ham
The major question here is whether the Vikings keep five running backs out of camp like they did a season ago. The top three seem fairly safe, with Cook starting, Mattison being the downhill power runner and Abdullah the versatile weapon. And then of course, there is Ham at fullback. But Thomas and Boone made the roster as UDFAs, so it is not out of the question that one of them pushes strongly for a spot. It would likely be Boone to nab a fourth spot, given Thomas’ suspension.
Prediction: WR1A: Thielen WR1B: Diggs WR3: Taylor WR4: Treadwell WR5: Beebe WR6: Mitchell
This position continues to be the most talked-about on the Vikings offense. Jordan Taylor has grabbed the most headlines as a top candidate for the third receiver job, and in the meantime, former first-round pick Laquon Treadwell has completely fallen by the wayside. Some even suggest that Treadwell could be a surprise cut candidate. Now, that would not make much fiscal sense, given the dead money. But in essence, cutting Treadwell would be an outright statement that the Vikings would rather surrender cap room to open up opportunities for young receivers than use a roster spot on Treadwell.
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If we operate under the assumption that Taylor is a roster lock, that means there are seven players in a real fight for no more than three spots. Beebe appears to be a favorite for one, as does Treadwell, which leaves the three rookies, Badet and Zylstra battling for the last spot. For now, the pick is Dillon Mitchell, who has the most upside as a true receiver. That said, Zylstra was a gunner last year and Davis has been getting work as a return man, so special teams may play a major part in the final decision.
Prediction: TE1: Rudolph TE2: Smith TE3: Conklin TE4: Morgan
Rudolph appears to be sticking around and Irv Smith is certainly making the roster. So this will come down to A) How many tight ends the Vikings are planning to keep and B) Who they value more between Conklin and Morgan. Their disparate skill sets are apparent. Morgan is the blocking ace who is effective in short areas as a receiver. Conklin is much less experienced but provides more downfield and made strides as a blocker in year one. Truth be told, while I believe Minnesota will look to develop Conklin or Smith into quality blockers to alleviate the need for Morgan, I think for the time being, they need to keep him on roster. As for Conklin, he is still young and has shown flashes in OTAs, so he also sticks around for now.
The starting offensive line is now crystal clear, based on OTA lineups. The depth, however, is another question. The only players who appear as locks to make the roster are Rashod Hill, who filled in at first team tackle from time to time, and Dru Samia, who was a fourth-round pick. But Samia was also working with the third team in OTAs, so his ascent still seems to be in the distant future. At the moment, I have the Vikings keeping 10 linemen, mostly because i cannot find an obvious cut among the players I have making the roster right now. Dozier and Jones would provide valuable depth on the interior while Udoh is the ultimate project who I see the Vikings working hard to keep in their building. That unfortunately would mean Danny Isidora and Aviante Collins, who have both spent their full careers in purple, would get the ax.
–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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