The first unofficial depth chart should always come with a grain of salt. Many players have yet to strap pads on for an NFL game, many others are nursing injuries and teams may generally be reluctant to reveal exactly how they are viewing their roster. That said, that initial release always draws a lot of eyes, particularly in the case of rookies. And with the Vikings’ depth chart, there are a few notable developments that could provide a glint of insight.
Mattison solidified as RB2
This one should not be much of a surprise, given Alexander Mattison’s draft position and the loss of Latavius Murray. Still, it is good to see Mattison already entrenched as Cook’s spell. He has shown good power, patience and vision, and the coaches have been relatively effusive with their praise for him.
Treadwell behind Taylor and Beebe
Again, given all of the circumstances and the lineups in camp, this is no shock. Even so, seeing the former first-round pick on the outside looking in is a little jarring. Barring injuries to Jordan Taylor and Chad Beebe, it appears Treadwell is going to be a bubble guy up until cut day.
Conklin ahead of Morgan with latter on PUP
With David Morgan injured, Tyler Conklin has shown why he deserves strong consideration for third tight end. He is a more versatile pass catcher than Morgan is and a capable blocker, if not quite to Morgan’s level. The current ordering of Conklin third, Morgan fourth could just be a matter of Morgan’s health, but for now, Conklin has proven he belongs.
Mannion leading backup QB race
Sean Mannion has NFL experience, was drafted in the third round and was signed presumably to be Kirk Cousins’ backup. As such, it stands to reason that he would hold the spot at this point in camp. However, Kyle Sloter and Jake Browning have their cult followings, and the battle has been a bit tighter than expected. Mannion is certainly not entrenched at QB2 yet, but he has the early lead.
Most rookies at the bottom
The top three draft picks–Garrett Bradbury, Irv Smith, Alexander Mattison–are all in high impact roles. Bradbury is currently the starting center while Smith and Mattison are second at their positions. After that, every other rookie ranks at or near the bottom of the depth chart. Linemen Dru Samia and Oli Udoh rank below a slew of veterans, as does fifth-round linebacker Cameron Smith. The two receiver picks, Dillon Mitchell and Bisi Johnson, are fourth and fifth in their respective receiver spots, and late-round defensive backs Marcus Epps and Kris Boyd are both last at free safety and corner, respectively (Boyd is ahead of Holton Hill, but Hill will miss eight games so he is not counted right now). Armon Watts ranks a little higher as the third nose tackle, but the only player behind him is undrafted rookie Tito Odenigbo.
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This makes sense, since the only NFL experience these players have are in Vikings camp this year. The top players were selected to fill roles immediately. The rest are depth pieces and developmental projects. A good number of them will likely make the team still, but the depth chart shows they may still have a ways to go.
Odenigbo in line for roster spot finally?
A 2017 seventh-rounder, Ifeadi Odenigbo is now in his third Vikings camp. While he has played well the last two preseasons, he has yet to make an initial 53-man roster, though he played in one game with Arizona last season. This year, however, he ranks second at left end behind only Danielle Hunter with Tashawn Bower out with an Achilles injury. As such, Odenigbo may finally earn a roster spot out of camp. Granted, Minnesota’s defensive line depth is such that Odenigbo still has stiff competition, but the window seems fairly open for him this year.
Mata’afa third three-technique tackle
Hercules Mata’afa earned the label “surprise of minicamp” after he came back from ACL surgery bulked up. Since then, he has seen praise from coaches and appears to be in competition for the final tackle rotation. Jalyn Holmes has taken more reps at three-technique, but Mata’afa has still gotten his chance to shine. For now, he sits behind Holmes as the third three-technique. But if Minnesota goes tackle-heavy with their defensive line unit, Mata’afa has a good path to the 53-man roster.
Abdullah top return man
Mike Hughes was not listed among return men, and given his injury last year, his return duties may be limited. As a result, veteran running back Ameer Abdullah is currently the guy both as a punt returner and kick returner. Second-year receivers Jeff Badet and Chad Beebe sit behind him for kicks and punts, respectively.
–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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