Vikings Preseason Week Three Roster Projections: Offense

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Aug 18, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Brandon Zylstra (15) catches a touchdown against Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jamar Taylor (8) during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 18, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Brandon Zylstra (15) catches a touchdown against Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jamar Taylor (8) during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY Sports

Two Vikings preseason games have come and gone, giving fans a better feeling for how the roster may shape in the coming weeks. Overall, the offense has given some strong performances in two games. With new players contributing to those performances, it is time to again update our projections for the Vikings’ offensive roster.

Quarterback

On Roster (As of August 20): Jake Browning, Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion, Kyle Sloter

Prediction: QB1. Cousins QB2. Mannion PS. Sloter

While Sloter put up better numbers on Sunday, Mannion’s performance was arguably as strong. The lone interception on his line goes on the receiver, and Mannion commanded quick-strike drives well against Seattle’s second defense. For little reason other than draft position and game day experience, I believe Mannion would win the backup job with all else being equal. That said, Sloter could get some run with the twos in the next couple of games to bring some more parity in the evaluation. Also, there is every possibility that the Vikings keep three quarterbacks. They did it last year to retain Sloter, after all.

Running Back

On Roster: Ameer Abdullah, Khari Blasingame, Mike BooneDalvin Cook, C.J. Ham, De’Angelo Henderson, Alexander Mattison

Prediction: RB1. Cook RB2. Mattison RB3. Boone FB. Ham

For the first time, I am bumping the veteran Abdullah in favor of Mike Boone. Abdullah has earned the benefit of the doubt to date since he is the Vikings’ top return man. However, with Jeff Badet looking solid in the role Sunday, plus a myriad of other options for the job, the battle for third back is coming down to offensive performance. Abdullah flashed a big play in week one of the preseason, but Boone has hit the Vikings’ top two explosive plays while also handling a high workload with the third team. Right now, he looks like the better complement to Cook and Mattison.

Wide Receiver

On Roster: Jeff Badet, Chad Beebe, Davion Davis, Stefon Diggs, Alexander Hollins, Olabisi Johnson, Dillon Mitchell, Jordan Taylor, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell, Brandon Zylstra

Prediction: WR1A. Thielen WR1B. Diggs WR3. Beebe WR4. Johnson WR5. Zylstra WR6. Badet

This is the spot where the biggest shakeups are bound to happen. Treadwell’s departure seems inevitable now, either by trade or by the Vikings eating his dead money. That along with Jordan Taylor’s apparent fall from favor as a potential third receiver opens up a few spots. Johnson and Zylstra have each been the second team’s featured receiver, Johnson doing so in week one and Zylstra in week two. Both also carry special teams value, so they are the front-runners behind Beebe at the moment. This week, I am also throwing Badet in as sixth receiver, since he showed some excellent burst on returns. His addition makes Ameer Abdullah expendable and could add another dimension at the back end of the depth chart. Dillon Mitchell, as a 2019 draft pick with upside, is a favorite among this group to make the practice squad.

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Tight End

On Roster: Tyler Conklin, Brandon Dillon, Cole Hikutini, David MorganKyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr.

Prediction: TE1. Rudolph TE2. Smith TE3. Conklin TE4. Morgan

Nothing has changed here as far as projections. With Morgan hurt, there is not really any evidence to point to whether him or Conklin are in the third tight end spot, or if either are in danger of getting cut. Sunday did reveal a lot about rookie Irv Smith, however, as he was a favorite target of Mannion’s on out-breaking routes. Conklin, on the other hand, had two targets: one he dropped, the other a poorly-executed screen that lost eight yards. Given his strong camp, it was none too encouraging to see Conklin flounder on game day. Still, he seems more likely to stick at the moment.

Tackle

On Roster: Aviante Collins, Rashod HillStorm Norton, Brian O’Neill, Riley Reiff, Oli Udoh, Nate Wozniak

Prediction: LT. Reiff RT. O’Neill OT3. Hill 

Guard

On Roster: Dakota Dozier, Pat Elflein, Danny Isidora, Josh Kline, Dru Samia

Prediction: LG. Elflein RG. Kline G3. Dozier G4. Samia

Center

On Roster: Garrett Bradbury, Cornelius EdisonBrett Jones, John Keenoy

Prediction: C1. Bradbury C2. Jones

Despite the fixes in the offseason, there are still a ton of questions about this offensive line. For one, Elflein’s move to guard has not born fruit in games yet, as he had several major lapses on Sunday. Josh Kline has been a bit better, but was beaten badly across face on zone runs. The run blocking still appears a work in progress, even as the pass protection seems to be improved.

The greater concern, however, is the lack of tackle depth. Rashod Hill, while experienced, has proven a shaky starting tackle, so should Reiff or O’Neill go down this year, the Vikings could have issues. Aviante Collins is still nursing his knee injury, so Dakota Dozier, listed as a guard, played left tackle with the second team on Sunday. He played reasonably well there, which bodes a little better. Should the Vikings have injuries, Dozier could theoretically fill in multiple places. 

Overall, for the moment, the Vikings seem to have much more depth inside than they do outside. As such, I am leaning interior-heavy here. However, Collins is always in play once healthy, as is the possibility for the Vikings to keep 10 guys.

–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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