It’s finally the end of preseason, which means we are less than one week away from the Minnesota Vikings solidifying their 53-man roster for week one against the rival Green Bay Packers. Here is my projection as to what that roster is going to look like when the final cuts are made on Wednesday.
Players with an asterisk (*) are cut and then signed to the practice squad.
Keep: Kirk Cousins, Nick Mullens
Cut: Kellen Mond, Sean Mannion*
My initial draft of this article consisted of a list of quarterbacks the Vikings could look at to fill the backup position via trade or the waiver wire, but that was immediately nullified Monday morning when they traded for Raiders quarterback Nick Mullens. Kellen Mond and Sean Mannion are not NFL-caliber quarterbacks based on what we have seen through training camp and the first two preseason games so Mullens should be able to claim the second spot with ease. It is possible that a third quarterback could make the cut, but I think more value could be added elsewhere on the roster over Mond or Mannion.
Running Back / Fullback (5)
Keep: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Kene Nwangwu, Ty Chandler, C.J. Ham
Cut: Bryant Koback*
Kene Nwangwu and Ty Chandler have both shown enough in training camp and the preseason that it would be hard to leave them off the roster. There have been talks about C.J. Ham getting cut, but that is not happening. He did not dress on Saturday along with the starters which would indicate that he is here to stay. One possibility is that they are planning on using Ham in a lot of creative ways that they do not want to show in the preseason so they let him rest.
Wide Receiver (6)
Keep: Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Bisi Johnson, Jalen Nailor
Cut: Trishton Jackson*, Myron Mitchell*, Dan Chisena, Albert Wilson
The top five receivers seem pretty set in stone with Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Bisi Johnson separating themselves from the rest of the receivers below them. None of the bottom receivers have stood out consistently so the Vikings could opt for only five receivers but I think Jalen Nailor wins the punt return job after Smith-Marsette struggled against the 49ers and therefore gets the sixth spot.
Tight End (3)
Keep: Irv Smith Jr., Johnny Mundt, Ben Ellefson
Cut: Zach Davidson*, Nick Muse*, Shaun Beyer
The depth here is concerning, with nobody really shining through in camp while Irv Smith Jr. was out with a thumb injury. Johnny Mundt seems like the one safe option after Smith Jr. The third spot comes down to Ben Ellefson and Zach Davidson but I opt for the safer choice in the veteran Ellefson after Davidson’s awful game last week. While Davidson is very raw he still has a high ceiling so he earns a spot on the practice squad along with rookie Nick Muse.
Offensive Line (9)
Keep: Christian Darrisaw, Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, Ed Ingram, Brian O’Neill, Blake Brandel, Chris Reed, Austin Schlottman, Jesse Davis
Cut: Oli Udoh*, Vederian Lowe*, Kyle Hinton*, Josh Sokol, Wyatt Davis, Timon Parris
It seems at this point that Ed Ingram has won the starting right guard job so the starting five seems to be set. After that Jesse Davis seems safe because of his contract, Blake Brandel is the best option as a backup tackle, and Chris Reed has been playing well when healthy as a backup interior guy. The final spot goes to Austin Schlottman who provides some depth at center after playing pretty well against the 49ers.
Defensive Line (6)
Keep: Armon Watts, Harrison Phillips, Dalvin Tomlinson, T.Y. McGill, James Lynch, Jonathan Bullard
Cut: T.J. Smith, Jaylen Twyman*, Esezi Otomewo*, Julian Taylor
T.Y. McGill has come out of nowhere in the first two preseason games showing tremendous pash rush ability, racking up 3.5 sacks, and likely earned a roster spot in the process. James Lynch has not been all that impressive to me in the preseason, but it sounds like he has done enough in practice to have a good shot at making the team. It should also be noted that Lynch has taken most of the backup nose tackle snaps which may be his path to the roster. Jonathan Bullard looked good at times against the 49ers and could provide good depth as a rotational guy at defensive end.
Edge Rushers (5)
Keep: Danielle Hunter, Za’Darius Smith, Patrick Jones II, D.J. Wonnum, Zach McCloud
Cut: Janarius Robinson*, Luiji Vilain*
The top four are clear which means it only comes down to whether or not they want to keep a fifth edge rusher. None of Zach McCloud, Janarius Robinson, or Luiji Vilain have played at a particularly high level but it is likely that the Vikings will want a little more depth at the position. McCloud has been the best option ahead of Robinson and Vilain so he is the final choice.
Keep: Erik Kendricks, Jordan Hicks, Brian Asamoah, Troy Dye
Cut: Blake Lynch*, Chazz Surratt, William Kwenkeu
This is the first place where my personal opinion and my prediction disagree. It has seemed clear to me that Blake Lynch has consistently been a better player than Troy Dye dating back to last season, but this coaching staff seems to prefer Dye so that is what I will predict. It is possible they could choose to keep 5 linebackers, but more value can be found in other places.
Keep: Patrick Peterson, Cameron Dantzler, Andrew Booth Jr., Chandon Sullivan, Akayleb Evans, Kris Boyd
Cut: Parry Nickerson, Harrison Hand, Nate Hairston*
Kris Boyd has done enough recently to make the roster so it is then a matter of if you want to keep a seventh corner to back up Chandon Sullivan in the slot. If that is the case, Nate Hairston is the choice. However, if Sullivan were to get hurt, the plan may be to run more three-safety sets with Cam Bynum essentially playing in the slot.
Keep: Harrison Smith, Cam Bynum, Lewis Cine, Josh Metellus
Cut: Mike Brown, Myles Dorn*
This is one position group that seems like a virtual lock from top to bottom. Josh Metellus is the only name that is not 100% certain to make the roster but he played very well last week. This combined with Mike Brown and Myles Dorn not playing at a very high level would seem to seal fate at the safety position.
Greg Joseph, Ryan Wright, Andrew DePaola
The Vikings cut Jordan Berry on Thursday which ends the only competition on special teams. Ryan Wright is cheaper and younger so it makes sense that the Vikings may see Wright as a more long-term option.
Practice Squad (16)
Sean Mannion, Bryant Koback, Trishton Jackson, Myron Mitchell, Zach Davidson, Nick Muse, Oli Udoh, Vederian Lowe, Kyle Hinton, Jaylen Twyman, Esezi Otomewo, Janarius Robinson, Luiji Vilain, Blake Lynch, Nate Hairston, Myles Dorn