With the roster being trimmed down from 85 to 80 this past Tuesday and just one more preseason game coming up this Saturday against the Denver Broncos, the pieces are starting to come together for the Vikings. Here is my current projection of what the Minnesota Vikings roster will look like post final cuts next week on August 30th.
Quarterback (3): Kirk Cousins, Nick Mullens, Kellen Mond
Kirk Cousins is obviously the starter for this team but the depth and names behind him have become quite the talking point. Keeping three quarterbacks is not my preference here. Utilizing two quarterbacks on the active roster and keeping one on the practice squad in case of injury is usually the smarter option to maximize depth at other positions for NFL teams. Up until the addition of Nick Mullens from the Las Vegas Raiders earlier this week, I would have leaned the Vikings only rostering two QBs, but now with the Mullens addition this complicates things a bit. Acquiring Mullens to me says more about Sean Mannion than Kellen Mond. I foresee Mannion being the odd one out here come opening day, and although Mond has been less than stellar, he has shown some small flashes of potential and is in just his second season in the NFL. If you’re the Vikings you almost have to keep him on the roster because if you waive him in hopes of bringing him back on the practice squad another team is likely to scoop him up to continue his development.
Running Back (4): Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Ty Chandler, Kene Nwangwu
There have been small rumblings on Twitter that Alexander Mattison’s time in Minnesota could be coming to an end, and he may be one of the surprise roster cuts on final cut day next week. In this projection, I do not think that is the case. Mattison has consistently been productive when filling in for Dalvin Cook during his tenure in Minnesota, and has shown he is one of the better backups in the NFL. However, with the emergence of both Chandler and Nwangwu in the backfield, the future of Mattison is in slight question. Mattison has shown on numerous occasions his struggles with field vision and finding the open running lanes consistently, and both Chandler and Nwangwu showcased their ability to find the hole quickly and utilize a quick first step to get to the second level quickly. However in this scenario Mattison is staying on the roster and becomes the primary backup for Dalvin.
Fullback (1): CJ Ham
No surprises here. Ham is one of the better fullbacks in the NFL and the Vikings released Jake Bargas early last week during the first wave of NFL roster cuts.
Wide Receiver (6): Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, KJ Osborn, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Jalen Nailor, Trishton Jackson
One of the more interesting roster battles during the course of training camp and the preseason for the Vikings has been the wide receiver spots after the top 4 guys. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen remain one of the best duos in the league, and KJ Osborn continued to build off of his 2021 season during training camp and quickly separated himself as the WR3. Ihmir Smith-Marsette has been the most consistent out of the receivers that came in battling for final roster spots, and offers some special team upside so he will likely get the nod as the WR4 on the roster. Four players are battling for the last few spots: veterans Olabisi Johnson and Dan Chisena as well as young guys Trishton Jackson and Jalen Nailor. The first question that will be answered is if Minnesota plans to keep more than six receivers. If I had to take a guess today the answer is no. I expect Minnesota to keep six pass catchers due to necessary depth at other positions. It would not shock me if ]Chisena makes the roster. His value as a special teamer and punt gunner cannot go understated. However, in this scenario I go with Jackson and Nailor, as both have shown some flashes in preseason action. Nailor has some potential in the return game and could compete with ISM and Kene Nwangwu in the return game as well.
Tight End (3): Irv Smith Jr., Johnny Mundt, Ben Ellefson
Tight end is pretty straight forward. Irv Smith and Johnny Mundt have been the clear cut top two tight ends for nearly the entire offseason, and any shot that Zach Davidson had of making this roster as the TE3 was thrown out the window after his rough day against the 49ers this past weekend. Would not shock me if Nick Muse is brought in on the practice squad post cuts if he clears waivers.
Offensive Line (9): Christian Darrisaw, Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, Ed Ingram, Brian O’Neill, Chris Reed, Austin Schlottmann, Jesse Davis, Blake Brandel
The starters at the OL seem to be set in stone with Christian Darrisaw, Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, Ed Ingram, and Brian O’Neill pegged as the projected week one grouping against Green Bay. Behind them Chris Reed and Austin Schlottmann are the next two guys that will be on this roster. Reed has battled injuries throughout the preseason, allowing Ingram to really take control of the starting right guard spot. Schlottmann has a decent chance at taking over for Bradbury if Bradbury’s poor play during the regular season continues. Schlottman has been incredibly consistent and played well in both preseason games so far. After those seven the names are interesting. I gave the nod to Jesse Davis over Wyatt Davis and Kyle Hinton due to his veteran presence and positional versatility. Neither Davis or Hinton have blown away with their play during practice or preseason snaps. At swing tackle, I have chosen to give the spot to Blake Brandel over Oli Udoh because Udoh just simply was not good last season and has not played well over the course of the preseason.
Defensive Line (6): Dalvin Tomlinson, Harrison Phillips, Armon Watts, James Lynch, Esezi Otomewo, Jonathan Bullard
The position that has the most depth on the Vikings current roster is the interior defensive linemen, where I currently can see nine potential players with a legitimate chance to make the roster when final cuts are announced. Tomlinson, Phillips, Watts, and Lynch to me are the locks in this group. After that Minnesota has had a plethora of players that have played very well. The guys I have making the roster are fifth round pick Esezi Otomewo and veteran Johnathan Bullard. Bullard has showcased some top-notch pass rushing ability gathering some pressures and hurries throughout the preseason so far. Otomewo is a high upside developmental tackle that Kwesi and this front office invested a draft pick in that I could see getting significant snaps later in the regular season. T.Y. McGill and Jaylen Twyman are the other two names to watch here that could make the roster, or at the very least make the practice squad for Minnesota due to very good play during the preseason.
EDGE (4): Danielle Hunter, Za’Darius Smith, Patrick Jones III, DJ Wonnum
Nothing here is surprising for Minnesota. Running a 3-4 base, Hunter and Smith will play the starting outside linebacker roles in that system with Jones taking over for Wonnum as the EDGE3 in my opinion he has been the better of the two players this offseason. Luckily for Wonnum, who has not played great, he has had very little competition behind him for the EDGE4 spot so he makes the roster here.
Inside Linebackers (4): Eric Kendricks, Jordan Hicks, Brian Asamoah, Troy Dye
The top three spots here are locked and loaded. Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks will be the opening day starters and Brian Asamoah is as athletic, rangy and smart as advertised and could overthrow Hicks as the second starting linebacker on this defense. The fourth spot is where it gets interesting between Troy Dye and Blake Lynch. Dye has started both games in the preseason so far which gives me the thought that he does have the edge over Lynch for this spot. However, I do foresee a scenario in which Minnesota does decide to keep 5 inside backers, but not in this projection.
Cornerbacks (6): Patrick Peterson, Cameron Dantzler, Andrew Booth Jr., Chandon Sullivan, Kris Boyd, Akayleb Evans
With the release of Harrison Hand earlier in the week, the Vikings cornerback room gained a lot of clarity. Hand was battling for the final cornerback spot alongside Kris Boyd and Akayleb Evans but seemed like the longshot to make the roster from the start. Peterson, Dantzler, and Sullivan are slated to be the week one starters, especially now with Booth’s ankle injury that has hampered him the last few days. Akayleb Evans has showcased some significant flashes and traits of an NFL caliber starting cornerback on a few occasions but is not quite there yet, putting him in the CB4-5 conversation to help him with his development. Kris Boyd is a name that I would have thought was on the roster bubble before both the Booth injury and Hand being released.
Safeties (4): Harrison Smith, Camryn Bynum, Lewis Cine, Josh Metellus
Nothing has changed here for the Vikings since the offseason programs began. All three of Smith, Bynum, and Cine will see significant snaps and showcase in various roles in Ed Donatell’s defensive scheme. Cine has looked incredibly promising in his play during the offseason and I expect him to eventually overtake Bynum in overall snap count during the regular season. Metellus is a fine backup that can slot in with the case of an injury.
Specialists (3): Greg Joseph (K), Ryan Wright (P), Andrew DePaola (LS)
Really nothing to say here, as these are the only three specialists remaining on the roster after Jordan Berry was released earlier this week.