Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Way Too Early 53-Man Roster Projection

Photo Courtesy of Jim Brown- USA Today Sports

The Vikings are two weeks away from setting foot on the practice fields in Mankato, MN for training camp. Daniel House writes his first "way too early 53-man roster projection" for your reading and discussion pleasure. 

Updated: July 14th, 2016 6:00pm

By: Daniel House

The Vikings are two weeks away from setting foot on the practice fields in Mankato, MN for training camp. With that being said, it is time to start looking at how the team might structure their roster as they approach the regular season. I figured I would post my first "way too early 53-man roster projection" which I will update after training camp. So much of this roster projection is probably wrong, but it is a nice discussion piece to get all of you interested in building the team in training camp and the preseason.

Feel free to comment at the conclusion of this piece and on Twitter, @VikingsCorner.

Offense (25):

QB (3): Teddy Bridgewater, Shaun Hill, Taylor Heinicke

Analysis: Many writers and fans are encouraging the Vikings to keep just two quarterbacks in order to alleviate some roster congestion. Sure, that's possible, but the Vikings have notoriously valued having three quarterbacks on the roster. They could release veteran Shaun Hill and face no penalty, but they value his veteran leadership. Taylor Heinicke showed flashes last year and is a developmental project. The quarterback room is pretty solidified if they decide to keep three quarterbacks.

RB (3): Adrian Peterson, Jerick McKinnon, Matt Asiata

Analysis: One could argue the Vikings have the strongest running back group in the league. A hall-of-fame caliber player in Peterson, a change of pace athletic freak like McKinnon, and a reliable back in Matt Asiata, have the Vikings set for success at this position.

FB (1): Zach Line

Analysis: The fullback position has been a talking piece for the last three seasons. Do the Vikings really need to keep one? Well, Adrian Peterson likes having a fullback, but the utilization percentage is definitely down. Zach Line played rather inconsistently last year. However, I'm not sure any of the other tight ends could fill the fullback role at this time.

WR (6): Stefon Diggs, Laquon Treadwell, Jarius Wright, Cordarrelle Patterson, Charles Johnson, Adam Thielen

Analysis: I've had numerous podcast appearances where I have been asked about the battle between this group of wide receivers. If the coaches keep six wide receivers, there really isn't a question about the mix. That is unless Moritz Böhringer morphs into Dez Bryant overnight. If that happens, I'll hop on the international train. Nonetheless, this group has plenty of potential. If Patterson and Johnson can contribute and Treadwell adapts to the system, the wide receiver corps could be pretty strong. Böhringer is a practice squad candidate alllll the way.

TE (3): Kyle Rudolph, MyCole Pruitt, David Morgan - (Rhett Ellison placed on PUP)

Analysis: Kyle Rudolph needs to show he can be an elite threat in this offense. It will be a big season for him. MyCole Pruitt has been working with Teddy Bridgewater this offseason and has a feel for the system in his second year. Finally, David Morgan was drafted and will be a jack-of-all-trades player in this offense. He was one of the best run blockers in college football and he will certainly contribute in a wide variety of ways. Rhett Ellison is coming off a patellar tendon tear and can start the season on PUP. This move gives the Vikings more roster flexibility when they cut the team down in late August.

OL (9): Matt Kalil, Alex Boone, Joe Berger, Mike Harris, Andre Smith, John Sullivan, Brandon Fusco, Austin Shepherd, T.J. Clemmings

Analysis: This position group is easily going to be the toughest one to trim down. Alex Boone was signed to bolster the left side of the offensive line. The Vikings also added Andre Smith to compete with Phil Loadholt. Loadholt and John Sullivan will be coming off of serious injuries. In this scenario, it seems likely one of them will be on the way out. According to reports, Loadholt seems the least ready to return to natural form. An achilles tear can be a tough injury for an offensive tackle to recover from. Sullivan might make the team, but Joe Berger will give him everything he can handle for the starting job. In addition, Mike Harris will challenge Brandon Fusco, who is moving to back to the right side. Fusco underachieved last season, while Harris performed extremely well. Aside from that, Matt Kalil may improve under new coaching and must play better to receive a new contract. Austin Shepherd has versatility to play guard or tackle and showed the most potential last year. T.J. Clemmings was thrown into the fire last year and performed average at best. Nonetheless, he doesn't have a massive amount of experience as an offensive lineman. He played on the defensive side of the ball for part of his college career. He is coachable and showed flashes last season as a starter. Jeremiah Sirles and Nick Easton were products the Vikings traded for, but they didn't see any action last year. With all the struggles the team faced up front, it is hard to believe they wouldn't have gotten any reps if the coaches were comfortable with them. The team drafted Willie Beavers in the fourth round, but with a steep learning curve and a packed roster, they might need to slide him onto the practice squad.

Defense (25):

DE (5): Everson Griffen, Brian Robison, Danielle Hunter, Zach Moore, Stephen Weatherly

Analysis: The Vikings could elect to keep four defensive ends and stash an additional offensive lineman like Willie Beavers on the roster. However, with the team being predicated on getting after the quarterback, having a plethora of pass rushers is equally as important. The top three players are proven commodities and it will be especially exciting to see how much Danielle Hunter has grown as a player since last season. The Vikings added Zach Moore at the midway point of 2015 and his experience, combined with more upside and size gives him the chance to really blossom in the system. Moore is a player that GM Rick Spielman noted in various interviews during the OTAs session. In 2015, Justin Trattou always seemed to be in the right place at the right time to make an impressive play. Whether it was a fumble recovery or interception, Trattou always made a play. However, with other competition and the need for offensive line depth, the team could elect to part ways. It makes even more sense when a draft pick like Stephen Weatherly has so much raw talent that could be developed for the future. Scott Crichton hasn't turned out and it seems like without a major improvement in his game, he might become a failed project.

DT (4): Sharrif Floyd, Linval Joseph, Tom Johnson, Shamar Stephen

Analysis: Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph are integral aspects of the interior and must stay healthy if the Vikings defensive unit wants to maximize their potential. Tom Johnson has been the biggest under-the-radar defensive player the Vikings have. His pass rushing skills and ability to get after the quarterback has been a major difference maker. Aside from those three, the Vikings haven't had a major amount of depth at defensive tackle. The 2015 training camp injury that lost Shamar Stephen for the season was huge. Stephen is a young player that really developed nicely into the system. The Vikings might elect to keep a more proven product like Kendrick Ellis, but Shamar Stephen has so much more upside and was a 2014 draft pick.

LB (6): Anthony Barr, Chad Greenway, Emmanuel Lamur, Eric Kendricks, Kentrell Brothers, Edmond Robinson

Analysis: The linebacker position has so much athleticism and talent. Barr and Kendricks are two players the Vikings can build their entire defense around. The front office added Emmanuel Lamur who has the frame and experience in Mike Zimmer's system to potentially push for a starting role. Chad Greenway is entering his final fanfare in purple and it is hard to believe he won't at least see a reduced number of starting reps. For depth, the Vikings drafted Kentrell Brothers and he will be a tackling machine and excellent special teams contributor. Last season, Edmond Robinson showed his smooth playing style and was a nice fit in the defensive system. He could challenge for more reps this season as well. Audie Cole is a great linebacker but the roster has better fits for what Mike Zimmer is looking to do. Additionally, Brandon Watts hasn't been durable and his raw athleticism isn't polished yet.

CB (6): Xavier Rhodes, Terence Newman, Captain Munnerlyn, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Marcus Sherels

Analysis: The Vikings cornerback group is going to be a challenging area to cut in August. With the addition of Mackensie Alexander, it likely signals the end of Jabari Price. Captain Munnerlyn is in the final year of his deal, but with a drastic improvement last season, he isn't leaving. Marcus Sherels is too valuable on special teams and Terence Newman is the veteran presence to start in the event Trae Waynes isn't ready to be the full-time cornerback.

S (4): Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo, Michael Griffin, Anthony Harris

Analysis: The strong safety spot is the one starting job that is up for grabs on the defensive side of the ball. Harrison Smith needs a player alongside him who can handle coverage duties when he is placed in the box. The Vikings didn't make a splash in free agency, but they did re-sign Andrew Sendejo to a contract. Sendejo understands the system and could be the starter if other options like Michael Griffin and Anthony Harris don't pan out. The Vikings added Griffin who is known for his coverage skills. Additionally, they have Anthony Harris, who flashed in limited action and might be the sleeper to snatch this job. He has gotten bigger in the offseason and already showed he had the football IQ to learn skills and the system on the fly. The candidate who plays the best in training camp and the preseason will be awarded the job, but at this time the door is still open. The team did draft Jayron Kearse in the seventh round, but I'm not sure his effort concerns and slender build will fit this defense. Finally, Antone Exum had an opportunity to earn the job last season. He didn't show any improvement and it seems he has trouble learning the scheme.

Specialists (3):

K (1): Blair Walsh

Analysis: Blair Walsh was shaky on some kicks, including one during the biggest moment of the season. He missed quite a few extra points and he will need to prove that he can handle mentally challenging pressure kicks. In order to win close games, the Vikings will need as many points they can get. Moving indoors should help the kicking game improve. However, Walsh needs to show that he isn't going to let one miss define his career.

P (1): Jeff Locke

Analysis: Jeff Locke didn't punt well last season and his averages were near the bottom of the league.  In both poor weather conditions and indoors, he didn't shift the field position for the Vikings. I'm surprised the coaches didn't bring in some competition to push Locke. He needs to step in a big way because the field position battle is one of the biggest aspects of NFL football.

LS (1): Kevin McDermott

Analysis: Kevin McDermott didn't seem to be the problem in his first season replacing Cullen Loeffler. Another year of chemistry and more reps in training camp won't hurt the chemistry between Walsh, Locke, and McDermott.

1 comment:

  1. Fun Read. Not sure Zimmer will cut Price. He really liked him last year til he got in trouble. Also think they might cut Sully and keep Easton as development behind Berger. If Heineke plays real well they could cut Hill to make room for Price who would have value if Plan is to let captain go next year so they can pay the all the talented 2nd contract guys. Fun trying to predict. Also with how crowded O Line room is drafting Beavers was brilliant most picks in that really talented 4th round last year would not clear Waivers.