Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Vikings Pre-Training Camp 53-Man Roster Projection: Offense

Photo: Vikings.com
Daniel House breaks down the Vikings' roster with his first 53-man roster projection on offense. 

Updated: July 12 2017, 2:55 p.m.

By: Daniel House
@DanielHouseNFL


I have divided my pre-training camp 53-man roster projection into two sections. With several new faces joining the team, there will be intriguing battles at wide receiver and offensive line. The breakdowns below explain the logic behind my "cuts" on offense. If you want to see the defensive portion of this series, click here.

Offense (24):

QB (3): Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, Taylor Heinicke

My Take: 

Fans started going crazy when Teddy Bridgewater was throwing passes in videos posted on Vikings.com. He hasn't been cleared to practice yet, but the progress he's made is certainly encouraging. Based upon the nature of the injury, it's hard to believe Bridgewater will be ready to play until October. It means he'll likely land on the PUP list in training camp. However, quarterback Sam Bradford will have the chance to build upon a promising 2016 campaign. 

A new set of weapons and an improved offensive line will provide Bradford with one of his best opportunities as a pro. Bradford completed 71.4% of his passes last year and threw just five interceptions in 15 starts. If Bradford can improve against the blitz, bolster his average target depth (last in the league) and perform better in crunch time, he can take his game to another level. The real question is: has Bradford already reached his peak potential? This year will be the perfect case study with improved personnel around him and continuity with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.

This offseason, the Vikings signed six-year NFL veteran quarterback Case Keenum as a backup. During his collegiate career at Houston, Keenum became the NCAA career passing yards leader. He made 24 career starts between stints with the Texans and Rams. Keenum went 7-7 as a starter during his two seasons with Los Angeles. He throws with nice arm strength and touch up the field. In addition, he has shown an ability to extend plays with his legs. Keenum will be an upgrade over Shaun Hill and brings starting experience to the quarterback room. 

Taylor Heinicke showed flashes in his rookie season, but lost momentum after suffering an ankle injury while trying to break into his own house. He missed most of the season following surgery. This situation didn't go over well and the young quarterback will need to produce on the field. In his short stint of action, he showed his strong pocket presence and ability to stand tall during impending hits. In addition, he uses above average timing to overcome arm strength deficiencies. He'll likely be the third quarterback, unless Teddy Bridgewater makes an unexpected return. 

RB (3): Latavius Murray, Jerick McKinnon, Dalvin Cook

My Take: 

The Vikings have an impressive trio of running backs to deploy in their offense this season. The offseason addition of Latavius Murray brings a blend of power and speed to the running back group. Not to mention, he'll help the Vikings running game in the red zone. Last year, he rushed for 11 touchdowns inside the 20-yard-line and can run effectively between the tackles. He can also be an asset out of the backfield because of his reliable hands and pass protection skills. Murray will be a great leader for the young running backs on the roster, too. 

Jerick McKinnon needs to be unleashed in a new way within this offense. The goal should be to get him out in space to garner his complete skill-set. Last year, the Vikings packed everyone tight in the red zone and it caused McKinnon to lose yards at the line of scrimmage. The goal should be to spread the field and get McKinnon out on the edge. In addition, he can be lined up in the slot to run small routes. The coaches must create mismatches to utilize McKinnon's athleticism in a unique way.

Finally, the Vikings may have picked up the steal of the draft when they selected Florida State running back Dalvin Cook in the second round. Cook is a dynamic weapon out of the shotgun because of his light feet and quick lateral cuts. His vision and second gear in the open field flourish when you get him on the edge. Cook will likely share carries initially, but when he gets unleashed, it is going to be hard to keep him off the field. 

FB (0): None

My Take: When necessary, the Vikings will ask David Morgan to play this roleand it will save a roster spot to keep an additional player on defense. 

WR (6): Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell, Jarius Wright, Rodney Adams, Cayleb Jones

Notable Cuts: Mortiz Böhringer, Stacy Coley (practice squad), Isaac Fruechte 

My Take: 

Outside of the top two wide receivers, there is plenty of uncertainty for the Vikings within this position group. Will Laquon Treadwell take a step? Can Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley emerge as contributors? There isn't much experience at this position and it leaves many people concerned. With Stefon Diggs' injury history, the Vikings need to have reliable options behind him. Laquon Treadwell is supposedly healthier and much improved, which would be huge. Treadwell must step up for the Vikings to achieve maximum success within their passing game. This is especially the case with veteran Michael Floyd likely facing suspension. 

Veteran Jarius Wright will see more work as the Vikings yearn for experienced options at the position. After a solid 2015, Wright mysteriously disappeared last year, notching just 11 receptions for 67 yards. He'll be asked to play a more active role as the Vikings battle inexperience at the position. Finally, all eyes are going to be on the rookies at this position. The Vikings drafted Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley to bolster their depth at wide receiver. Each of them will have a legitimate shot at a roster spot. Adams will likely return kicks after Cordarrelle Patterson departed for Oakland. Due to his small sample size at South Florida, he flew under-the-radar as a route runner. He'll be a name to watch in training camp and the preseason. 

Many people are extremely excited about Stacy Coley, but I'm skeptical. He really struggled to get separation off press coverage at the line of scrimmage. Coley needed to be isolated or set up via crossers to make plays and create after the catch. He lacks play strength and often settles into the soft spot of the zone. He needs to be more physical and embrace contact at the next level. As many of you know, I've been very intrigued by 6-foot-3 wide receiver Cayleb Jones. He has a large catch radius and was a dominant red zone target at Arizona. He sometimes struggles to get separation because of his play speed, but he runs good routes and has above average ball skills. Early in camp, I expect the battle between Cayleb Jones and Stacy Coley to emerge as people see both of them practice. One of them will take the sixth wide receiver spot, while Michael Floyd serves his suspension. 

OL (9): Riley Reiff, Alex Boone, Pat Elflein, Joe Berger, Mike Remmers, Danny Isidora, Rashod Hill, Nick Easton, Jeremiah Sirles

Notable cuts: T.J. Clemmings, Willie Beavers, Zac Kerin, Aviante Collins 

My Take: 

The Vikings added Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers to bolster the tackle spots. Both Reiff and Remmers are very durable players and will upgrade the Vikings' running attack. They both have been less reliable as pass protectors, but will be significant upgrades over last year's cast of characters. The Vikings drafted Pat Elflein to be the starting center of the future, which allows Joe Berger to slide over to right guard. As depth, the Vikings drafted Danny Isidora, an extremely athletic guard with solid technique. He will be molded in the future starting right guard when Joe Berger retires. Nick Easton will share reps with Pat Elflein at center and Mike Zimmer has indicated he'll have a shot at winning the job. It would be shocking if Elflein doesn't start, but Easton will make the team either way as a backup center. 

At tackle, the Vikings have an intriguing developmental option with Rashod Hill. Hill played the final game of the season and showed potential. He needs to to develop his footwork, but he is extremely athletic and added more weight to his frame this offseason. He'll serve as depth with Jeremiah Sirles at the tackle position. Sirles will serve as the swing tackle, as he has guard/tackle flexibility. 

T.J. Clemmings was one of the worst tackles in football last year. He is going to try playing guard, but it probably won't help. If he makes improvements and benefits from additional experience, he could earn that lost spot, but it would be surprising. 

I wrote about Aviante Collins recently and believe he will be a practice squad candidate. He doesn't have much length and must add power to his skill-set. However, he is very athletic and had some of the best testing numbers at the combine. In a position group that's wide open outside of the top-five, Collins could make some noise down in Mankato. 

TE (3): Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Bucky Hodges

My Take: 

Kyle Rudolph emerged as one of the highest targeted Vikings on offense, accounting for 33% of Minnesota's end zone passes. He has developed chemistry with quarterback Sam Bradford and had more time this offseason develop that connection. Rudolph posted his highest career touchdown and receiving yardage marks. He is poised to take another step this season as he doubled his games with 10+ targets from 3 during 2011-2015, to 6 in 2016. He won't provide much after the catch, but the Vikings drafted a new weapon to address this. 

Bucky Hodges needs work as a route runner, but has all of the unique tools you want in a player. He has a complete combination of size, speed and explosiveness at the tight end position. Hodges can be split out wide and put in the slot to be a mismatch for opposing defensive units. He'll be a hybrid player that can keep defensive units honest. Hodges needs to develop more consistent hands, while working on the fundamentals of his game. When he gets those details refined, he'll be deployed in the red zone to utilize his leaping ability to win contest catches. He does a phenomenal job of winning in traffic by getting the defender on his hip and high-pointing the ball. Hodges will certainly be fun to watch in the preseason and training camp.

As I noted earlier, David Morgan will be asked to do some of the fullback work to save the Vikings a roster spot. Morgan is one of the best run blocking tight ends to come out of the NFL draft in recent seasons. He has impressive strength, delivering a strong punch and driving through the defender with his above average lower body strength. He won't be a massive threat in the passing game, but he'll be a powerful lead run blocker in certain sets. Getting him on one side of the field and letting him block is like having another offensive lineman on the field. Morgan will be a major asset in the running game as the Vikings deploy special packages to utilize his run blocking abilities. 

3 comments:

  1. Excellent analysis Daniel. Depth is razor thin in a couple position groups but overall we're in a better position than last year. My take....if we can run the ball Bradford is going to be very good. If we're one dimensional the WRs get exposed and it's more of 2016.

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  2. Nice article great post comment ,thank for your sharing.

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  3. Agreed 99% the 1% Boehringer for Wright. Wright is over paid didn't produce last season with a team with WR issues. Time for the youth movement and MoBo to show us why we drafted him!

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