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Training camp kicks off on Wednesday with the first set of rookie practices. With that in mind, it's time to think about a "way too early" 53-man roster projection. Daniel House puts together his best guess.
Updated: July 24, 2018, 3:30 p.m.
By: Daniel House
Training camp kicks off on Wednesday with the first set of rookie practices. With that in mind, it's time to think about a "way too early" 53-man roster projection. Here's a look at how I could see the roster shaking out as the team enters training camp. This is going to change a few times before roster
cuts, but here's an early opinion.
*click the links on each position for an in-depth breakdown*
QB: (3): Kirk Cousins, Trevor Siemian, Kyle Sloter
The Skinny: The Vikings made a big investment in Kirk Cousins this offseason in hopes of elevating their quarterback play to another level. They also traded for Trevor Siemian to add a backup with starting experience in the event an injury occurs. Not only that, but Kyle Sloter is someone the team could spend time developing, with the idea he elevates into a future NFL talent.
RB: (3): Dalvin Cook, Latavius Murray, Roc Thomas
The Skinny: There's a few candidates for the No. 3 running back position. I would argue the player with the highest upside is Roc Thomas. A highly coveted recruit in the state of Alabama, Thomas transferred to Jacksonville State after falling down the depth chart at Auburn following an injury. He has plenty of potential to unlock and has the best traits between Mike Boone and Mack Brown. It's early, but based solely off film, I'm learning toward Thomas due to his potential ceiling.
FB: (1): CJ Ham
The Skinny: CJ Ham is Mr. Versatility and that's a key to staying around on Mike Zimmer's teams. He can block as a fullback, play out of the backfield and even run routes when needed. Last year, he quietly produced a few excellent runs after the catch. With his skill-set, he's not strictly a fullback and can fill in at other spots when needed.
WR: (6): Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Laquon Treadwell, Kendall Wright, Tavarres King, Brandon Zylstra
The Skinny: The top wide receivers are settled, but the final three spots in the group are still up for grabs. Kendall Wright was signed this offseason, but is playing in training camp on a one-year, $1 million deal with just $400,000 guaranteed. He's not a lock to make the team if others have a strong camp. However, his route running ability and catch rate are two intriguing metrics which lead me to believe he'll be worth keeping around. Tavarres King tallied 240 yards and three touchdowns last season in New York and uses quickness and pacing in his routes to stretch the field. His experience will serve him well as he competes for the job. Finally, the last spot is going to be the hottest battle. Brandon Zylstra's ability after the catch, evolving route running skills, and versatility could be enough for him to snatch a roster spot. With Cayleb Jones suspended, it will take a strong training camp from someone like Korey Robertson to put pressure on Zylstra. Stacy Coley is also an option and put together a strong 2017 training camp, but can he stay healthy enough to claim a spot?
TE: (3): Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Tyler Conklin
The Skinny: The top two tight ends will be very important to what the Vikings do offensively. The real question is whether the team can finally hit on a mismatch tight in the draft. Fifth-round pick Tyler Conklin has all of the tools, but must stay healthy and adjust to the physicality at the next level. In addition, he'll need to lower his drop rate, which was slightly high at Central Michigan. How quickly he develops will determine whether he makes an immediate impact.
OL: (10): Riley Reiff, Nick Easton, Pat Elflein, Mike Remmers, Rashod Hill, Danny Isidora, Brian O'Neill, Colby Gossett, Tom Compton, Aviante Collins
The Skinny: In this scenario, the final roster cuts will come down to whether the team values the upside of Aviante Collins or the veteran leadership/versatility of Tom Compton. Collins was developing last year, but due to his body profile, it's worth seeing whether he can perform well at tackle in training camp and the preseason. Compton can play both tackle and guard, which is an advantage. Collins is in the hunt, but overall, the team could value Compton's experience in an offensive line room searching for depth. Outside of that, the others listed above should be lightly penciled in at this point. I project they'll keep both Compton and Collins in this scenario.
DT: (4): Linval Joseph, Sheldon Richardson, Jaleel Johnson, Jalyn Holmes
The Skinny: The only question is whether the team elects to keep a fifth defensive tackle. David Parry is more of a pure nose tackle and has proven he can draw attention, while penetrating the gap. If Parry is rostered, the Vikings might decide to keep one less safety (Newman can play CB or safety). Otherwise, the team could keep five wide receivers, too. Jaleel Johnson would need to show he can play both three-technique and nose tackle for the Vikings to feel confident enough to part ways with Parry.
DE: (5): Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Brian Robison, Tashawn Bower, Stephen Weatherly
The Skinny: The top-four spots seem pretty solidified at this point. Tashawn Bower was incredibly raw last season, but developed from the start of training camp, to the end of the preseason. Another offseason might be enough to increase his overall playing time. The team drafted Ade Aruna in the sixth-round and his status is dependent upon how quickly he can develop all of his unique physical traits. Ifeadi Odenigbo, a 2017 draft pick, had a strong preseason last year and could also compete with Stephen Weatherly in camp. However, Weatherly could slide inside in a pinch and is valuable on special teams. The door is open for a young player to claim the last spot in camp.
LB: (5): Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Eric Wilson, Ben Gedeon, Devante Downs
The Skinny: This is a position group where it feels like the Vikings might add a veteran following roster cuts. Outside of Kendricks and Barr, Minnesota has seven linebackers with two years of experience or less. Ben Gedeon rotated into the game when the Vikings were in the base package and improved as the season progressed. Eric Wilson was solid on special teams, but needed more experience as a pure linebacker. The Vikings also spent a seventh-round pick on California linebacker Devante Downs. He was the heartbeat of the Golden Bears' defense, but a knee injury cut his season short. Downs was productive on the field and has athleticism, to go along with pass rushing ability. If he is healthy, he's the best fit in the defense out of all the other options. The only other player who could challenge him is Antwione Williams, a 2016 fifth-round pick by the Lions, who didn't develop in their system. He has length, size and athleticism, but his overall sample size is small.
CB: (6): Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Mike Hughes, Terence Newman, Holton Hill
The Skinny: Is this the year Marcus Sherels doesn't make the team? Out of the eight seasons he's been in Minnesota, this is the deepest cornerback group he's been around. If Holton Hill performs at his full potential and stays out of trouble, the team can afford to get younger at the position. Mike Hughes was one of the top returners in college football and could handle those duties. However, there are still plenty of question marks surrounding the youth on the cornerback depth chart. If Hill somehow doesn't live up to the hype, Sherels becomes valuable.
S: (4): Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo, Anthony Harris, Jayron Kearse
The Skinny: If there's one surprise player I could see not making the team, it's Jayron Kearse. Nonetheless, his value on the punt team was proven last season. If someone else at another position group shows more special teams ability and Kearse stays on the same developmental tracks as a safety, he could be the odd man out. Anthony Harris is one player who doesn't receive enough credit for his performance. His key strip of Cooper Kupp in the Los Angeles Rams game last year was an important play. Not only that, but his third-down run stop in the Divisional Playoff game helped the Vikings get the ball back to set up the miracle. Harris filled in admirably when called upon as a starter last year and could leap into a major role next season with Andrew Sendejo in the final year of his contract.
ST (3): Daniel Carlson, Kevin McDermott, Ryan Quigley
The Skinny: The Vikings traded up to draft kicker Daniel Carlson in the fifth-round. Teams don't make this type of move if they aren't going to keep the player around. Carlson has a monster leg with excellent field goal range. He also can improve the team's success on kickoff depth, which is a major asset in the field position battle. Kai Forbath was inconsistent from time-to-time and the Vikings know the upside is higher with a player like Carlson.
Stay tuned for complete training camp coverage all week on VC!