The Vikings' final preseason game has concluded and it means roster cuts are right around the corner. Daniel House makes his final 53-man roster projection.
Updated: August 31, 2018, 12:10 p.m.
By: Daniel House
The final preseason game has concluded and it means roster cuts are right around the corner. Teams across the league must have their rosters trimmed from 90 to 53 players by 3 p.m. CT on Saturday. Through observations during training camp and all of the preseason games, here’s how I would structure the Vikings’ roster. Keep in mind that a few scenarios such as Pat Elflein’s PUP list situation and the potential to add another offensive lineman could change this projection drastically.
With that in mind, here are my current thoughts:
QB: (3): Kirk Cousins, Trevor Siemian, Kyler Sloter
Analysis: Many people have been clamoring for Kyle Sloter to be named the backup quarterback. His strong preseason has been encouraging, but he’s still developing in many ways, especially mechanically. There’s no doubting his upside and potential, but the team will value Trevor Siemian’s experience at the backup quarterback. With 24 starts under his belt, the Vikings know Siemian is the best option right now. That doesn’t mean Sloter isn’t the backup quarterback next year, but for the time being, this makes the most sense.
RB: (3): Dalvin Cook, Latavius Murray, Mike Boone
Analysis: The third running back job was the only one up for grabs. Mike Boone put together a fantastic training camp and preseason. He provides value as a runner, receiver and pass protector. Those strengths fit well within what he’ll be asked to do as the No. 3 running back. He has very natural hands in the passing game and can create a plethora of yards after contact as a rusher. This was an excellent find by the Vikings’ scouting department as an undrafted rookie.
FB: (1): C.J. Ham
Analysis: C.J. Ham is rock solid and his versatility provides so many options for the Vikings as they use various personnel packages.
WR: (5): Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell, Kendall Wright, Brandon Zylstra,
Analysis: The wide receiver position has been the toughest to project because of up-and-down performances and injuries. If you’re looking at the full body of work, despite missing a portion of training camp and the preseason, Brandon Zylstra has done enough to make the roster. He can run routes out of a variety of positions and adds value on special teams. Zylstra also put together a strong final preseason game, including a touchdown grab. Finally, Kendall Wright started slow, but it sounds like he’s improved. His experience and efficiency as a route runner out of the slot will provide value to the receiver room. Chad Beebe is likely a practice squad option if the Vikings value Wright more.
TE: (3): Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Tyler Conklin
Analysis: Blake Bell is the only other player contending for a roster spot at tight end. Neither Bell or Tyler Conklin have flashed much in the preseason, but the Vikings will favor the upside of Conklin. He can develop into a mismatch threat in the passing game and is evolving as a run blocker. When Conklin gains more experience, he has the chance to make an impact.
OL: (9): Riley Reiff, Tom Compton, Pat Elflein, Mike Remmers, Rashod Hill, Brian O’Neill, Danny Isidora, Aviante Collins, Brett Jones
Analysis: This is a very tough position group to trim. We don’t know whether the Vikings will place Pat Elflein on PUP yet. If they do, it likely means Cornelius Edison is on the roster for the time being. However, it’s likely they’ll add an additional offensive lineman via a trade or wavier claim. It makes trying to project who is on the roster extra difficult. In this scenario, Pat Elflein is activated because they believe he’ll return within the first couple weeks of the regular season. Edison would be cut to make room, especially since the team acquired Brett Jones last week. Jones was rock solid in the final preseason game and provides the team with a major depth upgrade within the interior. In fact, there’s a chance he could push Tom Compton for playing time at left guard. There’s also a reason why the team started Danny Isidora at center. This was an experiment to see if he could play the position in a pinch. If they feel confident with him, it might make parting ways with Edison easier. The team could try to put Edison on the practice squad, but it feels like he would be claimed by another team. At the moment, there’s plenty of uncertainty as the team makes roster cuts on the offensive line.
DL: (10): Danielle Hunter, Sheldon Richardson, Linval Joseph, Everson Griffen, Brian Robison, Tashawn Bower, Stephen Weatherly, Jaleel Johnson, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Jalyn Holmes
Analysis: The Vikings could potentially dangle one of their talented defensive lineman in a trade for an offensive lineman. However, it seems unlikely. The current core they have will allow Mike Zimmer and George Edwards to effectively rotate up front. This is something I talked about in a past post. The performances of both Tashawn Bower and Stephen Weatherly in the preseason were extremely encouraging. Each of them have taken major strides and improved technically. The team also can’t let Ifeadi Odenigbo slide off the roster because of his versatility. He can play inside at defensive tackle or kick out to the edge. Odenigbo’s power, quickness and hand technique have allowed him to make a splash in both training camp and the preseason. The Vikings have a plethora of talented pass rushers and they must keep all ten as they project how the group will look in 3-5 years.
LB: (5): Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Ben Gedeon, Eric Wilson, Reshard Cliett
Analysis: The top-four is set in stone, but it’s unclear how the coaching staff will approach the final linebacker spot. They could keep just four with the idea Kentrell Brothers is on suspension. However, Zimmer has valued keeping five or even six linebackers in the past. Reshard Cliett’s range and open field tackling ability fit the system very well. He is also rock solid on special teams and put out arguably the best tape of any player in the final preseason game. I had him as the fifth linebacker in the last projection and I’m not changing that opinion. Antwione Williams has shown flashes as a blitzer, but doesn’t provide nearly as much upside. Cliett feels like a linebacker the team could develop in a manner similar to Eric Wilson last year.
CB: (7): Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Mike Hughes, Terence Newman, Marcus Sherels, Holton Hill
Analysis: The defensive back position is where some tough cuts will need to be made. If the Vikings keep ten defensive linemen, it likely means they will lose Jayron Kearse. In this scenario, Marcus Sherels makes the team because of his reliability in the return game and versatility as a backup cornerback. The team also knows they must keep Holton Hill if they want to develop him this year. If they subject him to waivers, he’ll likely be gone rather quickly. Hill was showing flashes, but is still trying to learn new technique as he adjusts to the NFL. For right now, this arrangement makes the most sense, but it could change based upon how the team structures their offensive and defensive lines.
S: (4): Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo, Anthony Harris, George Iloka
Analysis: George Iloka was a slam dunk addition to this team. He fits the defense well and allows Mike Zimmer to get ultra-creative defensively. The move likely means the team won’t be able to keep Jayron Kearse, unless they value keep five safeties and just four linebackers. This is where special teams evaluations will come into play. Entering the season, the Vikings have the deepest safety group they’ve fielded in recent memory.
K: (3): Daniel Carlson, Ryan Quigley, Kevin McDermott
Analysis: Daniel Carlson made the short field goals tries in the final preseason game and I don’t see the Vikings making any major changes among the specialists.