The MOST educated opinion that you will find about the Vikings 2018 roster
on this website.
After a couple days at the Castle and through one preseason game it's time to take a stab at how the 53 will pare down this year. I'm a fantasy geek so I'm going offense first, special teams last and defense in the middle. It's the strength of the team so I think that the defense fits in well there.
I'll start each section with a layout of how the sections are classified by the teams official depth chart as things are today. Might it change before noon tomorrow? Sure but gotta go with the information that's available so there it is.
QB ~ Kirk Cousins, Trevor Siemian, Kyle Sloter, Peter Pujals (4)
HB ~ Dalvin Cook, Latavius Murray, Mack Brown, Roc Thomas, Mike Boone (5)
FB ~ C.J. Ham, Johnny Stanton (2)
WR ~ Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell, Stacy Coley, Tavarres King, Korey Robertson, Jake Wieneke (6)
LT ~ Riley Reiff, Aviante Collins, Dieugot Joseph (3)
LG ~ Tom Compton, Josh Andrews, Cedrick Lang, Kaleb Johnson (4)
C ~ Pat Elflein, Cornelius Edison, J.P. Quinn (3)
RG ~ Mike Remmers, Danny Isidora, Colby Gossett (3)
RT ~ Rashod Hill, Brian O'Neill (2)
TE ~ Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Blake Bell, Tyler Conklin, Tyler Hoppes, Josiah Price (6)
WR ~ Stefon Diggs, Kendall Wright, Brandon Zylstra, Cayleb Jones, Jeff Badet, Chad Beebe (6)
Easiest Cuts: Peter Pujals, Mack Brown, Johnny Stanton, Korey Robertson, Jake Wieneke, Dieugot Joseph, Kaleb Johnson, Tyler Hoppes, Jeff Badet, Chad Beebe (10)
10 easy cuts puts them about 10 guys over the number that they'll need to be at for the final 53. One of Mike Boone or Roc Thomas will get the call to the office. From game one and the practices that I saw, it seems like Boone is still ahead of the former Tiger. I think that it will come down to whichever starter they want more insurance for. I would rather have a guy that can do some of the same plays as Cook which to me means that Thomas will be the choice. Game 2 & 3 and the rest of the behind the scenes work will lead to the final call. Whichever running back is cut will very likely get a practice squad offer. I would still rather they keep the guy that's more Cook/McKinnon like and sneak Boone through to the squad.
Other more moderately difficult cuts come at the wide receiver position. Between Zylstra, Coley, King and Jones I don't know if there's a standout for the fifth receiver role. So I'm going to go player by player with a thought or two on each and see what comes of it.
Jones would probably be the easiest to get onto the practice squad because of his early season suspension. As a young and big receiver I think they'd want to keep him around in some form or fashion but right out the gate I don't know if it's prudent to keep on the 53, even though he wouldn't take up a spot while on suspension.
King has a few years of experience and is still under 30 so I think he would make the roster in former years when the roster wasn't as full of elite players. But there are all those guys with top end talent and I don't know what skill he would bring that others don't already possess & on a higher level.
Coley is appealing in part because he possesses similar traits to Diggs but the former Cain seems even more injury prone than does Stefon. That may prove to be the fact that he can't over come at the breaking point of the process. If he takes another injury in practice or during a game then the team may opt to move on or try to sneak him onto the practice squad.
Last but not least comes the big man from lakes country by way of a D3 and Canada. Cards on the table, he's the guy I want to see make the final 53 but he's also trying to manage a hamstring problem. The storyline of finding another Adam Thielen type receiver is nice but that would be frosting, the substance of it would be that he would represent something a little different than what the Vikings have in any of their other receivers. Maybe Treadwell is coming into his own and will fill the role of a big bodied possession and red zone target but having a guy come the way that Zylstra has and to prove that he belongs on the roster would be a major bonus for the offense
They could keep six, I'm not summarily dismissing that in which case it could be Coley & Zylstra but there's a lot more work to be done before any decisions are made. For now, I think there will only be five wide receivers kept. Beyond Diggs, Thielen, Treadwell & Wright I would favor Zylstra but it really will be a competition all the way to the final day.
That still would leave the team about 5 players over the line that they will need to get to. There are three other positions that could be the recipients of the guillotine and none of them have an easy answer.
With Pat Elfington still unavailable, Cornelius Edison has gotten the majority of the snaps with Cousins and Siemian. That may be a blessing in disguise later in the season but for now should be a point of consternation. Everyone deals with a physical issue at some point but we have no idea when the Buckeye will get back on the field and resume his duties. If it lingers into the regular season then Edison and Quinn would likely be tasked with handling the duties. Here's the rub, PE & CE > CE & JPQ but either way, when it shakes out there will only be two counted against the 53. It's just going to be a slow process figuring out which two open the season!
This will be a tough one to get a handle on because Fili's offense and Cousins' play might put a special emphasis on the tight end position. Rudolph is the alpha of the bunch and it's not a close race. I second that David Morgan is the second best TE, and because of his blocking ability, he could be vital to successes that the offense has this season. Beyond those two, its gets a little murky. Spielman rarely disposes of the guys that were most recently drafted so I want to pencil in Conklin but I didn't see enough of him to write his name in more than pencil. And then there's Blake Bell. He's third on the list as it laid out for me but he's actually tied with Conklin on the official breakdown. Business that it is, and in trying to make the numbers work, I don't see them keeping four tight ends - even with the quarterback & OC's propensities. My prediction is that Bell is the one that doesn't make it to opening day with the Vikings.
And then there was the position of the highest attention. QB1 & QB2 are sewed up and locked in a vault. As long as injures don't interfere there are fewer questions about that position then there have been in a LONG time! But as last season (and so many earlier seasons beyond) has shown, there's no way of knowing how things will go. Which brings me to QB3. I see two different possibilities for this one, either they keep Sloter on the 53 again or they cut him loose & keep a third quarterback on the practice squad, in this case that would be Pujals. It took no time at all to see that #6 was getting very few snaps. More to the point, the only time I saw him throw a ball during drills was when they needed an extra arm to practice certain routes. I saw him get as much work as a DB as I did a QB. So he's the epitome of a long shot but has he done enough to warrant retention for the sake of another spot on the 53. I don't see it. But the NFL can be a cold league to work for and this could be a time when a hard choice has to be made.
That would still leave them a man or two above the 25 line. From there it would come down trimming offensive lineman. Beyond the easy ones that I identified, I have no other observations about that except to say that it would be the last place I would make cuts if I were in the position to do so.
On to the defense!
LE ~ Danielle Hunter, Brian Robison, Ade Aruna, Jonathan Wynn (4)
DT ~ Sheldon Richardson, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Jalyn Holmes (3)
NT ~ Linval Joseph, Jaleel Johnson, David Parry, Curtis Cothran (4)
RE ~ Everson Griffen, Stephen Weatherly, Tashawn Bower (3)
WLB ~ Ben Gedeon, Eric Wilson, Reshard Cliett, Mike Needham (4)
MLB ~ Eric Kendricks, Kentrell Brothers, Devante Downs, Brett Taylor (4)
SLB ~ Anthony Barr, Antwione Williams, Garret Dooley (3)
LCB ~ Trae Waynes, Terence Newman, Mike Hughes, Horace Richardson, Trevon Mathis (5)
RCB ~ Xavier Rhodes, Mackensie Alexander, Marcus Sherels, Holton Hill, Craig James (5)
SS ~ Andrew Sendejo, Jayron Kearse, Tray Matthews (3)
FS ~ Harrison Smith, Anthony Harris, Jack Tocho (3)
Easiest Cuts: Jonathan Wynn, Jalyn Holmes, Curtis Cothran, Mike Needham, Brett Taylor, Horace Richardson, Trevon Mathis, Craig James, Tray Matthews, Jack Tocho (10)
So that means there are six more guys that will have to meet the axe. A third nose tackle seems like an easy spot to start the second wave of defensive cuts. Maybe David Parry has shown enough to get a practice spot. Bully for him if it works out that way but Linval and Jaleel have the Nose on lock so let's move on.
A third linebacker on both the weak side and in the middle seems like a luxury that the team can't afford. It may be a luxury to keep three at either one in fact but I like the idea of a third guy that could be the ultimate insurance policy in the linebacking room and play any of the three spots. There are five guys that I think are fighting for the three or four backup spots so at least one guy will get cut - except that another suspension is in play with Brothers. So for the first four games I think it'll be Wilson, Cliett, Downs and Williams backing up and after Brothers gets back one of the last three may not be around but maybe Brothers will find himself as the odd man out. It bares monitoring but I think it'll turn out to be a seven man group when the initial roster comes out.
Which brings us to the cornerbacks. It's a deep spot for the staff to work with. Maybe the best group of corners in the whole league. Some speculate that it could be thinned in order to bolster the offensive line. I admit that I've had the thought too but against Rodgers, Brees, Brady, Stafford, etc. having as many elite cover guys as possible will be vital. And yet, hard calls do have to be made. Rhodes, Newman, Waynes, and Hughes are penned in - maybe even sharpied for exaggeration. All indications are that they really like Holton Hill so he's penciled in, and word is that Alexander is making some strides so he's probably in. That leaves the annual event known as the Sherels Shakedown. Every year people say he's done, every year he has found a way through. Maybe it will be the same this time around or maybe one of the best punt returners in franchise history has been replaced in his primary role by a first round pick. They were split the reps in practice and I'm thinking that will continue but the bell may finally toll one Marcus' time in Minnesota.
And yet, that still wouldn't be enough to get under the NFL's arbitrary line of employment. The one last name that I can pin down as a possible cap casualty is the Longhorn who's long in the tooth. I want Robison to get a Ring. Not because he's an all time great Viking. He he's been good and productive and a great team guy but not necessarily always great on the field. But I want him to get a ring as a symbol back to the 09 team that should have won one. Sentimentality and that kind of thinking don't work for NFL GMs but I'm not one. I'm just playing one for a little bit, but I can't keep my fan hat off forever. I want B-Rob to make the roster. I want the team to win the Super Bowl and I want it to be a direct message to all the former players. But this isn't about what I want, unfortunately. It's about what I can see the team doing to build the best team possible. Maybe Ade Aruna would be better for the team this year and five years from now. They have to think in those terms but I would rather have the grizzled veteran with one last ride before he hits the fishing boat full time. But that's still only three possible trims, which would leave three more. Maybe they would come at the expense of the corners or linebackers. I don't really see from whence else they could come without making one position or another too weak. Maybe the numbers game will tilt in favor of the defense again this year, but that would make it all the harder with the offense. It may be because I can't pin down any other stand out cuts but I'm starting to have a gut feeling like there will be at least 3 guys cut that few if any people would predict. A young guy or a key backup that seems indispensable right now will not be on the roster, then another and then another and maybe even another. Could it be Jayron Kearse? What about Ade Aruna or Ifeadi Odenigbo? I'm asking rhetorically if it wasn't obvious. Not to single out the defense because the cuts could just as likely come on the offense, maybe even more likely. Point is, it'll be those kinds of guys that basically no one sees getting cut, that will be to finalize the 53.
Special Teams (4)
K ~ Kai Forbath/Daniel Carlson (2)
P ~ Ryan Quigley (1)
LS ~ Kevin McDermott (1)
Easiest Cuts: Cue the Crickets as of now. I still favor the 5th round pick but Forbath is going kick for kick with the rook. It's a sign of a great team when the kicking competition is one of the three most interesting storylines in practice and in the games. I have a feeling it will go all the way to the final day, it's too bad that the Kicker position isn't weaker league wide cause then the Vikings could trade the one that doesn't win out.
So there's the full look at some of what I saw at the Castle. Some of things I think will happen and some that could. We're still less than half way through the preseason so there's a lot more to be learned but I had my first hand education & didn't want to sit on it too long. I hope you enjoyed it! Maybe you think I'm way off base though, if so, tell me how.
But more than anything else, SKOL VIKES!!!