With two preseason games down, and two to go, I found myself considering a number of changes to my prediction of who would make the Vikings final 53-man roster. The last time I wrote a prediction was just before the open of training camp and quite a bit has happened since then. The players that made my previous cut, but no longer do, are marked with a strike. The players that are new to my list are bolded.
Quarterback: Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, McLeod Bethel-Thompson
Analysis: No changes here. MBT solidified his spot above Vandenberg with a solid performance last week, while Vandenberg didn’t even see the field. Bill Musgrave recently made some comments about Joe Webb that have me considering only two quarterbacks making the roster, leaving Webb as a last resort, but I think that approach would be too unorthodox.
Running Back: Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Bradley Randle
Analysis: That third running back spot is still a mystery because there are a few players, including Zach Line and Joe Banyard, that are making cases for themselves. Still, I feel like Randle provides the Vikings with the most upside and some serious special teams value. Randle is penciled in very lightly at this point, though.
Fullback: Jerome Felton
Analysis: Felton’s recent surgery has many assuming Zach Line will be on the opening day roster, but he is expected to ready by week one and Rhett Ellison acts as a quality backup at the position. I just don’t see the Vikings dedicating two spots to fullbacks.
Tight End: Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, Rhett Ellison
Analysis: Rudolph is on the verge of being a star, Carlson took a pay cut and has had a great training camp, and Ellison is incredibly reliable and underrated. This should be a no-brainer.
Wide Receiver: Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright,
Joe Webb, Stephen Burton, Rodney Smith
Analysis: The first four there are pretty much cemented in place. It is impossible to watch this offense, however, and not see how Rodney Smith and Stephen Burton have outplayed Joe Webb. Webb offers some versatility, but I think that might provide more value to the Vikings on the trade block than it does during the season. Still, he has an outside chance at beating out Smith. Burton has been very good on offense and special teams this preseason and he has done a lot to earn another season with the team.
Offensive Line: Matt Kalil, Phil Loadholt,
Demarcus Love, Joe Berger, Charlie Johnson, Brandon Fusco, Jeff Baca, John Sullivan, Kevin Murphy
Analysis: DeMarcus Love will not be on the opening day roster because of a suspension, but it remains to be seen if he’ll even be on the team after serving his time. That makes the backup tackle spot the one with the biggest question mark, and none of the candidates have really stuck out, but I get the sense that Murphy provides the most upside.
Defensive Line: Jared Allen, Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, Lawrence Jackson, Kevin Williams, Sharrif Floyd,
Christian Ballard, Fred Evans, Letroy Guion
Analysis: D’Aundre Reed seems to have mildly developed into an interesting option, but I’m not yet convinced he can send Lawrence Jackson packing, otherwise defensive end is pretty settled. Some of the second-tier tackles caught a break, however, when Christian Ballard left the team due to mysterious personal issues. Based off of limited reps so far, I have given the nod to big man Anthony McCloud, but there is not much separating him from the rest of the group right now. For now, though, I did not replace Ballard and am envisioning the Vikes rolling with eight D-linemen.
Linebacker: Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson, Desmond Bishop, Audie Cole, Gerald Hodges,
Larry Dean, Marvin Mitchell, Michael Mauti
Analysis: The Vikings have shown more confidence in Mitchell than I thought they would, and he may start ahead of Bishop, so I think he was my biggest mistake of the first draft of this prediction. Mauti also appears to be healthy enough to contribute now, and has impressed so far, and I decided to keep him because I think the Vikings will do exactly that. Dean has not really stood out to me, on defense or special teams, so I just don’t see him beating out the competition.
Cornerback: Chris Cook, Xavier Rhodes, Josh Robinson, AJ Jefferson, Bobby Felder,
Marcus Sherels, Brandon Burton
Analysis: I’ve seen a lot of Vikings fans speaking quite negatively about Sherels this offseason and I have to be honest, I like him more than most, and don’t think he is as bad as people make him out to be and is downright dependable on punt returns. Still, both Felder and Burton have outplayed him at corner so far, and the Vikings have other interesting options at punt returner.
Safety: Harrison Smith, Jamarca Sanford, Mistral Raymond, Robert Blanton, Andrew Sendejo
Analysis: Undrafted rookie Brandan Bishop has been an interesting player to watch, but I’m not convinced he’s cracking the depth chart at this point, and is more likely to end up on the practice squad. No changes here.
Special Teams: Blair Walsh, Jeff Locke, Cullen Loeffler
Analysis: No Changes. They are who we thought they were.