I’ve taken a stab at projecting a depth chart for the Minnesota Vikings, not as it stands now, but what I expect to see by Week 4 of the season, barring injury. To that end, I’ve decided to add color to it in order to give a snapshot of my opinion of each player. Each color is how I expect that player to perform for the year, despite the fact that I recognize many of the players will not make the roster—think of each player as being judged “if they made the roster.”
Further, there are some bands of uncertainty. There are five basic grades: Elite, good, solid, questionable and bad. Those are pretty simple and are judged relative to the rest of the league.
Then there are four shaded grades: rookie—optimistic, rookie—pessimistic, unknown—optimistic, unknown—pessimistic. Again, those grades are projections simply for 2014, not my opinion of the long-term prospects of the rookies. Both Anthony Barr and Jerick McKinnon are listed as pessimistic rookies, but I think that the ceiling is high for both of them and the coaching staff in place has a good chance of unlocking it, just not in 2014 (or in early 2014 at least).
Because the receivers in the Norv Turner offense are expected to be more versatile than they have been, being listed on the depth chart at the slot, like Greg Jennings is, doesn’t mean the majority of the snaps will be there or that they are the “third receiver” on the roster—just their primary role. So in this case, I think the receiver roster is Patterson, Simpson, Jennings, Wright and Lora. It looks like three slot receivers, but Patterson and Simpson will both play flanker and split end roles, while Jennings and Wright should play both slot and flanker roles. I would not be surprised to see Patterson in the slot, either.
I’ve only marked Patterson as “solid” instead of “very good” because I think route ability is going to be even more important and his development is still at a critical stage, now facing the burden of learning multiple positions. If all goes well, he’ll be the second receiver to Jennings until late into the season or next season where he should explode onto the scene. I acknowledge I could be massively underrating him.
Further, the rookies are graded optimistically and pessimistically with the fact that they are rookies in mind. So Teddy Bridgewater, who is marked as optimistic, I expect to be above average for a rookie starter, even if that doesn’t mean above-average for the league (and this means in the last seven or so years, not just the last two). I have also moved some people around from their listed position or their position last year (Audie Cole, I’ve put at SAM). I started two rookies and projected one sophomore to take over the starting role (at MLB) and debated doing that at left guard, but ultimately didn’t. We shall see.
The unknown grades apply to people who have either spent time on the roster but not on the field or have had less scrutiny from me going in (usually undrafted free agents). The ones on the roster I may have scouted in the past, but I do not know how they’ve developed. Regardless, I have a soft feeling on them, but recognize that I have a very wide band of uncertainty—that I know I know less. If I say I am optimistic on an unknown someone, by the way, I don’t think they have starter capability like I do for the rookies or veterans with the same, more certain grades. I simply think that they have a better chance to perform above the expectations of them than perform below them.
One of those people—Andrew Sendejo—HAS spent significant snaps on the field, but I marked him as uncertain, because if he continues his current level of play, it will be below average. If he improves, like I think he does, it will be great for the team.
One final note: I have included Austin Wentworth, despite the fact that he hasn’t signed. Therefore, the depth charts below will include 87 players (I am excluding the specialists).
Takeaways: 1) the offense is on the verge of being elite, and the defensive line is not too far behind, 2) linebacker is still a huge issue—even if you disagree with me on Barr and Greenway, because depth is a big problem, 3) safety is a position of strength, but the Vikings have made a choice to upgrade some things at the expense of the cornerbacks.
I am sure you have questions about players I projected/graded. I will attempt to answer them in the comments when I have the time. No need to point out that there are “25″ starters. There are 25 people at the top of the depth chart at their position, specialists aside, that will take significant snaps. Just know that this involves wild speculation and projection for a system we haven’t seen the players in, on both sides of the ball—so don’t get too worked up.