Could Nine Rookies Actually Make it to September?

Images courtesy of Viking.com

The NFL draft is in the past, and with its conclusion begins roughly two months of salivating over the talented new group of Minnesota Vikings that Rick Spielman put together. And, as a result, we join together in speculation regarding the future of Minnesota’s 11-man rookie class and how its arrival will impact the Vikings’ 53-man roster composition this fall.

Well, I am ready to head the speculation discussion with a 53-man roster projection that is absolutely way too early. This article, for all intents and purposes, is about generating discussion, but the objective is always to be as accurate as possible — regardless of how much of a lost cause this goal is in early May.

VIKINGS OFFENSE (25)

Quarterback (3): Sam Bradford — Taylor Heinicke — Case Keenum — Teddy Bridgewater (IR)

Running Back (3): Dalvin Cook — Latavius Murray — Jerick McKinnon

Fullback (1): CJ Ham

Outside Wide Receiver – X (2): Stefon Diggs — Laquon Treadwell

Outside Wide Receiver – Z (2): Adam Thielen — Rodney Adams

Slot Wide Receiver – Y (2): Jarius Wright — Stacy Coley

Tight End (3): Kyle Rudolph — David Morgan — Bucky Hodges

Left Tackle (2): Riley Reiff — Rashod Hill

Left Guard (2): Alex Boone — Aviante Collins

Center (1): Pat Elflein

Right Guard (2): Joe Berger — Danny Isidora

Right Tackle (2): Mike Remmers — TJ Clemmings

Analysis: The Vikings will have a multitude of difficult decisions to make regarding their offensive depth chart come late August, as Mike Zimmer, Pat Shurmur, Tony Sparano and Co. evaluate the immediate future of the team’s five-man front and pick apart a wide receiver depth chart that could prove difficult to trim down.

With regard to the offensive line, I chose the “future is now” route, moving on from Jeremiah Sirles and Nick Easton in favor of 5th-round Miami guard Danny Isidora and undrafted free-agent signing Aviante Collins out of TCU. Both players, despite when they were selected — or not selected for that matter — offer pro-ready skills that Minnesota’s 2016 offensive line, to put it kindly, appeared to lack as a collective unit.

At wide receiver, I chose to enter the season with both 5th-round pick Rodney Adams and 7th-round selection Stacey Coley. The pair of rookie wide receivers, in my opinion, are the best-suited to fill a depth chart voided of Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson this offseason because of their explosive skill sets. The most difficult decision, however, was deciding between Jarius Wright and Isaac Fruechte, the former Golden Gopher who has spent the past couple years developing with the team. Ultimately, I took the safe route, but Fruechte’s 53-man roster candidacy should not be taken so lightly this year.

Finally, I decided to keep three quarterbacks and three (technically four) running backs — all of which offer a different skills for Shurmur to employ both situationally and with play-calling creativity. And, while I favor a two signal-caller Vikings roster — Sam Bradford and Taylor Heinicke, specifically — the safe bet in May is that Case Keenum will find his way to September in Minnesota.

VIKINGS DEFENSE (25)
BASE 4-3-4
NICKEL 4-2-5

Left Defensive End (2): Danielle Hunter — Brian Robison

Nose Tackle – 1T (2): Linval Joseph — Shamar Stephen

Defensive Tackle – 3T (3): Tom Johnson — Datone Jones — Jaleel Johnson — Sharrif Floyd (IR)

Right Defensive End (1): Everson Griffen

Linebacker (4): Anthony Barr — Edmond Robinson — Ben Gedeon — Kentrell Brothers

Linebacker (3): Eric Kendricks — Emmanuel Lamur — Elijah Lee

Cornerback – Outside (2): Xavier Rhodes — Tre Roberson

Safety (2): Harrison Smith — Anthony Harris

Safety (2): Andrew Sendejo — Jayron Kearse

Cornerback – Slot (2): Mackensie Alexander — Marcus Sherels

Cornerback – Outside (2): Terence Newman — Trae Waynes

Analysis: The defensive side of the football should be a little more straight-forward for the Vikings evaluation team, but how to best fill the spots vacated by Chad Greenway and Captain Munnerlyn this offseason is far from being decided.

I was a bit bold once again in making these decisions, choosing to roster a total of seven linebackers including the raw but talented 7th-round pick from Kansas State, Elijah Lee. Munnerlyn’s spot, ideally, will be replaced by Mackensie Alexander, opening up a spot for undrafted cornerback Tre Roberson to make the team. With Sherels not exactly fulfilling his positional responsibilities on defense, finding a capable cornerback to play behind Xavier Rhodes, Terence Newman and Trae Waynes on the outside was imperative — and Roberson can be that guy.

The last decision I made was between Kentrell Brothers and Nick Easton, and given his special teams excellence and situational potential, Brothers was an easy pick. And, with that final move, the Vikings return only four offensive linemen from last season — Alex Boone, Joe Berger, Rashod Hill and TJ Clemmings.

SPECIAL TEAMS (3)

Place Kicker (1): Kai Forbath

Punter (1): Ryan Quigley

Long Snapper (1): Kevin McDermott

Kick Return: Adams — Sherels — Coley

Punt Return: Sherels — Thielen

PRACTICE SQUAD

1. WR Moritz Böhringer (2nd Year)

2. WR Cayleb Jones (2nd Year)

3. TE Nick Truesdell (1st Year)

4. OT Nick Fett (1st Year)

5. OG Willie Beavers (2nd Year)

6. DE Ifeadi Odenigbo (1st Year)

7. DE Tashawn Bower (1st Year)

8. DT Toby Johnson (1st Year)

9. LB Eric Wilson (1st Year)

10. DB Jack Tocho (1st Year)

With this 10-man group — which may be difficult to coordinate given that multiple players could warrant a 53-man roster spot elsewhere — the Vikings load up their scout team with raw potential and high ceilings.

Oh, and Willie Beavers is back as well.

Surprise Survivors: FB CJ Ham; WR Stacy Coley; OG Aviante Collins; LB Elijah Lee; CB Tre Roberson

Notable Releases: WR Isaac Fruechte; OL Jeremiah Sirles; OL Nick Easton; CB Jabari Price; S Antone Exum

UPDATE: Michael Floyd, who signed a one-year deal with Minnesota Wednesday, replaces Jarius Wright on the roster and joins the “X” receiver depth chart in this ridiculously early 53-man roster projection.

9 COMMENTS

  1. I can`t see your logic on the OT. Time to deal with the reality that most OL guys need 1 to 3 years of seasoning before they are ready to start. No way are Isadora and Collins ready to start. No way. Eaton and Sirles are solid backups (and one can easily imagine a situation where Sirles wins the RG starting position. It boggles the mind to think that after training these guys to the point where they might have value you would cut them…

    I would think
    A. Keep Ham on the PS.
    B. After the debacle of last year, at least start with 10 OL on the 53 to start (one can change later if the line looks solid)
    C. Eaton/Sirles on the first team Collins on the PS (he has the speed to play tackle, but needs a year or so of learning/muscle building to get to the necessary strength.

    I do not see Eaton being let go that easy as if you think this is the last year of Berger then we need a backup C next year.

    The reality is Eaton / Sirles are legit backups maybe even average starter. Isadora/Collins…..No idea

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  2. Thedude makes a lot of sense other than his spelling of our backup center’s name.

    I’m not that high on Adams or Coley, but the Vikes seem smitten with Adams. I suppose he will stick. I view Coley as practice squad material this year. He could replace Fett or Truesdell. Beavers is a T/G, so my vote is to drop Fett. Collins will already be there in accordance with Thedudes recommendations

    We may only keep 5 receivers until Floyd comes off suspension since Hodges is essentially a big WR.. We may only keep 5 even after Floyd is eligible in order to keep Weatherly as an extra defensive end. You are giving up on him waaaay too quickly, not even on the practice squad?.

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  3. Dudes — Happy to explain the reasoning here:

    1. Can’t keep Ham on the Practice Squad because Vikings want to roster a fullback.

    2. Last year was an outlier, and, if anything, showed how desperately Minnesota needed to revamp its entire offensive line. Ten offensive linemen is certainly enough given positional flexibility of Pat Elflein, Joe Berger, Mike Remmers and Aviante Collins. Wasting roster spots on bad players to increase that number because of one crazy injury year is playing scared; this team does not play scared.

    3. Jeremiah Sirles isn’t even a serviceable offensive tackle at the NFL level, and his horribly timed brain farts are a great bonus to deal with. He could have value at, but there is no reason to work a player into a new position with multiple younger, higher-ceiling guys available with experience at two or three interior line spots.

    4. Nick Easton is literally just a guy; there is nothing special about him physically or mentally, and it’s very likely he has already reached his ceiling. No reason to roster a no-upside player after drafting your starting center for the next 10 years and veteran to back him up if need be who rated as one of the best in the NFL for two consecutive years. I’ll roster potential elsewhere over garbage at offensive lineman always, and the Vikings have carried 9-11 consistently with 12 for Week 1 of last season being the highest figure to open a year since Rick Spielman was promoted to general manager in January 2012.

    5. Rodney Adams is a virtual roster lock at kick return, so he defaults to the WR chart with Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Laquon Treadwell. That is four ahead of the Mike Floyd deal, which brings it to Jarius Wright, Stacy Coley and Isaac Fruechte for the final spot if you work in accordance with Vikings wide receiver roster tendencies. Horrible scoring efficiency in the red zone, trouble getting it past the sticks in 3rd&mid situations, alignment versatility, potential and game-breaking ability separates Coley from the pack. Polished skill set, great route tree and the ultimate swagger on the field offers a dimension Wright simply cannot match after failing to establish himself as an outside receiver early in his career due to release issues against press coverage. I’d encourage a deeper film study and dig on Coley because he’s a lot more than initially meets the eye.

    6. Willie Beavers is guard-exclusive and, in my opinion, could easily flunk himself out of the NFL entirely quicker than Scott Crichton. Simply not seeing what you’re seeing there.

    7. Bucky Hodges is indeed a wide receiver and will line up at the X spot situationally, but Adams evens the wide receiver field back out given his extremely raw receiving skill set and lack of NFL strength at this point in his career. I’d be willing to bet he rushes the ball more than he catches it as a rookie; back to keeping six.

    8. Stephen Weatherly isn’t an example of giving up, he’s a casualty of an extremely deep depth chart that needs help elsewhere more than it needs another pass-rushing specialist skill set given the team’s depth at defensive end, 3-technique, linebacker and even safety in addition to selecting a higher-upside project in Ifeadi Odenigbo two weeks ago. Weatherly has potential, but setting him free opens the door for a guy like Elijah Lee who offers a high-upside coverage linebacking skill set that the Vikings desperately need to add to their base defense. Minnesota simply cannot afford to risk waiving his talent with teams like San Francisco working the wire to build depth at “potential” more than actual positions.

    9. I watched the all-22 film for 14 games of Danny Isidora and six of Aviante Collins, so I don’t consider this to be a “no idea” situation. So, I will take the pro-ready guard with plus lateral athleticism and fundamental excellence who may have an issue combatting powerful bull-rushers, and a career out-of-position offensive tackle who excelled in every protection aspect with exception to creating leverage with hand placement and in redirecting edge-rushers with his arms due to a lack length and superior upper body strength — profiling him perfectly as a left guard in a zone-blocking scheme using pull blocks to stick outside rush attempts over a sixth-rounder that proved his inadequacy for an entire season and a likely career backup who struggles to snap the ball out of the shotgun. Isidora and Collins represent upside; Sirles and Easton represent complacency.

    10. The reality is more that I respect your opinions but also very much disagree with your reasoning and evaluations of players. Appreciate the reads and comments, and I hope these blurbs help explain anything that I didn’t clear up in the post.

    — BJ Reidell

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    • Is this what you want them to do or what you think they will do? I don’t think they will keep Collins over Sirles, for example, because he won’t contribute this year and he is safe on the PS.

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      • Mark – It’s a little bit of both, to be honest. It’s what I think they will do with a couple of bold takes. If it were what I hope they do, Case Keenum, for example, wouldn’t be on the roster. — BJ Reidell

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  4. Case Keenum will surprise the hell out of the Vikings scene. In a good way. You’ll see.gonna be a lot of fun.

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  5. Taylor Heinicke is legit. He played well the one training camp he got to play. But I went to ODU and watched the dude play. His eyes never look away from downfield. He has an unreal sense of pressure, and a great ability to escape. I’m not hoping Bradford or Keenum don’t do well, but I’d like to see him get a chance in a number one roll so the world can see what they overlooked in college. Walter Payton winner that threw for a crazy amount of yards at ODU. As an Eagles fan I hope we are set at QB for a while, but I truly hope Heinicke gets a shot to start for the Vikes!

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  6. Its not ridiculous to speculate on 53 + 10 team…although I think mine is more realistic: Bradford Griffen Forbath
    Keenum Hunter Quigley
    Heincike Robison Mcderrmott
    Cook Weaterly
    Murray Odenigbo
    McKinnion Jones
    Ham Joseph
    Diggy Johnson
    Thielen Bradley
    Floyd Barr
    Treadwell Kendricks
    Addams Robinson
    Coley Roberts
    Rudolph Gedeon
    Morgan Lee
    Hodges X
    Reiff Trae
    Remmers Newman
    Sirles Alexander
    Boone Price
    Berger Sherels
    Elflien Smith
    Isidora Sendejo
    Kerin Harris
    Easton Tocho

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