Could Nine Rookies Actually Make it to September?
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)
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
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.