3 Vikings Who Could Be Starters That You’re Not Thinking About

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The Minnesota Vikings have 91 players on the current roster, which will shrink to 53 at the end of August.

3 Vikings Who Could Be Starters That You’re Not Thinking About

Enthusiasm exists for the 2024 squad, chiefly because the club has a new quarterback in J.J. McCarthy, and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s competitive rebuild is complete.

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And with roster battles about to heat up at training camp in 20 days, a few players could ascend to starter’s roles, men that fans aren’t necessarily expecting. These are those men listed in alphabetical order.

1. Blake Brandel (OG)

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The Vikings re-upped with Brandel in March for three years and $9.5 million. The deal’s parameters suggested Brandel could start, especially when Dalton Risner hadn’t rejoined the club. But in May, Minnesota re-signed Risner, and Minnesota has an honest-to-goodness three-way guard battle afoot between Brandel, Risner, and Ed Ingram.

All offseason, Minnesota’s coaching staff has praised Brandel. “I’m really excited about Blake. I feel like he gets bigger every time I see him. He’s just a massive man on the inside. But he’s in great shape, he’s always been very coachable,” offensive coordinator Wes Phillps told reporters at May’s organized team activities (OTAs) about Brandel. “You talk about technique, fundamentals, footwork, hand placement, all the things that are critical for the O-line — one false step for an O-lineman could be a catastrophe — it’s been very encouraging so far with him stepping into that starting spot on the left.”

Fans love Dalton Risner, but folks should warm up to the idea of Brandel as a stater. It wouldn’t be weird at all.

2. Jonathan Bullard (DT)

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Listen, the Vikings love this guy. In back-to-back seasons, Bullard has slinked underneath the roster battle radar and won some semblance of substantial playing time.

Bullard won the starter’s job in 2022, and as a follow-up in 2023, Bullard played about 60% of all defensive snaps. Meanwhile, the Vikings didn’t move heaven and earth to improve the DT spot this offseason, adding two veterans in Jerry Tillery and Jonah Williams, while drafting small-school prospect Levi Drake Rodriguez in April.

Because of his run-stuffing acumen, Bullard could be on the field at the New York Giants in Week 1 during the first defensive possession.

3. Robert Tonyan (TE)

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Last month, The Athletic’s Alec Lewis tweeted, “Robert Tonyan has looked great in minicamp. No hyperbole. Catching everything, snagged multiple passes in red-zone period today, outstretched arms, toe-tapping in corner of the end zone. Just impressive.”

And Minnesota will need someone to hold down the TE1 job until T.J. Hockenson returns. Until Tonyan joined in May, Johnny Mundt, Josh Oliver, and Nick Muse were the candidates.

Yet, with Tonyan’s pedigree and noteworthy spring performance, he could be in the middle of the field until Hockenson’s return this autumn.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His MIN obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.