Countdown to camp: Are the safeties set?

Everything appears to be set at safety, but appearances can be deceiving. The Vikings have only undrafted rookies as challengers that didn't have roster spots last year, but we take a look at potential scenarios for change, as well as the locks, the sleeper and the longshot of the group.

The numbers: Last year—5. Current count—7. Projection this year—5.

The candidates: Brandan Bishop, Robert Blanton, Darius Eubanks, Mistral Raymond, Jamarca Sanford, Andrew Sendejo, Harrison Smith.

The analysis: Last year's season-ending roster consisted of five safeties, including special teams factor Sendejo. The safeties likely will end up the same this year unless someone knocks Sendejo from his precarious roster spot. Any potential changes here could come for a few different reasons. The Vikings could cut down on the safety numbers to four if they decided to keep an extra linebacker for special teams purposes. In that case, Sendejo's spot could be in jeopardy. The other way to cut numbers is if one of the two undrafted rookies looks so good and Raymond continues to have injury issues. However, if there is a change in safety personnel, the most likely option would seem to be a veteran safety becoming available for additional depth.

The locks: Smith, Sanford, Blanton.

The sleeper: Blanton isn't considered a "sleeper" to make the roster, but he is clearly a player to watch to see if he can challenge for a starting spot next to Smith. So far, Blanton has been a bit of an under-the-radar player. That may not last long into the preseason.

The longshot: Eubanks came to the Vikings with a lot of college experience, but his 51 starts over four seasons came at Georgia Southern. His best shot would be to earn additional seasoning on the practice squad.

Harrison Smith: The second of two first-round draft picks, Smith had an impressive rookie showing – second on the team with 129 tackles, tied for second with 13 passes defensed and tied for first with three interceptions. He appears to be a star in the making.

Jamarca Sanford: He entered the 2012 season expected to be a backup and special teams leader, but after Raymond was injured, Sanford took over on defense and never let up. He finished with 80 tackles, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Robert Blanton: He was inactive for two of the first three games last year, but his transition to the NFL and to being a full-time safety gives him a better shot at challenging for at least more playing time on defense (he played in only 5 percent of the snaps last year), if not for a starting job.

Mistral Raymond: He was a starter until an ankle injury and Sanford took that away from him. When Raymond returned after six games, he rotated in for playing time but never regained a starting spot. This offseason Raymond missed time with another injury.

Andrew Sendejo: Sendejo is strictly a special teams contributor, playing only three defensive snaps while playing in 54 percent of the special teams snaps. He was re-signed as a free agent, but it's a precarious spot.

Brandan Bishop: The rookie free agent started 46 games at North Carolina State and proved to be a playmaker with 12 interceptions. He appears to be a decent candidate for the practice squad.

Darius Eubanks: Eubanks started 51 games at both linebacker and safety and was selected first-team All-Southern Conference last year, but the practice squad is likely his best hope this year.

The projection: Smith, Sanford, Raymond, Blanton, Sendejo.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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