Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY

Minnesota Vikings 53-man projection, analysis

The Minnesota Vikings will be making numerous moves in the coming days and could have a different roster makeup from a numbers standpoint (borrowing from positions of strength) than in recent years. We break down the projected 53-man and releases with analysis on every player.

The numbers in parentheses represent last year's final roster numbers at the position and our projection for this year.

QUARTERBACKS (3, 3)

http://www.scout.com/player/20536-shaun-hill?s=63&year=2016

Hill has proven he can be efficient, but the deep passing game that Teddy Bridgewater was developing so nicely through training camp and the preseason will be limited with Hill’s arm.

http://www.scout.com/player/148482-taylor-heinicke?s=63&year=2016

The Vikings will have to make some serious decisions here. Heinicke isn’t expected to be recovered from his severed tendon (suffered in July before training camp) until after the regular season starts (likely late September). The Vikings will have to decide if they put him on the reserve/non-football injury list and acquire another quarterback in free agency/waivers or via trade. If they acquire another quarterback, do they simply carried Heinicke on the active roster hoping for quick availability?

Quarterback to be acquired

The Vikings are clearly searching for another experienced quarterback to back up Hill at least until Heinicke is ready and maybe longer. One guy to keep on eye is Chiefs QB Aaron Murray, but there are numerous ways this could go with plenty of speculation out there.

 

RUNNING BACKS (4, 4)

http://www.scout.com/player/29643-adrian-peterson?s=63&year=2016

With Bridgewater’s injury, the Vikings may lean on Peterson even more in the regular season.

http://www.scout.com/player/187709-jerick-mckinnon?s=63&year=2016

McKinnon is expected to have a rotational role, and with his college experience at quarterback may be valuable if things get even more desperate at quarterback with in-game injuries.

http://www.scout.com/player/57345-matt-asiata?s=63&year=2016

He won’t be the first or second option, but he is steady and worth having in reserve, as well as a contributor in the return game as a blocker. However, with the strong preseason performances of C.J. Ham and Jhurell Pressley, he can’t get too comfortable.

http://www.scout.com/player/111114-zach-line?s=63&year=2016

Continues to improve with each year of experience and has done a good job lead blocking in the preseason. Likely to be used on about 20 percent of offensive plays in front of Peterson.

 

WIDE RECEIVERS (6, 6)

http://www.scout.com/player/132120-stefon-diggs?s=63&year=2016

With each passing week, he looks more and more like the top receiver on the team, and the Vikings’ decision to move him around in their offensive sets should help scheme ways to have him open more consistently.

http://www.scout.com/player/178456-charles-johnson?s=63&year=2016

He’s the player that refuses to give up his starting spot. He lost it to Diggs last year because of a broken rib, but he has reclaimed and maintained his starting status throughout the offseason.

http://www.scout.com/player/178757-adam-thielen?s=63&year=2016

The Vikings gave him increased chances in the offseason and preseason and he simply produces. Can be used inside or outside and should have a modestly increased role on offense this year.

http://www.scout.com/player/97988-jarius-wright?s=63&year=2016

His role appears to be diminishing, but he continues to be effective when given the opportunities. He could be their most natural slot receiver, but he isn’t used much as an outside receiver, which limits his snaps.

http://www.scout.com/player/156807-laquon-treadwell?s=63&year=2016

The first-round pick won’t be a regular starter, but the Vikings have gotten a look at what he does most effectively – a good option on slant routes and potential red zone target. His preseason drops, however, are a legitimate concern.

http://www.scout.com/player/109346-cordarrelle-patterson?s=63&year=2016

He continues to be the Vikings’ gadget receiver, catching bubble screens and taking reverses, but if he wants to earn a second contract he will have to show he is now a dependable route runner.

 

TIGHT ENDS (2, 4)

http://www.scout.com/player/93117-kyle-rudolph?s=63&year=2016

Had an inconsistent third preseason game, but has been very good all offseason and early in the preseason. Blocking still isn’t a forte, but if the offensive line really is improved it should allow Rudolph to get out in routes more consistently.

http://www.scout.com/player/196795-mycole-pruitt?s=63&year=2016

With the emergence of Morgan and the precarious quarterback situation, Pruitt’s spot could be in jeopardy, depending on the numbers they want to keep and their confidence that Ellison is fully back from injury.

http://www.scout.com/player/147174-david-morgan?s=63&year=2016

Morgan could be a swing guy in many respects. He’s just a rookie, but has looked very good in preseason. Do they have confidence that will carry through in the regular season, and how many tight ends can they afford to keep?

http://www.scout.com/player/80680-rhett-ellison?s=63&year=2016

Returned from the PUP list and is a valuable asset in the blocking game. Nothing beyond Rudolph is certain at the position, but if Ellison is healthy enough to have the coaching staff’s confidence, he should have a spot on their line.

 

OFFENSIVE LINE (9, 9)

http://www.scout.com/player/83221-matt-kalil?s=63&year=2016

Injuries remain a concern, but the coaching staff insists he is doing better this year with new techniques. He’s in a contract year, so he has to be better to stick around long-term.

http://www.scout.com/player/36991-alex-boone?s=63&year=2016

Coaches love the attitude and toughness he brings to the offensive line. Should be a staple on the left side of the line for years to come.

http://www.scout.com/player/68859-joe-berger?s=63&year=2016

With experience working with new offensive line coach Tony Sparano and a more stout center, he won the job away from John Sullivan. But with Berger in the starting lineup, it decreases the experienced depth on the line.

http://www.scout.com/player/152033-brandon-fusco?s=63&year=2016

Didn’t play the first two preseason games, as minor injuries continue to dog him, but looked solid in the third preseason outing with his move back to right guard. Faces the challenge of playing to the right of Berger now and with a new right tackle in Smith.

http://www.scout.com/player/61722-andre-smith?s=63&year=2016

He hasn’t been flawless, but he is good enough to win the starting job. The hope is he continues to improve the more comfortable he gets with the blocking schemes.

http://www.scout.com/player/126587-t-j-clemmings?s=63&year=2016

He was an emergency starter last year when Loadholt was injured, and this year he is working the backup scene at both right tackle and left tackle. That will likely be his role until injuries pop up.

http://www.scout.com/player/124238-zac-kerin?s=63&year=2016

Continues to show improvement and promise as a viable backup at center and guard. Was part of the 53-man roster last year and should be again this year.

http://www.scout.com/player/199183-nick-easton?s=63&year=2016

Purported as a player the coaches like, he still looks like he has some flaws that need ironing out. But if coaches continue to pump him up, he could find a spot on the roster. The decision could come down to him and Willie Beavers for interior depth.

http://www.scout.com/player/104909-carter-bykowski?s=63&year=2016

For players like Bykowski and Jeremiah Sirles, it will be a numbers game. Bykowski seems better suited to play left tackle, and Clemmings has the ability to play both tackle spots in a pinch.

 

DEFENSIVE LINE (10, 8)

http://www.scout.com/player/12180-brian-robison?s=63&year=2016

Simply solid for years. While he remains a starter, he is also a valuable veteran mentor for younger players.

http://www.scout.com/player/87239-linval-joseph?s=63&year=2016

One of the best nose tackles in the league, his starting spot is secure for years to come. The biggest obstacle is avoiding the nagging injuries that have plagued him.

http://www.scout.com/player/122806-sharrif-floyd?s=63&year=2016

Has missed time because of injuries, but will be the starter when healthy with a strong rotational cast behind him.

http://www.scout.com/player/72936-everson-griffen?s=63&year=2016

At times during the offseason and preseason he has looked like a nearly unstoppable pass-rushing terror. That should only increase as the regular season gets underway.

http://www.scout.com/player/154822-danielle-hunter?s=63&year=2016

He is getting better each month and will eventually be a starter. His pass-rushing moves are getting better.

http://www.scout.com/player/86186-tom-johnson?s=63&year=2016

Has been a very valuable interior backup who produces when given the chance because of injuries. Will be Floyd’s primary backup and rotational guy.

http://www.scout.com/player/120626-shamar-stephen?s=63&year=2016

Has gotten more time this preseason and should be used regularly to spell Joseph and sometimes Floyd, as well as enter in short-yardage situations.

http://www.scout.com/player/80135-justin-trattou?s=63&year=2016

Always seems to produce big plays when given the opportunity. Too valuable to let go.

 

LINEBACKERS (6, 6)

http://www.scout.com/player/120378-anthony-barr?s=63&year=2016

One of the keys to Mike Zimmer’s flexibility in calling different blitzes, Barr seems primed for a breakout year and national recognition.

http://www.scout.com/player/131863-eric-kendricks?s=63&year=2016

Seems much more comfortable in Zimmer’s defense this year and looks to be improving his blitzing skills. Like Barr, staying healthy is a key area to prove.

http://www.scout.com/player/26386-chad-greenway?s=63&year=2016

It looks like one last ride for Greenway this year and he should be a starter in the base defense while being pushed by Emmanuel Lamur.

http://www.scout.com/player/123470-emmanuel-lamur?s=63&year=2016

A key reserve at outside linebacker, his length cuts down on passing lanes. Although he knows Zimmer’s defense well, he could use more consistency with his assignments.

http://www.scout.com/player/197126-edmond-robinson?s=63&year=2016

The Vikings saw promise in him last year and the coaches’ confidence in him is increasing. Likely to be a contributor at outside linebacker at some point as injuries crop up.

http://www.scout.com/player/88562-audie-cole?s=63&year=2016

He’s been a steady reserve at middle linebacker and should have his spot behind Kendricks secured.

 

DEFENSIVE BACKS (10, 10)

http://www.scout.com/player/107950-xavier-rhodes?s=63&year=2016

For now, is likely the team’s top cornerback, but there is some developing young talent behind him and a preseason hamstring injury limited his exposure.

http://www.scout.com/player/79804-harrison-smith?s=63&year=2016

He’s just plain steady, bordering on spectacular, and continues to move all around the field, knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage and occasionally enacting his well-time blitzes. Worth the big-money contract the Vikings gave him.

http://www.scout.com/player/81427-andrew-sendejo?s=63&year=2016

Still holding the lead for the top strong safety spot, it seems his starting spot is always on notice. For now, he is the projected starter next to Smith.

http://www.scout.com/player/29881-terence-newman?s=63&year=2016

Has a knack for knowing routes and the speed to make up for a missed step when he’s wrong, but eventually the Vikings will have to replace him with one of their recent high-round draft picks (Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander). That’s likely being held off until next year.

http://www.scout.com/player/79965-captain-munnerlyn?s=63&year=2016

Clearly holds the lead as the team’s top nickel back (likes to say he is the best nickel back in the NFL), but he’s in the final year of his contract with young talent (Alexander) breathing down his neck.

http://www.scout.com/player/140473-trae-waynes?s=63&year=2016

Has gotten increasingly more time with the starters, either as an injury fill-in for Rhodes, or giving veteran Newman a break. Eventually expected to move into the starting lineup, but that’s likely next year. Seems more confident of his abilities but needs to stay aggressive on shorter routes.

http://www.scout.com/player/150471-mackensie-alexander?s=63&year=2016

After a slow start in spring practices, he has improved with each passing month and looks like a future starter, either at nickel back or on the outside. For now, he will be given time to develop in the wings.

http://www.scout.com/player/15165-michael-griffin?s=63&year=2016

Perhaps the most interesting roster decision the Vikings have to make. He was given a shot to compete for Sendejo’s starting spot, but his roster spot isn’t guaranteed. However, injuries to Antone Exum (injured reserve) and Anthony Harris (shoulder) make it much more likely Griffin sticks for another year in the NFL.

http://www.scout.com/player/77044-marcus-sherels?s=63&year=2016

He won’t see much time on defense, but he is a tireless worker on special teams and one of the NFL’s best punt returners, helping to secure his spot for another season.

http://www.scout.com/player/155520-jayron-kearse?s=63&year=2016

Listed at 6-foot-4, he says he’s 6-5. Either way, that’s great length and Zimmer seems to like his Clemson rookie duo of Kearse and Alexander. He’s still learning but worth hanging onto and not risking on waivers for a practice squad spot.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS (3, 3)

http://www.scout.com/player/96925-blair-walsh?s=63&year=2016

Credited with making 92 or 93 percent of his approximately 250 field goals during offseason work, he has been steady during the preseason, too.

http://www.scout.com/player/147136-kevin-mcdermott?s=63&year=2016

No botched snaps to speak of and a new contract have him around for some time.

http://www.scout.com/player/93306-jeff-locke?s=63&year=2016

Continues to be somewhat inconsistent with his punts. Can boom them when he gets ahold of them, but will also mis-hit others. That has to change for him to be considered a viable candidate for the future.

 

PROJECTED RELEASES

http://www.scout.com/player/137790-joel-stave?s=63&year=2016

Has arm strength but isn’t consistently accurate enough yet. Worth bringing back on the practice squad, however.

http://www.scout.com/player/76203-brad-sorensen?s=127&year=2016

Released on Tuesday morning and brought back after the injury to Bridgewater, he was likely just a preseason finale fill-in.

http://www.scout.com/player/208644-c-j-ham?s=63&year=2016

Worth developing on the practice squad as a between-the-tackles runner.

http://www.scout.com/player/208555-jhurell-pressley?s=63&year=2016

A quick back that many were high on during the offseason, he showed what he is capable of in the preseason finale. Another back worthy of practice squad.

http://www.scout.com/player/138071-blake-renaud?s=63&year=2016

Was on the practice squad last year and might have a chance at that again this year, depending on the team’s tolerance for keeping him versus developing depth at other positions.

http://www.scout.com/player/208218-moritz-b-hringer?s=63&year=2016

Didn’t get a chance to show anything in preseason games until the finale and then wasn’t targeted. Why? Because he didn’t show in practice that he is up to speed and reliable catching the ball. His size and speed are worth keeping around on the practice squad, but he’s not ready for the NFL game yet.

http://www.scout.com/player/131838-isaac-fruechte?s=63&year=2016

Might be one of the fastest receivers on the team and was one the practice squad last year. He’s ahead of Bohringer when it comes to reliability, but his spot on the practice squad this year will come down to the number of receivers they are willing to keep and if they still believe Bohringer eventually has a chance.

http://www.scout.com/player/136393-kyle-carter?s=63&year=2016

Didn’t do enough in the offseason or preseason to stand out, and the Vikings are pretty deep at tight end.

http://www.scout.com/player/136904-willie-beavers?s=63&year=2016

He still looks raw. Clearly, the Vikings saw the possibilities in him to draft him in the fourth round. The question is: Do they have enough confidence that he could actually play if needed? If he is released and clear waivers, an easy call-back for the practice squad.

http://www.scout.com/player/105523-jeremiah-sirles?s=63&year=2016

He could be in a battle with Bykowski and Beavers for the final spot on the offensive line.

http://www.scout.com/player/127286-isame-faciane?s=63&year=2016

Still making the transition from defensive to offensive line, but offers possibilities on the practice squad.

http://www.scout.com/player/67962-kenrick-ellis?s=63&year=2016

Became a reserve contributor last year after injuries on the defensive line, but likely to be let go with Joseph and Stephen back to health.

http://www.scout.com/player/187710-zach-moore?s=63&year=2016

Has improved since joining the Vikings last year, but depth on the defensive line – and lack of depth at other positions – could mean Moore is released.

http://www.scout.com/player/142752-stephen-weatherly?s=63&year=2016

Shows some promise but is raw, meaning he is a good candidate for the practice squad.

http://www.scout.com/player/165736-toby-johnson?s=63&year=2016

A load at defensive tackle, he shows a lot to like. He should be a practice squad guy that could be called up if injuries force the issue.

http://www.scout.com/player/142005-denzell-perine?s=63&year=2016

Was mostly a special teams guy that didn’t have much of an opportunity to show his skills in the preseason.

http://www.scout.com/player/138897-travis-raciti?s=63&year=2016

Didn’t have the chance to show much in the preseason.

http://www.scout.com/player/141712-jake-ganus?s=63&year=2016

He has the explosiveness that makes him tantalizing for development on the practice squad, but needs more time on task at the position.

http://www.scout.com/player/137690-kentrell-brothers?s=63&year=2016

Was a tackling machine in college, but his lack of size (listed generously at 6-foot-1) doesn’t translate great to what the Vikings like in their linebackers. A strong preseason finale could put him in competition with Cole for the final linebacker spot, but Cole is more experienced.

http://www.scout.com/player/97640-brandon-watts?s=63&year=2016

Between injuries and depth at the position, he never found a rhythm or role in the offseason and training camp.

http://www.scout.com/player/125024-jabari-price?s=63&year=2016

Supremely confident, Price isn’t a lock to make the roster. The Vikings have a lot of young talent in the defensive backfield and it will be a numbers game at other positions that aren’t so deep. Either way, he should find work in the NFL and could be trade bait for the Vikings if they can find a taker.

http://www.scout.com/player/140744-anthony-harris?s=63&year=2016

Did a good job filling in during emergency times in the defensive backfield last year but injuries have derailed his preseason. We like his talent, but his roster spot is precarious.

http://www.scout.com/player/138099-tre-roberson?s=63&year=2016

After making the switch from quarterback in college, Roberson has shown well this preseason, meaning a return to the practice squad is a good possibility.

 

RESERVE

http://www.scout.com/player/124463-teddy-bridgewater?s=63&year=2016

Placed on injured reserve

http://www.scout.com/player/83389-mike-harris?s=63&year=2016

Placed on the non-football illness list.

http://www.scout.com/player/132937-scott-crichton?s=63&year=2016

Reverted to injured reserve after he was waived/injured.

http://www.scout.com/player/111086-antone-exum?s=63&year=2016

Reverted to injured reserve after he was waived/injured.

 

ALREADY RELEASED

http://www.scout.com/player/141395-marken-michel?s=63&year=2016

http://www.scout.com/player/122466-terrell-sinkfield?s=63&year=2016

http://www.scout.com/player/103505-troy-stoudermire?s=63&year=2016

http://www.scout.com/player/199594-brian-leonhardt?s=63&year=2016

http://www.scout.com/player/16992-john-sullivan?s=63&year=2016

http://www.scout.com/player/110971-austin-shepherd?s=63&year=2016

http://www.scout.com/player/132184-sean-hickey?s=63&year=2016

http://www.scout.com/player/140685-theiren-cockran?s=63&year=2016

http://www.scout.com/player/173444-claudell-louis?s=63&year=2016

http://www.scout.com/player/140827-terrance-plummer?s=63&year=2016

http://www.scout.com/player/101905-melvin-white?s=63&year=2016


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