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Active roster (6): Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Chad Beebe, Bisi Johnson, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, K.J Osborn
Practice squad (2): Blake Proehl, Whop Philyor
Cut: Myron Mitchell, Dan Chisena
Receiver is always a tough position to project in these exercises. As a case in point, the Vikings have kept a different number of WRs on the initial roster in each of the last four years: seven last year, four in 2019, five in 2018, and six in 2017. So they could go in a number of directions here, but six feels like a safe number this year. After the two locks, I think Beebe and Bisi are relatively safe because of their experience and their ability to give you capable play as depth options. Then you’ve got six young guys fighting for spots, and while I know I’m playing it safe, I’ll take the two recent fifth-round picks over all of the undrafted players. Both Smith-Marsette and Osborn are helped by their potential on special teams. Osborn was disappointing as a rookie, so don’t be shocked if I’ve got someone like Proehl — who received the most guaranteed money of any Vikings 2021 UDFA — making it over him the next time I do this.
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At the very least, I think Proehl is a practice squad guy. He had some nice moments in offseason practices. Chisena’s speed gives him a chance to crack the roster again, but he did more harm than good on special teams as a rookie and I think that experiment ends this year.
Update: the Vikings have signed veteran WR Dede Westbrook, which pushes K.J. Osborn off of the roster in my projections.
Active roster (3): Irv Smith Jr., Tyler Conklin, Brandon Dillon
Practice squad (2): Zach Davidson, Shane Zylstra
Although it feels strange to not write Kyle Rudolph’s name anywhere in this section, the door is now open for Smith and Conklin to have big years. I was tempted to go somewhat bold and take Davidson or Zylstra over Dillon, but I couldn’t quite pull the trigger. Why? Because of the importance of blocking. Davidson and Zylstra have intriguing potential as receivers, but both are a bit thin to be considered all-around tight ends right now. Dillon, at 250 pounds, gives the Vikings someone who can hold up as a blocker in ultra-heavy packages or for a handful of snaps if one of the top two gets banged up. With that said, this will be a legitimate competition in camp. I’ve got all five sticking around in some capacity due to their collective impressive play in OTAs and the position’s importance in this offense.
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Active roster (8): Brian O’Neill, Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, Christian Darrisaw, Rashod Hill, Wyatt Davis, Mason Cole, Oli Udoh
Practice squad (3): Dru Samia, Kyle Hinton, Evin Ksiezarczyk
Cut: Blake Brandel, Zack Bailey, Dakota Dozier, Cohl Cabral
The Vikings’ much-maligned offensive line has a chance to take some legitimate strides forward this year, so it’ll be fascinating to see how that unit looks in camp. There are three locked-in starters: Cleveland at left guard, Bradbury at center, and O’Neill at right tackle. That leaves the two rookies — Darrisaw at left tackle and Davis at right guard — fighting for starting jobs against uninspiring but experienced players at their respective positions. As was the case earlier this offseason, I imagine the rookies will start out on the second team and have to earn their way into the top line over the course of camp.
I fully expect Darrisaw to live up to his first-round status and beat out Hill, but it’s not quite a lock as Hill has improved steadily since arriving in Minnesota five years ago. Likewise, Davis should be able to start right away considering the lack of talent in front of him, although you never know when it comes to the Vikings and guards. We’re talking about a team that willingly started Dakota Dozier for 16 games a year ago. I’ve got the two rookies winning those jobs with Hill, Cole, and Udoh as the primary backups (yes, I’m aware it’s probably foolish to think they’ll actually cut Dozier). The Vikings usually keep nine or ten OL, but when you include three QBs and five RBs you’ve got to make sacrifices somewhere. Former tryout player Ksiezarczyk making the PS is just a hunch.
Active roster (10): Danielle Hunter, Dalvin Tomlinson, Michael Pierce, Stephen Weatherly, Sheldon Richardson, D.J. Wonnum, Patrick Jones II, Janarius Robinson, Armon Watts, Hercules Mata’afa
Practice squad (3): Jaylen Twyman, Kenny Willekes, Jordan Brailford
Cut: Jalyn Holmes, James Lynch, Jordon Scott, Zeandae Johnson
This is a loaded group headed by the big four of Hunter, Tomlinson, Pierce, and Richardson. However, the second defensive end spot is still a bit of a concern despite the presence of Weatherly and several interesting young players. If the Vikings are going to add another free agent, Justin Houston could make a huge difference. I’ve got both Jones and Robinson making it as rookies, with Mata’afa beating out Holmes and others as a hybrid DE/DT. I’ve also got Watts making the team over Twyman and Lynch, but he’ll need to have a solid camp to make sure that happens. Lastly, I’m curious to see if Willekes can stand out this year after missing all of his rookie season to injury.
Update: Twyman was waived with a non-football injury designation and will revert to the Vikings’ Reserve/NFI list. That would allow the team to keep Lynch on the practice squad in my projections.
Active roster (5): Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Nick Vigil, Chazz Surratt, Troy Dye
Practice squad (2): Cameron Smith, Christian Elliss
Cut: Ryan Connelly, Tuf Borland, Blake Lynch
I think Surratt — the Vikings’ third pick in this year’s draft — is fairly safe, which leaves just two spots for seven others if they keep their usual five LBs. Vigil is the most experienced, with 39 career starts, so he probably has a spot too. That LB5 job likely comes down to Dye and Smith. One was underwhelming as a rookie fourth-round pick last year and the other missed the entire season with a scary heart condition. It would be a great story for Smith to bounce back and make the team, but it’s hard for me to project that right now. I’ll go with Dye getting another shot to prove himself. Don’t count out Elliss, who got a bunch of guaranteed money to sign as a UDFA and made some plays in offseason practices.