The preseason is over, and next up is what we have all been waiting for: the regular season. The road to the Super Bowl is just around the corner, and each team’s roster is their stepping stone. In honor of the 53-man roster cutdown deadline being Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, here is my Minnesota Vikings 53-man roster prediction.
Kirk Cousins, Kellen Mond
Kirk Cousins is our undisputed QB1. Assuming our offensive line improves like it is supposed to, I think Cousins is due for his best season yet. He has been incredibly efficient and trustworthy in Minnesota thus far, and I only see that continuing.
For starters, Mond has not looked great this preseason. However, Jake Browning has done VERY little to earn a roster spot in-game action and Nate Stanley has not even seen any action. If Mond was not a third-round pick, there might be a different story here. However, he is still a high-upside player and will be considered the future until proven otherwise.
Part of me wants to predict Browning to make the squad as QB3, due to possible COVID-19 complications down the road. Recent events may have reduced his luck, however, as depth will be needed at other spots.
Running Back (5)
Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Ameer Abdullah, Kene Nwangwu, CJ Ham (FB)
Dalvin Cook is a top-three running back, and he may not be two or three. Not to mention, Mattison gives the Vikings’ backfield one of the top duos in football. Combine that with Abdullah’s versatility and special team’s prowess and you have a heck of a unit.
Nwangwu is the question mark here, being sidelined since early in Week 1 of the preseason with a hyperextended knee. However, he appears on track to play in Week 1, and if fully healthy will be a big boost to our return game.
One of the best fullbacks in the league, Ham has seen his role with the Vikings grow each year. Now entering his fifth year, Ham could help lead the best backfield in football.
Wide Receiver (5)
Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Dede Westbrook, KJ Osborn, Ihmir Smith-Marsette
Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are one of football’s most exciting WR duos. Coming off a historic rookie season, Jefferson will look to take the league into the NFL’s elites with a strong sophomore year. Thielen is still among the league’s best red-zone threats with his savvy route running.
Next up is what could make or break the Vikings as a top-five offense. Most will point towards the offensive line, but serviceable depth at skill positions goes so far. Dede Westbrook is a proven weapon from the slot and is a great fit in Minnesota’s scheme.
As you can see, I am predicting the end of the Chad Beebe experiment. It was fun while it lasted, but I think it is more than ready to end. Osborn and ISM offer much more in the way of offensive potential as well as being younger.
Tight End (4)
Irv Smith Jr, Tyler Conklin, Zach Davidson, Brandon Dillon
After the news about Irv Smith missing the start of the season due to a minor meniscus injury, I fully believe Minnesota to keep four tight ends to start the year. They have employed this tactic before, and with the amount of two-tight end sets they use, it is really a no-brainer.
Missing Irv to start the season definitely hurts, but if it means his health for the playoff run, then it is worth it. Tyler Conklin is one of my favorite Vikings and I have long looked forward to his opportunity to break out. This seems to be that chance.
Offensive Line (9)
Tackle (4) – Brian O’Neill, Christian Darrisaw, Rashod Hill, Blake Brandel
Brian O’Neill is one of the best young tackles in football, and hopefully, he will soon have a contract to show that. If Darrisaw can return in good health, I have faith in their ability to hold down our offensive line.
Rashod Hill is a great option as a swing tackle. However, he is certainly and undoubtedly not a starting left tackle. So, if Darrisaw’s health becomes an issue, we could see a breakdown very quickly.
Guard (3) – Ezra Cleveland, Oli Udoh, Wyatt Davis
I think most Vikings fans will be happy with any combination of guards that does not include Dakota Dozier or Dru Samia. While I would not put it past Minnesota to keep them around, I think it is time to cut the cord.
Ezra Cleveland should improve tremendously with a full year at guard under his belt, and Oli Udoh has been a pleasant surprise all offseason. I believed Wyatt Davis would start immediately for the Vikings. However, if Cleveland and Udoh play as solid as they have looked, there may not be a need for Davis too.
Center (2) – Garrett Bradbury, Mason Cole
Bradbury has had an underwhelming start to his career since being drafted in the first round in 2019. However, he has yet to play with a competent group of guards, and that can play a large factor in a center’s development. If Cleveland and Udoh improve their play, he could finally step up.
Defensive Line (10)
Defensive Tackle (5) – Dalvin Tomlinson, Michael Pierce, Sheldon Richardson, Armon Watts, James Lynch
The Vikings went from a starting duo of Shamar Stephen and Jaleel Johnson in 2020 to a unit comprised of Tomlinson and Pierce this year. Expect this to be the driving force behind a much-improved defense in 2021.
Not to mention the depth! Sheldon Richardson may be the best backup DT in the league and offers an interior pass-rushing presence that elevates the whole crew. The Vikings have also been rumored to be exploring a few 3-4 packages that could see Tomlinson, Pierce, and Richardson on the field together. Watch out for fireworks if this happens.
Defensive End (5) – Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, DJ Wonnum, Patrick Jones, Hercules Mata’afa
Danielle Hunter is back and we should all celebrate 2021. He is going to return dominant and help a Vikings pass rush that struggled tremendously without him last season. Not to mention, his old running mate, Everson Griffen is back in Minnesota on a one-year deal. Griffen, in the last preseason game, recorded three pressures and a sack on only four rushes.
DJ Wonnum and Patrick Jones are what makes this group so intriguing. These two have the potential to be the next great pass rushers in Minnesota and have a great opportunity to showcase that this year. In a rotational role with Griffen, Wonnum has a chance to display his great run defense as well.
Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Troy Dye, Nick Vigil, Chazz Surratt
Eric Kendricks is arguably a top-three linebacker in all of football, and he will once again lead this defense. However, his partner in crime is not as sturdy as he is. Anthony Barr is certainly a difference-maker when he is on the field, but reports are that he may miss Week 1 against Cincinnati.
When Nick Vigil was signed in March, I thought he was our for sure LB3 candidate. Then, when Minnesota drafted Chazz Surratt in the third round, I was convinced he could be our third starter at linebacker. However, it may be Troy Dye that emerges as our LB3 after an amazing run during the preseason.
Patrick Peterson, Bashaud Breeland, Cameron Dantzler, Mackensie Alexander, Kris Boyd, Harrison Hand
I love the moves that Minnesota made at corner this offseason. While the loss of Jeff Gladney stings, upgrading with Peterson, Breeland, and Alexander lets me sleep at night. They finally have depth on both the inside and outside, and the development of Dantzler is one of 2021’s most exciting storylines.
To round out the group, we have Allen Robinson’s father, better known as Kris Boyd, who seems to be the ultimate teammate in Minny. Finally, Hand has the versatility to contribute at both corner and safety.
Harrison Smith, Xavier Woods, Camryn Bynum, Myles Dorn
Harrison Smith, fresh off of a 64 million dollar extension, looks primed for a bounce-back year after a somewhat quiet 2020. Part of that is due to the defense crumbling around him, which hopefully is a non-issue this season.
Behind him is free-agent acquisition Xavier Woods, who impressed in training camp. The depth is what concerns me a little. Bynum has shown potential but too often as part of miscommunications during the preseason. He probably makes the squad simply due to a lack of depth. Look for the Vikings to add a name like Will Parks to bolster the group.
Greg Joseph, Britton Colquitt, Andrew DePaola
Greg Joseph replaces Dan Bailey as the starter in Minnesota after winning the job from Riley Patterson. While he was not perfect in the preseason, he did have some impressive kicks and looks to be a more reliable option.
Colquitt is not the most exciting punter in football, but he offers value as a great holder and chemistry. DePaola played in seven games for the Vikings last season and brings continuity to the unit.