With the first week of preseason in the books and Minnesota gearing up for a match with Tennessee, some players have seen their stock rise and others have seen it fall. With just two more games until roster cuts, all eyes are on who will dawn the opening day squad for the Vikings come September. As there were a few things we learned from Seattle, which you can read here, the roster and depth chart are becoming a bit clearer. Who will make the 53-man roster? Take a look below as both starters and backups are broken down.
- Starter: Kirk
- Backups: Mullens, Hall
Pretty standard prediction here, but Cousins enters his sixth season as the leader of this offense. With a second year in O’Connell’s system (the first time he’s entered a year two in an offensive scheme since arriving in Minnesota), expect big things from Captain Kirk and this offense. Mullens played well enough to keep his spot as a backup and unless there’s major improvement from Hall, he may be in danger of a cut down. That said, the third QB on roster rule pushed him to stay on this roster.
Running Back (3)
- Starter: Mattison
- Chandler, Nwangwu
Mattison starts and Chandler backs him up and that’s all that is known currently. Many believe Chandler will be the lead back, but my chips are still on Mattison. With Nwangwu not seeing touches as a running back against Seattle, it’s hard to predict if they will look in another direction for a third string back, but McBride and Smith were uninspiring in their Vikings debut. That said, Nwangwu’s elite return ability etches his name as the number three back, but don’t be surprised if the Vikings bring in a new name from another team. Minnesota has kicked the tires a time or two on free agent halfbacks and I believe someone will come in as the RB3 (hoping for an AP return). Nwangwu to IR is also a possibility.
- Starter: Ham
Death, taxes, and CJ Ham at fullback, just as it was meant to be. Ham provides value as both a utility full back and someone who can grind out the tough yards on the ground or through the air. His spot is not in danger of being cut and if he is, riot.
Wide Receiver (6)
- Starters: Jefferson, Osborn
- Backups: Addison, Nailor, Reagor, Harry
The veterans hang onto the top two spots, but the most interesting names come from the backups. First rounder Jordan Addison claims the WR3 position and Nailor will work in as well. That said, Reagor and Harry looked good in their time during the first week of preseason. Can a career redemption be brewing? If they continue the trend in practice and during the next two games, both should dawn purple, and gold come September and have a chance.
Tight End (4)
- Starter: Hockenson
- Backup: Oliver, Mundt, Muse
As Hockenson deals with his contr… Illness, the tight end room is a bit shambley but still viable. Oliver showed why he was worthy of a contract as he pummeled Seahawks LB Rhattigan to the ground in social media highlight fashion and Mundt and Muse should round out this core nicely. Muse is a guy who could be sent down to the practice squad, but given his showing at Seattle and general development, should have a good shot to make the roster.
Offensive Tackles (3)
- Starters: Darrisaw, O’Neill
- Backup: Lowe
As one of the best young tackle tandems is set in stone with Darrisaw and O’Neill, only Lowe makes the opening day roster in this scenario. As mostly a numbers game, Lowe has shown impressive development going into his second year and should be worthy to back up the left side. That said, Brandel and Schlottman could kick out so going with three tackles here makes sense.
Interior Offensive Line (5)
- Starters: Cleveland, Bradbury, Ingram
- Backups: Brandel, Schlottman
Rounding out the offense are the 2022 interior starters in Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, and Ed Ingram. Breaking the fourth wall, truly I do believe Risner will be on this team in the near future and will start at guard, but until then, this is the squad. Alright, back to it… Initially, Sokol was on the list but got trimmed in cut downs. Brandel and Schlottman’s versatility was just too good to lose and there weren’t enough spots to have nine offensive linemen. Side note: Chris Reed’s injury was killer for his projection here.
Outside Linebacker (5)
- Starters: Hunter, Davenport
- Backups: Vilain, Jones II, Carter II
A newly paid Danielle Hunter and Marcus Davenport should take the field against Tennessee this Saturday, and it will be fun to see how the two work in the Brian Flores scheme. As we’ve already seen Vilain exceed in it, expect the same from the starting duo. Jones II and Carter II most likely make the roster on a mix of talent and upside. The one surprise here comes from cutting Wonnum, who may be a roster trim-trade candidate, but Minnesota looks to, in this scenario, get younger and shoot for potential.
Defensive Line (5)
- Starters: Lowry, Phillips, Tonga
- Backups: Roy, Bullard
Another group that may be a bit tougher to predict, the standard five make it through in this scenario. The former Packer Lowry should pair with Phillips to start at the DE positions. To pair with this, the big man Khyiris Tonga takes up the DT position. Roy and Bullard should get snaps as well, but Bullard narrowly avoided being cut this time around. However, his presence and consistency on the line as a seven-year veteran did earn him another campaign in the Twin Cities.
- Starters: Asamoah II, Pace Jr
- Backups: Hicks, Huber
Hot take: Ivan Pace Jr starts week one and the drums are pounding for him. The undrafted rookie has been nothing short of sensational since joining Minnesota and how he fell out of the draft is wild. I, along with other Vikings fans, would not be surprised for Pace to crack the starting lineup and he’s earned the praises of the coaching staff. However, that move pushes Jordan Hicks down to a backup/rotational role. In this scenario, there’s probably discussion of a trade or pay cut, but that remains to be seen. Regardless, undrafted linebacker and Bearcat teammate William Huber also makes the roster as the fourth option, who has done well in camp; that’s right, two Cincinnati Bearcats linebackers.
- Starters: Murphy Jr, Evans
- Backups: Blackmon, Williams, Booth Jr, Thompson
What was a major weakness for the 53-man roster has become a fun group to watch and there’s some talent here. Byron Murphy Jr and Akayleb Evans start but the bout against Seattle showed the coaching staff will use Mehki Blackmon as likely the CB3. Joejuan earns a spot and should rotate in nicely, however Andrew Booth Jr has struggled. Though he will make the roster, his spot is far from secure in terms of playing time. The former Clemson DB needs to clean up quite a bit to be viable as a starter or even depth piece. Thompson rounds out and makes the roster as an undrafted rookie who should be a key special team’s ace.
- Starters: Smith, Bynum
- Backups: Cine, Metellus, Ward
Another fun group to watch, but Minnesota elects to carry five safeties in this scenario. Smith and Bynum continue to start but Cine should be pushing for playing time early and often. As he returns from injury and continues to develop, the hope is he takes over at some point in the season. Metellus and Ward earn backup spots and have solid versatility to play deep or in the slot as a nickel corner.
Special Teams (3)
- Starters: Joseph/Wright
Long Snapper (1)
Nothing changes here. Podlesny loses the kicking competition while DePaola and Wright maintain their jobs, which weren’t in question. Look for maybe Podlesny to make the practice squad.
- DT Lynch
Lynch’s injury is unfortunate but lands him on the IR to look forward to the 2024 season where he can compete for a roster spot with Minnesota.
Practice Squad (15)
- RB McBride
- WR Thomas
- WR Jackson*
- TE Sims
- OT Williams
- OT Udoh*
- iOL Sokol
- DL Smith*
- DL Avery
- OLB Wonnum*
- LB Vallejos*
- LB Beauplan
- CB Williams
- CB Barnes
- S Jackson*
A handful of youngsters head to the practice squad for development and though Minnesota may bring in a QB, this is a solid core that provides some veteran stability and some leadership. DeWayne McBride, Thayer Thomas, and Ben Sims work to develop as young offensive weapons that Kwesi and Co could call up if needed. Udoh stays in Minnesota as one of the six veteran options and is accompanied by TJ Smith, Triston Jackson, DJ Wonnum, newly signed Tanner Vallejos, and Theo Jackson. Though some of these veterans may make it onto active rosters (Wonnum, Jackson), they provide a solid core of talent and experience. Youngsters Jaylin Williams and Kalon Barnes revert to the practice squad as depth corners but have good potential and Avery and Beauplan have good upside too. Those these youngsters may not make the 53-man roster, they do stick around on the practice squad.