2022 Minnesota Vikings 53-Man Roster Projection
Minnesota Vikings players began reporting to training camp on Sunday. Finally, the dog days of summer are behind us. Football season is right around the corner, ready to consume our attention over the next six-and-a-half months.
I become the latest writer at Purple PTSD to try my hand at a 53-man roster projection. I tried to loosely go off of what the Rams did when Kevin O’Connell was the offensive coordinator there. Until he proves that he isn’t Sean McVay 2.0, this is how I will base many projections during camp. And these are simply suggestions, not rooting interests.
Quarterbacks (3): Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion, Kellen Mond
The backup quarterback spot will cause much debate in Minnesota. Mond hopes to improve during his second season in the NFL. As a rookie, Mond flashed at Arrowhead Stadium in the third and final preseason game. If he could put together three similar games this year, he could move up the depth chart.
Love it or hate it, Mannion still has a clear edge to be Kirk’s backup once again in 2022. Kirk has let it be known that he appreciates Mannion’s work and feedback in the classroom and on the sideline. And if Mond doesn’t have a grasp on the playbook, he won’t overtake Mannion. Unfortunately, Mannion is limited as a passer, as he showcased in last year’s penultimate game in Lambeau. Ideally, Kirk won’t miss any time this year, and this discussion is moot.
Running Backs (4): Dalvin Cook, Kene Nwangwu, Ty Chandler, C.J. Ham
The Rams carried four running backs on their roster in 2020 and only three in 2021 heading into the season. I can’t see the Vikings going as far as slimming down to three backs. However, I have a tough time seeing them keeping five.
To me, this becomes a two-man battle between Ham and Alexander Mattison. I’m not a big Mattison fan, and it has to be somewhat telling that the Vikings drafted Chandler in the fifth round of this year’s draft. Now, that doesn’t mean Mattison is the guy the Vikings were looking to replace. But it does tell me that they’re looking at some additional options to the guys they inherited from Mike Zimmer.
The other obvious question is whether or not the team keeps Ham. The seventh-year fullback is among the league’s best, but it’s no secret that the position is becoming more rare in the league. He could become expendable just due to the makeup of the offense.
Wide Receivers (6): Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Bisi Johnson, Jalen Nailor
This could be the most hotly contested competition in camp. Jefferson, Thielen, and Osborn are safe. Smith-Marsette flashed enough talent later in the season to warrant a roster spot. And Johnson appears to be healthy coming off of an ACL injury. Combine this with his good rapport with Kirk, and I think it’s safe to say he makes the team.
During the Zimmer era, the Vikings routinely kept five receivers on roster. But the Rams had six on their final 53-man rosters in 2020 and 2021, leading me to believe we will see at least six. Wilson has experience on his side, but he is 30. I think Nailor has enough potential to get past Wilson and find himself on the roster. This also leaves speedy-yet-erratic gunner Dan Chisena off the roster, and I believe the Vikings can find a more reliable special teamer to replace him as well.
Tight Ends (4): Irv Smith, Jr., Johnny Mundt, Ben Ellefson, Nick Muse
Smith returns from his own knee injury suffered in last year’s final preseason game. Mundt spent the past five seasons with the Rams, and is known more for his blocking than receiving. Those two are locks.
Behind them are question marks. Ellefson was a late addition to the 2021 Vikings following Smith’s injury. Muse is a rookie sixth-round selection from South Carolina who had limited production for the Gamecocks. He battles for the presumed final spot with Zach Davidson, a fifth-round pick in 2021. Davidson spent most of the season on the practice squad. His future is cloudy as there is little tape to go off of from last year to suggest he’s anything more than a fringe player.
Offensive Line (9): Christian Darrisaw, Brian O’Neill, Ezra Cleveland, Jesse Davis, Garrett Bradbury, Chris Reed, Ed Ingram, Blake Brandel, Oli Udoh
I actually feel fairly confident with all of these names making the team. Brandel and Udoh might be the most cuttable out of the lot, but Brandel was solid last year as an extra offensive lineman in heavy packages. Udoh struggled as the team’s starting right guard, but he has position flexibility that is ideal for a backup lineman.
Things get controversial after that, though. The Rams kept nine linemen in 2021 after carrying 10 in 2020. I believe they keep nine here, setting the Vikings up with 26 offensive players heading into the season. The most glaring omission here is second-year guard Wyatt Davis. The 2021 third-round pick was quickly buried on the depth chart last year. Now, he faces competition with Davis, Reed, and Ingram. This doesn’t even include Austin Schlottman, who spent his first four seasons with the Broncos.
Davis faces an uphill battle. He could surprise and outright win the starting right guard spot. I just don’t believe a team who spent resources on three interior offensive linemen in free agency and a second-round pick on a guard feels too strong about Davis’ potential.
Defensive Line (5): Harrison Phillips, Dalvin Tomlinson, Armon Watts, Jonathan Bullard, Esezi Otomewo
The interior of the Vikings defensive line will have some fresh faces regardless of who does or doesn’t make the final roster. Phillips, Tomlinson, and Watts are locks. Bullard has familiarity with the Vikings’ scheme, so he has a pretty good shot to make the roster.
Otomewo spent his college career playing for the Gophers, so he won’t have much of a problem settling into the area. I have him edging out veteran Jullian Taylor here for no reason other than he’s a fifth-round pick so I’d imagine he makes the team.
I initially had Jaylen Twyman making the team. He returns for his second season after being the victim of a drive-by shooting last summer. The former Pittsburgh Panther has potential and was believed to be a steal late in last year’s draft. But I don’t see him making the team over Otomewo, and there are too many other positions that need depth more so than the interior defensive line.
Outside Linebackers (6): Danielle Hunter, Za’Darius Smith, Patrick Jones II, Janarius Robinson, D.J. Wonnum, Luiji Vilain
I feel pretty confident with Jones making the team. Robinson missed last season after suffering an injury during the preseason. But he was a fourth-round pick last year and was viewed as a player with upside. Wonnum isn’t a very popular player among fans, but he does have some production. It just doesn’t match what the tape shows.
Vilain is the first undrafted rookie to make the list. Injuries in college scared teams away from him in the draft, but Vilain has a ton of potential. And speaking of injuries, Hunter and Smith are coming off of their own injuries. They’re locks to make the final roster, but I keep hearing about how formidable Smith can be “if he’s healthy”. This makes me worry about his availability throughout the season, and leads me to believe the Vikings carry six outside ‘backers.
Inside Linebackers (4): Eric Kendricks, Jordan Hicks, Brian Asamoah, Blake Lynch
The first three names here are locks. Asamoah was the Vikings’ third-round pick this year and possesses a rare combination of size and speed. How he’s used exactly is yet to be determined, but count him as a ‘tweener, unofficially taking up a safety spot as well.
The Rams kept three inside linebackers to begin the 2020 season, but Asamoah is too raw to be the only backup. So to me, the final spot comes down to Lynch and Ryan Connelly. Lynch was a solid third linebacker last season and can man one of the two inside spots if a Kendricks or Hicks has to miss time.
In my opinion, third-year linebacker Troy Dye just doesn’t look like an NFL linebacker. I think his time is up, as is second-year man Chazz Surratt. He’s the second third-round pick from the 2021 class to get cut on my list. The North Carolina player notched zero special teams tackles in nine games as a rookie. I just don’t think there’s room for him or Dye to possibly realize their potential.
Cornerbacks (5): Patrick Peterson, Cam Dantzler, Chandon Sullivan, Andrew Booth, Jr., Akayleb Evans
The Rams entered 2021 with four cornerbacks on their roster, but I just can’t envision the Vikings going that light with the amount of question marks they have at the position. Four of these five names are locks, as Booth and Evans were priority draft picks. However, Sullivan comes over from Green Bay. I still think it’s a pretty safe bet that he makes the team. But the players behind him might not have what it takes to steal the job.
Kris Boyd is left off of my list. He could make the team due to his play on special teams, but I’ve given up hope on him becoming a consistent cornerback. Nate Hairston had experience playing in Ed Donatell’s 3-4 scheme in Denver and could possibly squeeze himself onto the roster. But we can only carry 53, and if we’re cutting decent players because we have other decent players, then I believe that’s a good problem to have.
Safeties (4): Harrison Smith, Lewis Cine, Camryn Bynum, Josh Metellus
Smith and Cine are obvious locks. Bynum had an impressive rookie season and is pretty much a lock as well. He also offers position flexibility to play cornerback, easing the burden of carrying five corners.
Metellus has been good enough on special teams to keep around. How well he projects as an every-down safety is another question, but if he has to play, then something has gone wrong.
Specialists (3): Kicker Greg Joseph, punter Jordan Berry, long-snapper Andrew DePaola
Joseph returns and beat out rookie Gabe Brkic during mini-camp. Berry had a solid season with the Vikings last year, but he does enter camp with some competition in undrafted rookie Ryan Wright. The Tulane product stands 6’3″ and weighs 245 pounds yet ran an impressive 4.6- forty at his pro day. Who knows if he can punt, but the dude is physically impressive. He also is listed as No. 66 on the Vikings’ website, and I’m rooting for him to make the team. I just don’t know if it will happen or not.