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Here is part two of three of our Vikings roster strategy pieces. We saw flaws with the strategy of picking as much experience as possible with very few exceptions. Now, this is a strategy based around picking as much youth as possible and cutting away the “extra fat” of older players.

Quarterback: 2

Starter-Kirk Cousins

Backup- Nate Stanley

Practice Squad- Jake Browning

Cut- Sean Mannion

Again, Kirk is the starter no matter what, but this strategy gives the backup nod to late rounder and former Iowa Hawkeye Nate Stanley. Stanley has started to grow on me as I watch more of his tape. I like him a lot more than Sean Mannion, who got cut in this strategy, but I still think he has a low ceiling of career backup and has a lot of work to do.

It’s tough because I don’t see Jake Browning as a better option long-term, but this strategy completely ignores the Vikings strategy the past few seasons of keeping a guy who knows the system around to help coach Kirk. Browning, though not as experienced as Mannion, at least has a year learning the system and would be better in that regard than Stanley who should still be spending his time on the bench learning himself.

Running Back:4

Starter- Alexander Mattison

Backups- Mike Boone, Tony Brooks-James

Fullback- CJ Ham

Cut- Ameer Abdullah, Jake Bargas

Trade- Dalvin Cook

Part of that cutting of the fat in this case would be moving star running back Dalvin Cook for draft picks. Now, I don’t think the team wants this and I certainly don’t want it. Cook brings so much to the table and fits the Vikings offense so perfectly. So, despite his talent and ability, Mattison would be a pretty harsh step down.

After Mattison, you would then be relying on Mike Boone, who was pretty boom or bust in week 17 of last season, and Tony Brooks-James. Brooks-James only has eight NFL rushes and seven rushing yards. Not a lot of confidence going to those two over Mattison and veteran receiving back Ameer Abdullah.

CJ Ham is still getting the nod at fullback over rookie Jake Bargas.

Wide Receiver:6

Starters- Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson

Backups- Olabisi Johnson, K.J. Osborn, Dillon Mitchell, Quartney Davis

Practice Squad- Davion Davis, Dan Chisena

Cut- Bralon Addison, Alexander Hollins, Chad Beebe, Tajae Sharpe

This is exactly how I would set the wide receiver group up, if I was playing Madden. Adam Thielen is the obvious number one and it makes sense to use your number one overall pick as a starter. However, I’m not fully sure about cutting recently brought in Tajae Sharpe and Chad Beebe. Of course, that’s assuming Beebe stays healthy. 

Still, you’re rolling with a distinct lack of much experience outside of Thielen and Olabisi Johnson. I would be excited for Osborn, Mitchell, and Davis to all fight for the fourth wide receiver spot and return duties. It would be possible to keep this same strategy in place and give Davion Davis Quartney Davis’ spot, but that’s down to personal preference.

Either way, the Vikings would want to keep Dan Chisena’s athleticism in play so the practice squad makes sense as he sharpens up his receiver skills. Moving on from journeyman Bralon Addison and Alexander Hollins makes sense for this strategy, although I think Hollins could replace either of the Davises or vice versa.

Tight End:3

Starters- Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr

Backups- Brandon Dillon

Cut- Nakia Griffin-Stewart, Tyler Conklin

The only thing that changes here is keeping Brandon over Tyler Conklin. Conklin is one year older thing both Dillon and Nakia Griffen-Stewart, but the Vikings keep Dillon in this case as he has an extra year of experience over the UDFA.

Offensive Tackle:4

Starters- Ezra Cleveland(L), Brian O’Neill (R)

Backups- Oli Udoh, Rashod Hill

Practice Squad- Blake Brandel

Cut- Brady Aiello, Riley Reiff

This is a big shake-up. First, Ezra Cleveland lands the most important starting job on the offensive line despite never playing a down in the NFL after the Vikings fully move on from Riley Reiff. Cutting or trading Reiff does save somewhere in the neighborhood of $8-million. 

Brian O’Neill holds his starting spot regardless. Oli Udoh sits in the wings ready to step up for either tackle and veteran Rashod Hill kind of captains the whole unit. If this strategy was applied, Hill would have the most experience of any rostered offensive lineman.

Blake Brandel gets the practice squad treatment to figure out whether he is a tackle or guard in the long-term while Brady Aiello gets shown the door, but kept in touch with if need arrises.

Offensive Guard:4

Starters- Pat Elflien (L), Dru Samia (R)

Backups- Aviante Collins, Kyle Hinton

Practice Squad- Tyler Higby

Cut- Dakota Dozier

Okay, this still isn’t a great configuration for the guard position. Pat Elflien unfortunately still has his starting spot, but Dru Samia does get to slide up to the right guard position to prove himself. Dakota Dozier gets the boot and saves the team a tiny amount of cap money. 

Aviante Collins gets to stick around as the veteran backup to both the guard and tackle position, should the need arise. The Vikings last pick in the 2020, Kyle Hinton, gets a roster spot while undrafted free agent Tyler Higby gets stashed away on the practice squad.

Center:2

Starter- Garrett Bradbury

Backup- Jake Lacina

Cut- Brett Jones

Garrett Bradbury remains the starting center, but in a surprise move the Vikings keep division II rookie Jake Lacina over veteran Brett Jones. This doesn’t make sense for a couple reasons. First, Lacina isn’t for sure a center at the next level. He’s been projected most often as a guard from what I’ve seen. Second, you’re cutting a lot of experience and putting a lot of faith in a guy making the direct jump from division II to the highest professional level.

Defensive End:5

Starters- Danielle Hunter (L), Ifeadi Odenigbo (R)

Backups- Anthony Zettel, Kenny Willekes, D.J. Wonnum

Practice Squad- Stacy Keely

Cut- Eddie Yarbrough

This is actually the defensive end configuration that I most want to see. Danielle Hunter and Ifeadi Odenigbo are without question the starters. However, I’d love to see Zettel used as a rotational piece to help with the run game.

We also get to see rookie D.J. Wonnum with a bigger role after the cutting of Eddie Yarbrough with Kenny Willekes bringing up the rear as an energy rotational player. Stacy Keely gets to hang around on the practice squad and possibly slide up for Willekes.

Defensive Tackle:5

Starters- Michael Pierce, Armon Watts

Backups- David Moa,Hercules Mata’afa, James Lynch

Cut- Jalyn Holmes, Jaleel Johnson, Shamar Stephen

The defensive tackle rotation in this strategy is both good and bad. Michael Pierce is obviously the starting replacement for Linval Joseph. Armon Watts flashed last season and gets Shamar Stephen’s vacated spot, but rotates heavily with Hercules Mata’afa and rookie James Lynch. Undrafted free agent David Moa gets to ride the end of the bench.

However, I hate the idea of cutting Holmes and Johnson. Maybe it’s naive, but I still have faith that at least one of them will become a solid player. I am okay with moving on from Stephen who was absolutely dreadful last season despite starting the entire season.

Linebacker-6

Starters- Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Eric Wilson

Backups- Blake Lynch, Jordan Fehr, Troy Dye

Cut- DeMarquis Gates, Ben Gedeon, Cam Smith

Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks are obviously staying put. After that, Eric Wilson gets to start after being a very solid backup the last few seasons and we see the departure of Ben Gedeon who has been just okay since joining the team.

Troy Dye is the first option of the bench while Lynch and Fehr fight it out for opportunities on special teams. XFL star DeMarquis Gates and second year man Cam Smith get cut alongside Gedeon. Neither of them are undeserving of a spot, but they are casualties of the strategy with the Vikings picking up so many linebackers.

Cornerback-6

Starters- Mike Hughes, Holton Hill, Jeff Gladney

Backups- Cameron Dantzler, Harrison Hand, Kris Boyd

Practice Squad- Nate Meadors, Nevelle Clarke

Cut- Marcus Sayles, Mark Fields

This is another position group that I agree with the lineup. Mike Hughes and Holton Hill should be the top two corners. Gladney should get to be the third guy with Dantzler, Boyd, and Hand all competing for the fourth spot. Nate Meadors and Nevelle Clarke get to hang out on the practice squad while Marcus Sayles and Mark Fields are both shown the door.

Safety-3

Starters- Harrison Smith, Anthony Harris

Backups- Josh Metellus

Practice Squad- Myles Dorn, Brian Cole II

Cut- Kemon Hall

The best safety duo in the NFL stays together, hopefully longer than just this season, while the Vikings keep Josh Metellus on the active roster for three safety situations. Undrafted free agent Myles Dorn joins seventh rounder Brian Cole II on the practice squad. Kemon Hall gets the boot after his short time in Minnesota.

Special Teams-3

Starters-Dan Bailey (P), Britton Colquitt (P), Austin Cutting (LS)

This group won’t change for any of these plans and that feels so great. As solid a snap, spot, kick trio as the Vikings have had in a long time.

Conclusion-

There are a lot more position groups that I agree with in this strategy. I love using more and more youth as depth and on defense. However, I really don’t think it’s a good idea to force Cleveland into starting at left tackle. Also, I suggested a move from Dalvin Cook which would be terrible, assuming of course that he actually plays if he stays. I also don’t like cutting a ton of experienced backups like Brett Jones, Tajae Sharpe, or even Chad Beebe where the only options are complete question marks.

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Kjocon
Kirby O'Connor is a graduate of Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, where he studied Electronic Publishing and minored in Art. Kirby is a lifelong, die-hard Vikings fan thanks to his father. You can find him on Twitter @kjocon14.
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