Here is the third and final part of our Vikings roster strategy pieces. I’m calling this one “Goldilocks.’”
Backup- Nate Stanley
Practice Squad- Jake Browning
Cut- Sean Mannion
This is the same as my youth over experience roster configuration. Despite how much I’ve dunked on Nate Stanley, I really think he is the best backup quarterback on the roster. Sean Mannion is awful and has zero upside. I know that he has what the team wants in that he’s great at being a player/coach, but having zero backup plan can really screw you if you’re having a good season and your starter gets hurt.
Jake Browning has a year over Stanley and might have the advantage in understanding the system, but Stanley has better physical traits and has a good arm on him. Browning has troubles pushing the ball downfield and doesn’t bring enough in other areas to justify getting the backup job. He can stick around on the practice squad just in case though.
Starter- Dalvin Cook
Backups- Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah
Fullback- CJ Ham
Cut- Jake Bargas, Tony Brooks-James
Man, the Vikings really need to get Dalvin Cook long term, assuming of course that the price is not too crazy. Alexander Mattison isn’t at the same level as Cook. Most importantly though, having Cook and Mattison gives you an extremely potent one-two punch. That punch is one of the best in the NFL.
However, if Mattison is the starter, you have Mike Boone, who has yet to prove himself fully, and Ameer Abdullah, who is an excellent pass catching back, but shouldn’t be relied upon as a full time option. So, sign Cook, keep him healthy with a heavy dose of Mattison, and keep Boone/Abdullah off the field as much as possible.
CJ Ham is obviously the starting fullback for the foreseeable future. The Vikings did just throw a 4-year, $12 million contract at him. Sorry Jake Bargas, maybe you can try to stay at tight end at the next level?
Starters- Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson
Backups- Olabisi Johnson, K.J. Osborn, Quartney Davis,Tajae Sharpe
Practice Squad- Dan Chisena, Dillon Mitchell
Cut- Bralon Addison, Alexander Hollins, Chad Beebe, Davion Davis
The only things that I did here that might be controversial are that I cut everybody’s favorite Chad Beebe and kept Tajae Sharpe. I don’t think either of these things are a given. When healthy, Beebe has flashed and Sharpe has a ton of work ahead of him, more on that in another article. Still, I think with Beebe’s injury history, and the position’s lack of experience, outside of Adam Thielen, I would want to keep Sharpe around just in case.
Keeping speedster Dan Chisena on the practice squad makes a ton of sense to me. He’s got speed and size, now he just needs a ton of polish. I think Dillon Mitchell also has a ton of potential, but teams aren’t likely to snatch him up.
Starters- Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr
Backups- Tyler Conklin
Cut- Nakia Griffin-Stewart, Brandon Dillon
This is the same group as last season. Neither Nakia Griffin-Stewart or Brandon Dillon bring enough to warrant pushing Tyler Conklin or a practice squad spot. Hopefully Irv Smith grows a ton going into year two and Kubiak’s two tight end sets are even more effective.
Starters- Riley Reiff (L), Brian O’Neill (R)
Backups- Oli Udoh, Ezra Cleveland
Practice Squad- Blake Brandel
Cut- Brady Aiello, Rashod Hill,
The starters stay the same, at least to start the season. Ezra Cleveland will likely need time to learn behind Reiff. However, he’s probably going to get his chance beit from an injury or blowout. He could pull a Brian O’Neill and be ready to play right away.
Oli Udoh gets to stick around, and might need to get some looks at guard. He’s got a lot of potential and he has the size to slide inside. The Vikings, (big) might, have the two tackle positions handled for the foreseeable future with O’Neill and Cleveland and that would mean that Udoh needs a spot to play. So, slide him into guard.
I cut Rashod Hill, and undrafted free agent Brady Aiello, which is somewhat sad as Hill has been a solid backup and grown a lot since he was snagged off of Jacksonville’s practice squad. However, he’s not a high ceiling guy, in fact he’s probably hit his ceiling. With a group that has a ton of potential, it’s time to move on from decent backups and hope to hit on a diamond in the rough.
Starters- Pat Elflien (L), Dru Samia (R)
Backups- Aviante Collins, Dakota Dozier
Practice Squad- Kyle Hinton
Cut- Tyler Higby
Now, I just said that you should cut backups with no upside, and now I’m about to contradict it. Elflien and Samia get the starting jobs and neither of them are that secure in those spots. The Vikings need a backup plan that they know is going to be stable.
So, that means keeping Aviante Collins and Dakota Dozier. Dozier was okay in spurts last year and Collins has position flexibility in that he can play both guard and tackle. I know, it’s not fun or exciting, but I feel like at least part of that is on Rick Spielman for not going out and getting better options in either free agency or the draft.
Kyle Hinton gets to stay on the practice squad and UDFA Tyler Higby gets the boot immediately. Now, I alluded to it before, but we might see only three “guards” and have Udoh and Cleveland be ready to backup their respective sides on the interior as well as the exterior. It’s really anyone’s guess at this point.
Starter- Garrett Bradbury
Backup- Brett Jones
Cut- Jake Lacina
Jake Lacina is going to be a great story for Training camp. However, he is at a position that the Vikings only carry two of, and usually only activate one at a time. Now, Lacina could compete at guard, but we’re going to assume that he sticks at center and can’t push Brett Jones.
Jones is a very solid backup and can play guard in a pinch. That keeps him there in case “our guy” Garrett Bradbury needs a break.
Starters- Danielle Hunter (L), Ifeadi Odenigbo (R)
Backups- Anthony Zettel, Kenny Willekes, D.J. Wonnum
Practice Squad- Stacy Keely
Cut- Eddie Yarbrough
I talked about this in my last article, but this is the configuration I want. Cut Eddie Yarbrough, who I don’t think has a very high ceiling, and use a heavy rotation of Zettel and Wonnum. Throw Willekes in there occasionally to spice things up.
Starters- Michael Pierce, Armon Watts
Backups- Jaleel Johnson, Hercules Mata’afa, James Lynch
Cut- David Moa, Jalyn Holmes, Shamar Stephen
Michael Pierce is the best the team could do at their budget to replace Linval Joseph and will obviously be a starter. Now, Shamar Stephen was brought back last season to fill the spot next to Linval, and was paid quite handsomely for it. However, he was completely terrible at rushing the passer and only slightly better against the run.
That means the Vikings need a new strategy next to pierce. So, give Watts a chance to start, keep Jaleel Johnson around to stuff the run, and use Hercules Mata’afa and James Lynch when you don’t want to have Watts rush the passer.
Starters- Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Eric Wilson
Backups- Troy Dye, Ben Gedeon, Blake Lynch,
Cut- DeMarquis Gates, Jordan Fehr, Cam Smith
Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks stay as one of the best tandems in the NFL, if nothing else because Kendricks is just that good. Eric Wilson and Ben Gedeon get to rotate, with Wilson starting, at the other spot.
After that, the Vikings should move forward with the hyper athletic Troy Dye and Blake Lynch. Both of those guys could play either linebacker or safety and that might be important with Harrison Smith entering the back nine of his career. Neither DeMarquis Gates, Jordan Fehr, or Cam Smith bring enough to keep around, but if the Vikings end up with an extra practice squad spot, Lynch could find his way there and Cam Smith could get his spot on the active roster.
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 the same setup as my last article. I love Jeff Gladney as the slot corner, to start at least, and Mike Hughes/Holton Hill on the outsides. Cam Dantzler and Harrison hand are high ceiling players who need to be kept around Mike Zimmer to develop, and get some chances to face full speed competition. Kris Boyd needs to stay on the active roster for special teams, if nothing else.
Nate Meadors and Nevelle Clarke get to stick on the practice squad as they have the most potential of those left. However, one of those could be cut to allow another practice squad member and it wouldn’t be too much of a hit.
Starters- Harrison Smith, Anthony Harris
Backups- Josh Metellus
Practice Squad- Myles Dorn, Brian Cole II
Cut- Kemon Hall
The safety situation also remains the same. The best duo in the NFL, plus their best draft pick, Josh Metellus. Then rookies Myles Dorn and Brian Cole II get to stay while Kemon Hall gets sent on his way.
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.
I think this balances both the strategy of keeping the most experience and keeping the most youth well. This is both a good strategy for win-now, assuming minimal injury, and preparing for the future with a lot of high upside players getting to learn while backing up the current starters.
Now, I can see why it’s so tough to make these decisions. These are real humans with real lives. Cutting them makes it very tough to get another shot, for most players at least. It’s also hard to balance the numbers. If the NFL goes with an expanded practice squad, it would help the Vikings immensely as they have a ton of rookies and second year guys who you want to keep around for their potential.
I’m just sad we don’t get to debate Laquon Treadwell this season.