Minnesota Vikings 53-Man Roster Projections: A Pre-Training Camp Look at the Vikings’ Roster

Training camp is about to begin for the Minnesota Vikings. Before practices start, here's a look at our Vikings' 53-man roster projections.

The Minnesota Vikings begin training camp practices on Wednesday, July 26, with fans available to watch practices starting on Saturday, July 29. The next four weeks will allow the Vikings to figure out their best fits for the team by the time Aug. 29, cutdown day, arrives.

Projecting a Vikings 53-man roster before any of that happens is a bit of a fool’s errand, but it does give us an idea of how the team has communicated its priorities and which players might have the best — or worst — chance of making a difference.

Minnesota Vikings 53-Man Roster Projection: Offense

Quarterbacks (3)

  • Kirk Cousins
  • Nick Mullens
  • Jaren Hall

Because of the implementation of the new third quarterback rule, there should be some expectation among teams that three quarterbacks will be rostered on the 53-man squad. This essentially gives them an extra “active” player, even though that player is not technically on the active list until he plays.

Before, teams would often carry their third quarterback on their practice squad and elevate him on gameday if need be.

Gameday elevations are not eligible for the third quarterback rule, so these kinds of moves would need to be made — onto the 53-man squad, which means cutting a player — before gameday. Instead of all of that, teams might simply opt to have their third quarterback make the 53-man roster from the beginning.

For now, we project fifth-round rookie Jaren Hall to sit behind the much more experienced Nick Mullens, who not only has time in the system but has played well in relief for other organizations.

Out: None

Wide Receivers (5)

  • Justin Jefferson
  • Jordan Addison
  • K.J. Osborn
  • Jalen Nailor
  • Brandon Powell

The Vikings could justify keeping six receivers on the roster, especially given the special teams needs they could have, but given the demands elsewhere on the roster, it made sense in this projection to keep five. Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison are locks, of course, and K.J. Osborn is nearly a lock.

After that, Jalen Nailor likely has the best chance of making the roster — not only because he is on the verge of potentially breaking out but because the Vikings gave him the first-team role in spring practices when Addison and Jefferson couldn’t participate.

Brandon Powell was selected to make the roster ahead of Jalen Reagor and others because of his versatile role as a special-teamer and the fact that Reagor is unreliable as a receiver. Reagor also primarily provides special teams value as a returner, while Powell can play multiple roles on the unit.

Out: Jalen Reagor, Trishton Jackson, Blake Proehl, Thayer Thomas, Lucky Jackson, Malik Knowles, Cephus Johnson III, Garett Maag

Tight Ends (4)

  • T.J. Hockenson
  • Josh Oliver
  • Johnny Mundt
  • Nick Muse

The Vikings will be deploying a second tight end much more often in their offense and should therefore carry more than three on the roster. It is possible that they shunt their depth at the position to the practice squad, but for now, we’ll keep them on the roster.

The retirement of Ben Ellefson forces their hand a little bit and gives Nick Muse a bit more of an opportunity. Given that Muse is a better receiver while Mundt has a bit more blocking capability, there is a bit of depth for both tight end positions in this offense.

Out: Ben Sims

Running Backs (5)

  • Alexander Mattison
  • C.J. Ham
  • Ty Chandler
  • Kene Nwangwu
  • DeWayne McBride

Without Dalvin Cook on the roster, it seems likely that the Vikings will rely on a committee or something close to it with Alexander Mattison as the lead back. Mattison has earned the trust of the Vikings over the years, and his steady play is an asset when designing a committee.

Without much NFL-level play to evaluate Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu, who both might turn into big-play threats, having Mattison as the steady hand on that group could help. Nwangwu hasn’t shown much on-field play as a running back but will likely make the team either way as a returner.

DeWayne McBride is a difficult player to project, but he gets the nod here because of the committee approach the Vikings may need to take. Additionally, fullback C.J. Ham figures to play a bigger role in the offense this year than he did last year.

Out: Zach Ojile

Offensive Line (9)

  • Christian Darrisaw
  • Ezra Cleveland
  • Garrett Bradbury
  • Ed Ingram
  • Brian O’Neill
  • Blake Brandel
  • Chris Reed
  • Austin Schlottmann
  • Vederian Lowe

We’ve opted to keep nine offensive linemen here instead of 10 because the depth talent is thin, and the Vikings have many more tackles than guards. Later on in the process, they may choose to add a guard and cut a player somewhere else. This does mean saying goodbye to Oli Udoh, who technically has guard experience but is more realistically the third off the bench at tackle.

The Vikings think a lot of Blake Brandel, who was cross-training at guard in the spring, and he figures to once again be the sixth offensive lineman. Chris Reed has guard/center versatility, but Austin Schlottmann is likely the first player at center should they need someone to step up there.

The Vikings hope their starting continuity will be enough to improve the offensive line — a unit that features an elite tackle bookend but questions along the interior.

Out: Oli Udoh, Josh Sokol, Sam Schlueter, Alan Ali, Jacky Chen

Minnesota Vikings 53-Man Roster Projection: Defense

Edge Defender (5)

  • Danielle Hunter
  • Marcus Davenport
  • D.J. Wonnum
  • Pat Jones II
  • Andre Carter II

Pat Jones and D.J. Wonnum are underwhelming depth, but it’s a bit too much to think undrafted free agents like Andre Carter II, who signed this year, or Luiji Vilain from last year’s class can be viable rotational players.

Minnesota Vikings

Still, that weakness opens up the possibility that a fifth edge rusher makes the team. Not only that, Davenport has the ability to kick inside from down to down, so there will be more edge rusher snaps available to distribute.

Out: Luiji Vilain, Benton Whitley, Curtis Weaver

Defensive Interior (5)

  • Harrison Phillips
  • Dean Lowry
  • Khyiris Tonga
  • Esezi Otomewo
  • Jaquelin Roy

It made sense to go a little bit light along the defensive interior because of Davenport’s versatility and the likelihood that the Vikings play in dime and nickel packages more often under defensive coordinator Brian Flores.

That meant saying goodbye to Jonathan Bullard, who performed well in camp last year but was disappointing during the season. The Vikings are banking on Dean Lowry playing better than he did last year and for Khyris Tonga to play about as well as he did in 2022 but more consistently. Both are not necessarily strong bets, so development from raw pass rusher Esezi Otomewo or surprising first-year player Jaquelin Roy may be necessary.

Out: Jonathan Bullard, Ross Blacklock, Sheldon Day, James Lynch, T.J. Smith, Calvin Avery, Junior Aho

Linebacker (4)

  • Brian Asamoah
  • Jordan Hicks
  • Troy Reeder
  • Ivan Pace, Jr.

The Vikings may not deploy that many linebackers throughout the season and so have to be careful to make sure that they have special teams contributors among their backups. Both Troy Reeder and Ivan Pace can contribute there, and Pace provides some subpackage options as a blitzer, too.

In the long run, the Vikings will want a plan to replace Jordan Hicks and could lean on some of their other depth options for that, but those players will have to live on the practice squad for now. Brian Asamoah doesn’t have much experience, and it’s been a while since Hicks was a quality linebacker, so it will be difficult to fully trust this group until we see results on the field.

Out: Troy Dye, William Kwenkeu, Abraham Beauplan, Wilson Huber

Cornerback (5)

  • Byron Murphy
  • Akayleb Evans
  • Mekhi Blackmon
  • Andrew Booth Jr.
  • Kalon Barnes

The Vikings don’t have a lot of strength here, but we’ve decided to keep five instead of six in light of the safety situation — where multiple safeties could fill in the roles of the various cornerback roles in the defense. This is functionally a four-person cornerback room, with Kalon Barnes playing the role of special teams maven as a kickoff coverage and punt gunner. One of the candidates to be the fastest man in football, Barnes’ value on special teams could be enormous.

Byron Murphy was signed to immediately upgrade the room and has nickel/outside versatility. That gave the Vikings flexibility in the draft, and they ultimately used that to select a cornerback that will likely play nickel for most of his career in Mekhi Blackmon.

Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth Jr. are both competing for the starting spot opposite Murphy, and Evans seems to hold a slight lead. Joejuan Williams is likely the next-best candidate for a 53-man role but doesn’t make it here just because of the safety depth.

Out: Joejuan Williams, Tay Gowan, C.J. Coldon Jr., NaJee Thompson, Jaylinn Williams

Safety (5)

  • Harrison Smith
  • Camryn Bynum
  • Lewis Cine
  • Josh Metellus
  • Jay Ward

Camryn Bynum, Jay Ward, and Josh Metellus all have cornerback versatility, especially when it comes to nickel play. They could provide shadow depth at corner but will primarily be used as versatile weapons as the Vikings figure out their various defensive packages, which could include different types of nickel and dime defenses.

The safeties might be the key to any kind of confusion the Vikings want to induce in their opponents, especially given the roles that Harrison Smith has had in the past as an in-the-box strong safety, high-flying free safety, and capable blitzer. This room might end up getting many more snaps than we might have originally expected.

Out: Theo Jackson

Specialists (3)

  • Greg Joseph
  • Ryan Wright
  • Andrew Depaola

Out: Jack Podlesny, Colin Thompson

The Vikings were pretty happy with the performance of their specialists last year, and there’s no reason to think that’s changed. Having their file of specialists updated and handy, however, may be why they brought in Jack Podlesny and Colin Thompson.

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