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Minnesota Vikings Depth Chart: Kyle Rudolph departure leaves room for Irv Smith Jr.

Coming off a 7-9 season riddled with injuries on defense, the Minnesota Vikings’ depth chart is still full of talent at critical positions.

Minnesota Vikings Depth Chart: Kyle Rudolph departure leaves room for Irv Smith Jr.
Nov 8, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer looks on from the sidelines during the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Despite ending 2020 with a 7-9 record and 3rd in the NFC North, the Minnesota Vikings have the offensive talent to compete for an NFL playoff spot even after the loss of Kyle Rudolph. As we move further into free agency and towards the NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings’ 2021 depth chart still has questions about who will be the Week 1 starters.

Minnesota Vikings Depth Chart

Offense

Quarterback: Kirk Cousins, Jake Browning, Nate Stanley

Running Back: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Ameer Abdullah

Wide Receiver: Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Bisi Johnson, Chad Beebe, K.J. Osborn, Dan Chisena

Tight End: Irv Smith Jr., Tyler Conklin, Brandon Dillon, Hale Hentges

Offensive Tackle: Rashod Hill, Brian O’Neill, Oli Udoh, Blake Brandel

Offensive Guard: Ezra Cleveland, Mason Cole, Kyle Hinton, Dru Samia, Zack Bailey

Center: Garrett Bradbury

Defense

Interior Defensive Line: Dalvin Tomlinson, Michael Pierce, James Lynch, Armon Watts

EDGE: Danielle Hunter, Stephen Weatherly, D.J. Wonnum, Jordan Brailford, Jalyn Holmes, Hercules Mata’afa, Kenny Willekes

Linebacker: Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Nick Vigil, Ryan Connelly, Blake Lynch, Troy Dye, Cameron Smith

Cornerback: Patrick Peterson, Cameron Dantzler, Mackensie Alexander, Mike Hughes, Jeff Gladney, Dylan Mabin, Kris Boyd, Harrison Hand

Safety: Josh Metellus, Luther Kirk, Myles Dorn

Special Teams

Kicker: Greg Joseph

Punter: Britton Colquitt

Long Snapper: Andrew DePaola

Minnesota Vikings Depth Chart Analysis | Offense

Quarterbacks

Sitting atop the Minnesota Vikings’ depth chart is QB Kirk Cousins, who is entering his 10th year in the league. After watching the team trade away Stefon Diggs, we wondered if Cousins would struggle with only Adam Thielen as the primary target. Little did we know that Justin Jefferson was going to set the world on fire.

Cousins threw for a career-high 35 touchdowns and 4,265 yards while completing 67.6% of his passes. “You like that?” Actually, yes Kirk, we do like that.

Neither Nate Stanley nor Jake Browning has seen meaningful reps since college. Stanley, a seventh-round pick in 2020, was cut and signed to a reserve/futures contract in January. Browning, a former Washington Husky, followed the same path. They will enter a QB battle for the backup job on the Minnesota Vikings’ depth chart when camp opens.

Running Backs

Dalvin Cook was incredible for the Vikings in 14 games last season. The fourth-year RB out of Florida State set career-highs with 312 carries, 1,557 rushing yards, and 16 touchdowns. Cook’s 1,918 scrimmage yards were second only to Derrick Henry, who played in two more games.

Related | Dynasty Running Back Rankings: Top assets heading into 2021

Alexander Mattison might very well be the best backup RB in the NFL. Outside of a handful of teams, he would be a legitimate starting running back. In seven games where he received 12 or more rushing attempts, Mattison has averaged 72 yards, including 112 yards in Week 5 and 95 in Week 17 of last season.

The Vikings re-signed RB Ameer Abdullah during the offseason to a one-year deal. Since 2019, Abdullah leads the Vikings in special-teams snaps at 501.

Wide Receivers

Justin Jefferson would have easily won the NFL Rookie of the Year Award were it not for Chargers’ QB Justin Herbert. Taking over after the Vikings traded Stefon Diggs, Jefferson took no time to establish himself as one of the NFL’s best receiving threats. Jefferson was third in the league in yards (1,400) and led all rookies in receptions (88).

His 7 touchdowns were second among rookies and broke Randy Moss’ rookie receiving record for the Vikings.

Related | Dynasty Wide Receiver Rankings: Top assets heading into 2021

Alongside Jefferson, Adam Thielen rattled off 925 receiving yards and a career-high 14 touchdowns. Thielen will be 31 when the season begins, and the Minnesota Vikings need to start looking ahead on who can fill his production on the depth chart.

In his second year in the NFL, Olabisi Johnson struggled to produce, catching only 14 of 19 targets for 189 yards and no touchdowns. The Vikings signed WR Chad Beebe to a one-year deal for the veteran minimum during the offseason. Playing in less than 30% of snaps, Beebe hauled in 20 catches, 201 receiving yards, and 2 scores.

Tight Ends

With Kyle Rudolph gone, it’s Irv Smith Jr.’s time to shine as he leads the Minnesota Vikings’ depth chart at the position. Smith has dynamic athleticism that makes him a dangerous weapon in the passing game. In his two years, Smith Jr. registered 66 receptions for 676 yards and 7 touchdowns. Knowing how critical the tight end is for the Vikings offense, his snaps could reach 90% and be a primary red zone option.

Related | Dynasty Tight End Rankings: Top assets heading into 2021

Tyler Conklin had 13 receptions for 135 yards during his first two years in the NFL but reeled in 19 catches for 194 yards and 1 touchdown in 2020. His 168 yards were ninth among tight ends across the final four games.

Offensive Tackle

Playing on both sides of the line, Rashod Hill has made 17 career starts. With Riley Reiff’s loss in free agency, Hill could be in the running for a starting role.

Brian O’Neill spent his college career at Pittsburgh playing left tackle, making him a candidate to slide over to the vacant LT position on the Vikings’ depth chart. O’Neill is entering the last year of his contract and has started in 42 of 46 appearances.

Olisaemeka Udoh has appeared in seven games over his two-year career in the NFL.

Offensive Guard

A rookie in 2020, Ezra Cleveland allowed 23 pressures and 5 sacks in fewer than 400 pass-blocking snaps over nine games. Cleveland was out of position as he solely played tackle at the collegiate level. A move back to tackle could be the move the Minnesota Vikings make to patch the vacancy in their depth chart.

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In the only trade Minnesota pulled off during the opening of free agency, the Vikings acquired C Mason Cole from the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for a 2021 sixth-round pick. Cole, who was the Cardinals’ third-round pick in 2018, started 32 of 46 career games. He started all 16 games as a rookie in place of A.Q. Shipley, who missed the season with an ACL injury.

The Vikings selected Kyle Hinton in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The Vikings waived him during final roster cuts and signed him to the practice squad the next day. In December, Hinton was promoted to the active roster.

Center

Garrett Bradbury has struggled in recent years, and some are labeling him one of the bigger busts in recent drafts. However, he has been reliable, starting in all 32 games since his selection out of NC State.

Vikings Analysis | Defense

Interior Defensive Line

One of the Vikings’ offseason priorities was to address the IDL after finishing 30th in points allowed. They did not want to sign just any defensive lineman, they wanted Dalvin Tomlinson. Check and check. Signed to a two-year, $12.5 million deal, the former Giant will make an impact from Day 1 as he helps fill a significant need on the Minnesota Vikings’ depth chart. Tomlinson has been consistent, totaling 50, 59, 49, and 49 tackles in his four seasons, as well as 8.0 career sacks.

One of the team’s biggest signings a year ago, DT Michael Pierce should be back this season after opting out of the 2020 campaign. Finishing 26th against the run last year, Pierce’s return would be a welcome addition to the Minnesota Vikings’ depth chart.

A 2020 rookie, James Lynch appeared in nine games for the Vikings, registering 1 sack and 3 tackles.

EDGE

A highly productive player over his career, Danielle Hunter missed the 2020 season due to a neck injury. From 2016 to 2019, Hunter’s 48.5 sacks were the third-most among all defenders in the league. In his career, Hunter generated 276 tackles, 54.5 sacks, 22 QB hits, and 3 forced fumbles coming off the edge. 

Re-signed during the offseason, Stephen Weatherly spent his first four seasons in Minnesota before a stop in Carolina. Weatherly participated in 49 regular season games and made seven starts from 2016-19. Over that span, he accumulated 84 total tackles, 6 sacks, and a pair of forced fumbles.

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Taken in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, D.J. Wonnum started 14 contests. He enjoyed a productive season despite seeing limited defensive snaps, netting 24 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 tackles for a loss, and 9 QB hits.

The Vikings signed Jordan Brailford from the Washington Football Team’s practice squad. He appeared in five games, forcing 1 fumble and making 2 tackles.

Linebacker

The heart of the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive depth chart, Eric Kendricks recorded his fifth consecutive 100-plus tackle season in 2020, playing in only 11 games. An All-Pro linebacker, Kendricks has 639 tackles over his six-year career. He was also the Minnesota Vikings’ nomination for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for his considerable community work.

Anthony Barr only played in two games last season due to a torn pectoral muscle, which highlighted the Vikings’ inability to make stops up the middle. While trade rumors were floating around in the offseason, Barr is too valuable to the Vikings defense given his rare blend of speed and size at the position. 

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One of the Vikings’ additions in the offseason was the signing of former Chargers LB Nick Vigil. The issue is Vigil has yet to sign his contract despite agreeing to terms. Yet, there are no recent reports of the deal falling through. With Kendricks and Barr fully healthy, Vigil is a depth addition for the Vikings defense.

Although it is hard to even put into context the heartbreak caused by the pandemic over the last year, it might have actually saved a life: Vikings linebacker Cameron Smith initially tested positive at the start of camp and again showed he owned antibodies from a previous contact, which called for additional screening and a cardiac work-up.

It was discovered Smith was born with a bicuspid aortic valve during this testing, and his heart was “severely enlarged.” This led to open-heart surgery that likely saved his life.

Cornerback

One of the best cornerbacks of this generation, Patrick Peterson wears a new jersey for the first time in his career. Officially a member of the Minnesota Vikings’ depth chart, he signed a one-year, $10 million deal during free agency. Throughout his 10 years in Arizona, the three-time first-team All-Pro tallied 499 tackles, 28 interceptions, 91 passes defensed, and 12 fumble recoveries. Peterson was named to the NFL’s All-2010s team last year.

A rookie in 2020, Cameron Dantzler played well for the Vikings. The 6’2″ corner saw 10 starts in 11 games, snatching 2 interceptions and totaling 46 tackles.

Featured | NFL Rumors & Draft News: 2021 free agency buzz

Slot cornerback Mackensie Alexander returned to the Minnesota Vikings after spending one season with the Cincinnati Bengals. Alexander played in 13 games for the Bengals, finishing the season with 47 tackles, 6 pass breakups, and 1 interception. 

Mike Hughes has struggled for the Vikings and appeared in only four games due to injury in his 2020 campaign. Across three seasons, Hughes has played in 24 games (7 starts), intercepted 2 passes, and deflected 13 passes.

Safety

Harrison Smith has been a stalwart on the Minnesota Vikings’ depth chart since his 29th overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft. Over the last nine seasons, Smith compiled 747 tackles, 39 tackles for loss, 31 quarterback hits, 7 forced fumbles, 8 fumble recoveries, 66 passes defensed, 28 interceptions, and 4 defensive touchdowns.

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A former Michigan Wolverine, Josh Metellus struggled to find his footing during his rookie season. He participated in 15 games, garnering 9 tackles and 2 fumble recoveries. Luther Kirk signed as a UDFA by the Dallas Cowboys in 2020, but the team chose to release him during roster cuts. Myles Dorn suffered a broken big toe last offseason and spent the year on injured reserve after undergoing surgery.

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Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football. You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.’

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