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Five Takeaways From the Vikings' Initial 53-Man Roster For 2020

More safeties are needed! That and four other takeaways from the Vikings' initial active roster.

The Vikings cut 22 players on Saturday and have set their initial 53-man roster for the 2020 season. However, that doesn't mean there aren't more moves to come. The Vikings are going to be active on the waiver wire and the veteran free agent market in the next couple days.

But for now, we've got 53 players to discuss and analyze. Without further ado, here are my top five takeaways from the Vikings' initial roster.

Only two safeties – for now

The most obvious indicator that this current roster will be altered prior to Week 1 is the fact that there are only two safeties on it at the moment. The Vikings had four backups behind Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris, and they waived all four (Josh Metellus, Nate Meadors, Steven Parker, Myles Dorn).

What that means is that they didn't feel great about any of those young players being ready to contribute. But you do need backup safeties, and multiple reports have indicated that the Vikings are actively looking. That means keeping an eye on veterans who are cut, players who are still free agents, and young cut players who they could potentially claim on waivers.

The Vikings previously worked out veterans Jahleel Addae and George Iloka. Iloka was previously with the team in 2018. Other notable names out there include Tony Jefferson, HaHa Clinton-Dix, and Damarious Randall.

Seven wide receivers, including an ultimate longshot story

Leading into today, the question was whether the Vikings would keep five or six wide receivers. Instead, they're breaking camp with seven on the roster for the first time in the Mike Zimmer era.

Why? Because of an ultimate longshot who has found a way to stick on the team. Undrafted rookie receiver Dan Chisena has made the 53-man roster due to his prowess on special teams, particularly as a gunner (he's 6'3", 202 pounds with 4.3 speed). The former Penn State track star had just three catches in his college career, and now he has made an NFL roster. 

Also making the roster are Chad Beebe, Tajae Sharpe, and K.J. Osborn. Like Chisena, Osborn made it because of what he can do on special teams. The fifth-round rookie will likely open the season returning both punts and kickoffs for the Vikings.

Keep an eye out, though: if and when the Vikings add a safety or two, they could potentially cut a receiver. A team as run-heavy as the Vikings probably doesn't need seven wideouts on the active roster all season.

11 defensive linemen make it

Another position group that stands out is the defensive line, where 11 players made the 53-man roster. Just like the WR group, this is the first time the team has kept that many DL during the Zimmer era.

The four projected starters were obviously locks, as were key backups Ifeadi Odenigbo and Armon Watts. Both fourth-round rookies – D.J. Wonnum and James Lynch – made the team. So did pass-rushing DT Hercules Mata'afa. And while I thought defensive ends Jalyn Holmes and Eddie Yarbrough were competing for one spot, they both made it as well.

Lynch didn't stand out much in camp, but the Vikings didn't want to risk losing him on waivers if they cut him, according to ESPN's Courtney Cronin.

This is obviously another position where someone may be cut when the team adds a safety.

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Little luck for late-round and UDFA rookies

The Vikings drafted six players in the sixth and seventh rounds in April, and then added 12 undrafted free agents. Out of those 18 players, only Chisena made the active roster. Seventh-rounder Kenny Willekes seemed to have a shot to earn a job on the defensive line, but he'll miss the 2020 season with an injury.

With no preseason games, this was simply a very tough year to stand out as a late-round or undrafted rookie. A good chunk of that group will likely be back on the practice squad, though.

Each of the first nine players drafted by the Vikings in rounds 1 through 5 made the team, including a couple surprises in Lynch and Harrison Hand. With those nine players and Chisena, there are ten total rookies on the 53-man roster.

Several players stand out as surprising

Rosters are difficult things to predict. I ended up going 47 for 53 on my final roster projection of the year. That's not great, but it could be worse!

Here are the six players I had making the team who were cut:

  • WR Alexander Hollins
  • C Brett Jones
  • LB Blake Lynch
  • S Nate Meadors
  • S Josh Metellus
  • CB Nevelle Clarke

And here are the six players who made it instead:

  • RB Ameer Abdullah
  • WR Chad Beebe
  • WR Dan Chisena
  • LB Hardy Nickerson Jr.
  • CB Harrison Hand
  • DE Jalyn Holmes

Beebe over Hollins was one of the biggest surprises for me because I thought Hollins had as good of a training camp as anyone. But the coaching staff appears to love Beebe, and he could become a solid rotational player if he stays healthy.

They opted to keep Abdullah as the fifth running back (including C.J. Ham), which I suppose makes sense for a run-heavy team. Abdullah also adds value on special teams and as a veteran leader in the locker room.

Hand beating out Clarke also makes sense, as does keeping the veteran Nickerson over Lynch. It may have been bold of me to project both Clarke and Lynch to make the team as UDFAs. (Turns out I should've picked Chisena as my UDFA to make it).

And of course, I had no way of knowing they would only keep two safeties for now. Other than that, I think I did a pretty good job.

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