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Vikings 53-Man Roster Projection: The Final Edition

With roster cutdown day just two days away, here's a final guess at the Vikings' active roster.

Since I did my first 53-man roster and practice squad projection about a week ago, a few things have happened. 

Most notably, the Vikings sprung a surprising blockbuster trade that brought Pro Bowl defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to Minnesota. That means I need to get Ngakoue into this updated projection, but it also changes the outlook for a few defensive linemen on the 53-man roster bubble.

Then, it seemed like Riley Reiff's time with the Vikings had come to end – that is, until the veteran left tackle changed course and agreed to a pay cut. Oh, and Dan Chisena switched from wide receiver to safety?

Lastly, the Vikings have already begun to trim down their 80-man roster. They waived four players on Wednesday, including one who I had making the team in linebacker Jordan Fehr.

So, with just two days remaining until rosters must be trimmed to 53, let's take a final stab at predicting the Vikings' initial squad for 2020.

Quarterbacks (2): Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion

I was impressed by Jake Browning's performance at the Vikings' U.S. Bank Stadium scrimmage last Friday, and I think his ceiling is a lot higher than Mannion's. But the veteran remains locked into the backup role because he's demonstrated more consistency than Browning throughout camp. Both Browning and Nate Stanley could potentially be kept on the practice squad this year because of the unique possibility of either Cousins or Mannion getting COVID-19.

Running backs (4): Dalvin Cook, C.J. Ham (FB), Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone

I'm going to be fascinated to see if Ameer Abdullah makes this team. He knows the offense, can catch the ball out of the backfield, and has plenty of experience returning kickoffs. Abdullah is also a respected leader on the team and an important voice on the Vikings' social justice committee. But the NFL is a business, and I'm just not sure it makes sense to keep four running backs on the 53-man roster this year. By making K.J. Osborn the punt and kick returner and cutting Abdullah, a spot is opened up elsewhere.

Tight ends (3): Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Tyler Conklin

The question here is whether or not the Vikings keep four tight ends for a second straight season. Given Brandon Dillon's inability to replicate his standout rookie training camp, I doubt it. The Vikings will almost certainly keep him around on the practice squad in case anything happens to one of the top three, though.

Wide receivers (6): Adam Thielen, Bisi Johnson, Justin Jefferson, K.J. Osborn, Alexander Hollins, Tajae Sharpe

I'm torn on what the Vikings are going to do at wide receiver. Will they keep five or six? How do you decide what to do with Sharpe, Hollins, and Chad Beebe? All three have things they could add to this offense, and all three have weaknesses. I think Hollins is safe after arguably earning the "Mr. Mankato" title with a fantastic camp. I'm sticking with my prediction that Gary Kubiak and the Vikings keep six, with Sharpe making the roster over Beebe.

Offensive line (10): Riley Reiff, Dakota Dozier, Garrett Bradbury, Pat Elflein, Brian O'Neill, Rashod Hill, Oli Udoh, Ezra Cleveland, Brett Jones, Dru Samia

Man, losing Reiff so close to the season would've been a brutal blow for an offensive line that I already have a lot of skepticism about. O'Neill moving to the left side and Hill/Udoh starting would've almost certainly caused some growing pains. This team needs its tackles and center to be reliable, because I remain unconvinced that Dozier and Elflein aren't a bottom-three guard tandem in the NFL.

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It's safe to say that the first eight names I have listed are all but locks for the roster. That leaves one or two spots for Jones, Collins, and Dru Samia, depending on decisions elsewhere on the offense. I think they keep Jones because it's important to have a backup center. And I'm swapping Samia in for Collins from my last projection, because it might be tough to get Samia to the practice squad and I'm not sure they're ready to give up on him yet.

Defensive line (10): Danielle Hunter, Jaleel Johnson, Shamar Stephen, Yannick Ngakoue, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Armon Watts, Hercules Mata'afa, Eddie Yarbrough, D.J. Wonnum, James Lynch

After the top six (the starters plus Odenigbo and Watts), there are a lot of directions this could go. Mata'afa and Wonnum feel pretty safe to me, because they like what the former can bring on third downs and are high on the potential of the latter. I think Yarbrough narrowly edges Jalyn Holmes for a DE spot, but that could go either way. I'm adding Lynch to this projection because I'm not sure they'd be able to get him to the practice squad.

Also, how cool is it that Ngakoue is a Viking? 

Linebackers (5): Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Eric Wilson, Troy Dye, Blake Lynch

I was legitimately surprised that the Vikings cut Jordan Fehr on Wednesday. I thought he looked good in camp, but I guess that proves that I know very little. The three remaining candidates for the fifth linebacker spot are Lynch, Hardy Nickerson Jr., and David Reese II. Realistically, I think it's between Lynch and Nickerson. Do the Vikings want to keep an athletic UDFA who has been around for all of camp? Or do they go with the veteran with nearly 40 games of NFL experience? I think Lynch gets the nod because of what he can offer on special teams.

Safeties (4): Harrison Smith, Anthony Harris, Nate Meadors, Josh Metellus

I had Meadors and Metellus as my backup safeties last week, and I'm sticking to my guns on that. With that said, I wouldn't be shocked at all to see Myles Dorn and/or Steven Parker make it instead. It'll be interesting to see if the Vikings look to add a veteran like George Iloka eventually.

Cornerbacks (6): Mike Hughes, Holton Hill, Cameron Dantzler, Jeff Gladney, Kris Boyd, Nevelle Clarke

I had seven corners making it last time, but upon reflection, that feels excessive. So I added a tenth DL (James Lynch) for this edition and removed Mark Fields II. I think Clarke has more upside than Fields and is someone Mike Zimmer can try to develop. If Boyd wasn't safe – which I think he was, even if only because of his special teams prowess – a leaping interception at Tuesday's practice can't have hurt.

Specialists (3): Dan Bailey (K), Britton Colquitt (P), Austin Cutting (LS)

Practice Squad (16): Jake Browning, Jake Bargas, Brandon Dillon, Chad Beebe, Quartney Davis, Aviante Collins, Kyle Hinton, Jake Lacina, Jalyn Holmes, David Moa, Hardy Nickerson Jr., David Reese II, Myles Dorn, Steven Parker, Mark Fields II, Harrison Hand

Injured Reserve: Kenny Willekes, Cameron Smith

Opt-Out: Michael Pierce

Cut: Jordan Fehr, Tony Brooks-James, Stacy Keely, Anthony Zettel, Nate Stanley, Ameer Abdullah, Nakia Griffin-Stewart, Dillon Mitchell, Blake Brandel, Ben Gedeon, Dan Chisena

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