The 2020 NFL offseason has been thoroughly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with team facilities staying closed through free agency and the draft, and all 32 offseason programs going virtual thanks to in-person workouts being largely prohibited. Now, however, as states begin to reopen and teams return select staff to their headquarters, it appears football will, at least in some form, carry on as scheduled -- perhaps with minicamps, likely with summer training camp andin the fall.
One team that could use all the offseason work it can get is the Minnesota Vikings, who are coming off a trip to the Divisional Round of the playoffs but are also welcoming a lot of youth to a shuffled lineup. Without physical minicamps from which to draw depth-chart battles, Vikings roster projections are truly just that right now -- projections. But they at least give us a template for how the club might look when September rolls around and the games begin, or at least if things go according to plan.
For the purpose of this projection, we'll list up to the top four players at any given position. The Vikings, like all 32 teams, have a bloated roster nearing the triple-digit mark at the moment. Come September, that number will drop significantly when teams are required to finalize 53-man lineups.
Rookies are denoted with a (*).
|QB||Kirk Cousins||Sean Mannion||Nate Stanley*||Jake Browning|
|RB||Dalvin Cook||Alexander Mattison||Michael Boone||Ameer Abdullah|
|FB||C.J. Ham|| Jake Bargas*|| || |
|LWR||Adam Thielen||Tajae Sharpe||Alexander Hollins||Davion Davis|
|RWR||Bisi Johnson||K.J. Osborn*||Dillon Mitchell||Dan Chisena*|
|SWR||Justin Jefferson*||Chad Beebe|| || |
|TE||Kyle Rudolph||Irv Smith Jr.||Tyler Conklin||Brandon Dillon|
|LT||Riley Reiff||Ezra Cleveland*||Chad Slade|| |
|LG||Pat Elflein||Aviante Collins||Tyler Higby*|| |
|C||Garrett Bradbury||Brett Jones||Jake Lacina*|| |
|RG||Dakota Dozier||Dru Samia||Kyle Hinton*||Brady Aiello*|
|RT||Brian O'Neill||Rashod Hill||Olisaemeka Udoh||Blake Brandel|
No one's debating Cousins' spot atop the most important position, but they should be debating whether Minnesota should be content with the No. 2 spot. Stanley is an intriguing late-round flyer with some zip to his passes, but calling him anything more than a third-string project would be a reach. And yes, Cousins has been durable as a starter, but what if the injury bug finally bites? It might not hurt the Vikings to call old friend Trevor Siemian. For now, Mannion and his two subpar career starts are the emergency plan.
Cook and Mattison form a dynamic one-two punch at RB, and Rudolph and Smith are a solid, if unspectacular, duo at TE. But it's WR that deserves most of the attention on this side of the ball. Thielen is primed for a major bounce-back after a banged-up 2019, especially now that Stefon Diggs won't be stealing as many big-play targets, and Jefferson's play style should blend in perfectly as Cousins makes him a target machine over the middle. But the real questions lie opposite Thielen out wide, where Bisi Johnson is penciled in as a starter but Beebe, Sharpe and Osborn could challenge for reps. All four of the WR2 possibilities have their perks, but all four are also probably better suited for a No. 3 or No. 4 role, at best.
Thankfully, the Vikings' offensive strategy may assuage that concern, with Cousins and Co. set to lean even more on the ground. Blocking will thus again be paramount, however, and there are also questions up front. Cleveland is a huge addition as a potential future LT behind Reiff, but both OG spots will be under scrutiny in the lead-up to -- and during -- the season, with Dozier and Samia, in particular, likely to square off for Opening Day RG duties.
|DE||Danielle Hunter||Eddie Yarbrough||D.J. Wonnum*|
|DT||Michael Pierce||Jaleel Johnson||Armon Watts|
|DT||Shamar Stephen||Jalyn Holmes||Hercules Mata'afa|
|DE||Ifeadi Odenigbo||Anthony Zettel||Kenny Willekes*|
|OLB||Anthony Barr||DeMarquis Gates*||Blake Lynch*|
|MLB||Eric Kendricks||Cameron Smith||Jordan Fehr*|
|OLB||Eric Wilson||Ben Gedeon||Troy Dye*|
|LCB||Mike Hughes||Cameron Dantzler*||Kris Boyd|
|RCB||Jeff Gladney*||Holton Hill||Harrison Hand*|
|FS||Anthony Harris||Josh Metellus*||Myles Dorn*|
|SS||Harrison Smith||Brian Cole II*|| |
Coach Mike Zimmer's bread and butter might be lacking the butter this year. Because while the big chips on defense (Hunter, Barr, Kendricks, Harris, Smith) are definitely cornerstone starters, the rest of the unit is overflowing with uncertainty. Let's start up front: Odenigbo had a fine 2019 as part of the pass-rushing rotation, but the Vikings had better hope that someone like Wonnum, who's admittedly a raw prospect coming out of South Carolina, can step up to ensure Hunter isn't the only consistent disruptor off the edge. Everson Griffen can't necessarily be ruled out as a re-signing possibility, but assuming he's actually gone, one of the most underrated holes on this "D" is at DE.
The other questions reside in the secondary, where Harris and Smith still make a solid safety tandem but the CB group is completely in flux. Hughes has flashed on the outside, and Gladney projects as an immediate contributor in the slot, but with Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander all gone, it'll be up to either Hill, Dantzler or Hand to defy the odds and bring Minnesota's group of cover men up to par. That trio figures to be competing all summer and perhaps into the season as Zimmer's new co-defensive coordinators look to shore up a unit that was victimized far too often in 2019.
|K||Dan Bailey|| |
|P||Britton Colquitt|| |
|LS||Austin Cutting|| |
|KR||Ameer Abdullah||K.J. Osborn|
|PR||Ameer Abdullah||K.J. Osborn|
Osborn could challenge for return duties as a rookie, but another name to watch is Chad Beebe, whoas the lead punt returner and opened the year in that role before a season-ending ankle injury.