Lo and behold, the preseason is just about to begin and soon after that, the regular season will finally be upon us.  This also means that teams around the league will begin trimming their roster from 90 to 53 for week one. Some franchises- like the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers- will be supplied with familiar faces, if not players with familiar skillsets.  The Minnesota Vikings, on the other hand, will be waving goodbye to the era of Brad Childress and Leslie Frazier and saying hello to new coach Mike Zimmer.  As one might expect, Zimmer could be looking for different kinds of players to fill out the bottom half of the roster, which will be occupied mostly by rookies and the unexperienced.  It’s nearly impossible to predict which 53 will make the final roster, but hey, why not give it a shot?  Who knows, roster predictions could end up being as popular as March Madness brackets…

Quarterbacks (3)

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Matt Cassel

Teddy Bridgewater

Christian Ponder

No surprises here.  The only real question is who will be the starting quarterback against St. Louis in week one.  I’m guessing it will be Cassel because you simply don’t pay someone $5 million/year to sit on the bench.  However, if Bridgewater continues to be praised by his OC Norv Turner, it won’t be long until he will be on the field.

Running Backs/Fullbacks (5)

Adrian Peterson

Jerick McKinnon

Matt Asiata

Jerome Felton

Zach Line

Jerick McKinnon has shown plenty of explosiveness in training camp, and if he hasn’t taken the number two spot away from Asiata yet, it won’t be long.  I also gave backup Fullback Zach Line a spot on the 53 because he has a “first one in, last one out” mentality, something that Coach Zimmer preaches.  I think it’s a little too early to start him over Felton, but it could happen in time.

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Wide Receivers (5)

Cordarrelle Patterson

Greg Jennings

Jerome Simpson

Jarius Wright

Adam Thielen

The Vikings expect Patterson to quickly become one of the best receivers in the game, and that isn’t a very lofty expectation, either.  Simpson has played well so far in training camp, and that’s helpful because they could use a pass-catcher with size that’s not named Kyle Rudolph.  Keep an eye out for Adam Thielen in the preseason games; the kid has done alright for a second-year player that spent his rookie season on the practice squad, so 2014 may be the time that he sees some real action.

Tight Ends (3)

Kyle Rudolph

Rhett Ellison

Mike Higgins

Minnesota could really use another tight end that can make plays with or without Rudolph on the field.  Rhett Ellison is certainly a candidate; like many former Vikings (Jermaine Wiggins, Jimmy Kleinsasser, Jeff Dugan, etc.), Ellison is a fullback/tight end hybrid, so his versatility will give him an edge to make the roster.  Higgins, who has returned to Minnesota after a stint with the Jaguars, has had trouble staying healthy, but it’s a testament to his skills that he still has a chance to play in the NFL.  Also, Chase Ford will more-than-likely land on the Physically Unable to Perform list, so he may appear sometime during midseason.

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Offensive Lineman (9)

Matt Kalil

Charlie Johnson

John Sullivan

Brandon Fusco

Phil Loadholt

Joe Berger

David Yankey

Antonio Richardson

Jeff Baca

This offensive line is a pleasant mix of experienced veterans (Johnson, Sullivan, Berger) with younger players that have high ceilings (Kalil, Fusco, Yankey).  Speaking of David Yankey, they may have stolen one of the best linemen in this year’s draft in the 5th round, and I don’t think it will be very long until he replaces Johnson or Fusco at guard.  A familiar name that I kept off of this list is Vladimir Ducasse; although he was a highly sought-after prospect in 2010 and started five games last season, I’d rather put a younger talent like Jeff Baca on my bench rather than someone that already has a few disappointing years on his belt.

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Defensive Lineman (9)

Everson Griffen

Sharrif Floyd

Linval Joseph

Brian Robison

Fred Evans

Scott Crichton

Corey Wootton

Tom Johnson

Kheeston Randall

As seen in Cincinnati, Mike Zimmer loves his defensive lineman, which is why I expect him to keep nine on the final roster.  Griffen, Floyd, Joseph, and Robison are all no-brainers; with Jared Allen and Kevin Williams no longer sporting purple, Minnesota needs to have as strong as a core four as possible, and these guys give them the best opportunity to do that.  Tom Johnson and Corey Wootton were both free agent pickups in the offseason, and Wootton gives them flexibility because he played both defensive end and tackle with the Chicago Bears.  Unlike Geno Atkins of the Bengals, one of Zimmer’s favorite players, Kheeston Randall has a very big body (6’5”, 325 lbs.) and could become a powerful force off the bench.

Linebackers (6)

Chad Greenway

Jasper Brinkley

Anthony Barr

Audie Cole

Gerald Hodges

Brandon Watts

The good news: Chad Greenway is expected to have his best season with Zimmer as coach.  The bad news: he doesn’t have much help surrounding him at linebacker.  Yes, they drafted Barr with a top-10 pick, but it’s probably best to tamper expectations for him for a good year or two, which was when Greenway himself began to blossom.  Also, Jasper Brinkley wasn’t the big upgrade they wanted at middle linebacker, but if you’re a Viking fan, don’t be surprised if Audie Cole gets some first-team reps in the preseason on the inside.  Both Hodges and Watts should be seeing plenty of special teams action if they make the team, but when the time comes, they will certainly be implemented into the defensive rotation.

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Cornerbacks (6)

Xavier Rhodes

Captain Munnerlyn

Josh Robinson

Derek Cox

Marcus Sherels

Jabari Price

I argued with myself whether to have five or six corners, but due to the importance of the cornerbacks in Zimmer’s defense, I went with six.  Although it’s only his second season, everyone is putting the pressure on Xavier Rhodes to become a top-notch defender and be able to cover guys like Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall.  Captain Munnerlyn, who will most likely be starting opposite of him (or in the nickel), had a nice season in 2013 with the Carolina Panthers, who sported one of the best defenses in the league.  Derek Cox, the most experienced of the six, may be needed to help guide the younger corners in Zim’s complicated schemes.  As many of you know, Sherels is also talented on special teams returning punts, and he may be doing more of that if Patterson’s role increases on offense.  Jabari Price (2014 7th round pick) has already had a splendid camp, and if he somehow doesn’t make the squad, expect him to be one the first players signed on the practice squad.

Safeties (4)

Harrison Smith

Chris Crocker

Robert Blanton

Jamarca Sanford

I had to get rid of a few players with a lot of potential at safety, including Andrew Sendejo, Kurt Coleman, and rookie Antone Exum (another practice squad candidate).  However, Zimmer hasn’t been too happy with the play at safety so far, which is why Minnesota signed Chris Crocker on Tuesday (one of his former players in Cincinnati.  Because of Robert Blanton’s current injury,they may bring five safeties on the 53, but if it plays out like this, Derek Cox could see some time at free safety opposite of Harrison Smith.

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Specialists (3)

Blair Walsh

Jeff Locke

Cullen Loeffler

There is no competition in this training camp at kicker, punter or long snapper, so I would say that these three roster spots are LOCKEd in… Ya get it?  I’m sorry, but there just isn’t much to say with special teams right now…

Well, there you have it, my prediction for the Minnesota Vikings 53-man roster.  Like I said, it would be smart NOT to bet that this will be the final outcome in September, but these projections are just to give you a good idea on who you may want to watch for in the preseason.  Rejoice people, the football season is near!