Projecting the Vikings' 53-man roster

BY foxsports • September 2, 2016

The Minnesota Vikings have just a few days left to whittle their roster down to 53 players. Teams must cut down to 53 by 3 p.m. CT Saturday and then finalize their Week 1 roster Sunday.

The defense is (mostly) set, with a strong rookie class joining head coach Mike Zimmer's group from a season ago.

Questions abound at quarterback, where we expect the Vikings to make some major changes before taking on the Tennessee Titans in their season-opener.

German receiver Moritz Bohringer's brief NFL career could be on the ropes, while a pair of young running backs are likely headed out the door despite strong performances in the Vikings' preseason finale against the Chargers.

Check out our predictions for the Vikings' 53-man roster below.

Quarterbacks (3)

In: Shaun Hill, TBD, Taylor Heinicke

Out: Joel Stave, Brad Sorensen

Analysis: The quarterback situation was already in flux following the loss of Bridgewater, but the timetable for Heinicke's return complicates things even further. Stave has done little to earn a roster spot, while Zimmer was open about Sorensen's impending release after the Rams game. Shaun Hill is the starter for now, and Heinicke is reportedly ahead of schedule in his rehab, but the Vikings are likely planning to nab a freshly cut free agent in the coming days. Mark Sanchez of the Denver Broncos and Aaron Murray of the Kansas City Chiefs are possibilities, but with the season just six days away they'll need someone who knows offensive coordinator Norv Turner's offense, and ... well ... we know a guy.

Running backs (4)

In: Adrian Peterson, Jerick McKinnon, Matt Asiata, Zach Line

Out: C.J. Ham, Jhurrell Pressley

Analysis: No surprises here. The Vikings have faced questions under center before, and Peterson has always risen to the occasion. He's a candidate to break the NFL's single-season carries record despite entering his age-31 season, while McKinnon gives Turner a dynamic change-of-pace option on passing downs. Asiata is a reliable bulldozer, and will see some action near the goal line. That doesn't leave much room for Promising Local Kid (and former Augustana University Viking) C.J. Ham despite a solid performance against the Rams. Pressley impressed with a 106-yard kickoff return and tacked on another rushing touchdown. Both are candidates for the practice squad, but could find a home somewhere.

Wide receivers (6)

In: Laquon Treadwell, Stefon Diggs, Charles Johnson, Cordarrelle Patterson, Adam Thielen, Jarius Wright

Out: Moritz Bohringer, Isaac Freuchte, Terrell Sinkfield, Troy Stoudermire, Marken Michel

Analysis: The Bohringer experiment may be coming to an end. The German rookie who won hearts and minds at the draft after picking up football on a whim hasn't had much to do during the preseason. Veteran cornerback Terence Newman has taken the youngster under his wing, but this is suddenly a crowded position for the Vikings. One theory posits that the Vikings have kept Bohringer under wraps during the preseason in order to prevent another team from vulturing him before Minnesota can sign him to the practice squad, but his future in Minneapolis remains unclear. A former undrafted free agent out of nearby Mankato, Thielen's spot is now so secure that he didn't play in the Vikings' final preseason game.

Tight ends (4)

In: Kyle Rudolph, Rhett Ellison, David Morgan, MyCole Pruitt

Out: Brian Leonhardt, Kyle Carter

Analysis: The Vikings only rostered two tight ends last season following an injury to Ellison, but sixth-round pick Morgan has looked good throughout the preseason, and has done more than enough to earn a roster spot. His blocking abilities stand out, while Pruitt sprained his MCL in the Vikings' preseason win over the San Diego Chargers.

Offensive lineman (7)

In: Alex Boone, Andre Smith, Matt Kalil, Brandon Fusco, Joe Berger, T.J. Clemmings, Willie Beavers

Out: John Sullivan, Zac Kerin, Nick Easton, Jeremiah Sirles, Isame Faciane, Sean Hickey, Carter Bykowski, Austin Shepherd

Analysis: The Vikings brought in well-traveled coach Tony Sparano to sort out the offensive line after Jeff Davidson's group allowed a whopping 45 sacks last season, and he wasted little time in overhauling the uninspiring unit. Veterans Boone and Smith should help return the OL to respectability, while former replacement Berger has officially outlasted longtime center John Sullivan, who was cut on Tuesday. Beavers hasn't done much to stand out so far, but the fourth-rounder should be given a chance to acclimate this season.

Defensive lineman (8)

In: Brian Robison, Linval Joseph, Shariff Floyd, Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Tom Johnson, Justin Trattou, Shamar Stephen

Out: Thieren Cockran, Scott Crichton, Kenrick Ellis, Claudell Louis, Zach Moore, Denzell Perine, Stephen Weatherley

Analysis: There's not much to say here. We don't expect the Vikings to make many changes to a group that has been one of their biggest strengths. Danielle Hunter should see more playing time following a solid rookie season, but there's little reason to shake things up on a defensive line that ranked sixth in the NFL last season according to Pro Football Focus. Bring on the sacks.

Linebackers (7)

In: Chad Greenway, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Emmanuel Lamur, Audie Cole, Kentrell Brothers, Edmond Robinson 

Out: Jake Ganus, Terrance Plummer, Brandon Watts

Analysis: Again, there aren't likely to be any major surprises here. Zimmer praised Robinson's play in training camp, which could make Watts expendable, especially given his recent health issues. Barr is a versatile threat and could do more pass-rushing this year, while Greenway should be at his hard-charging best as he prepares to ride off into the sunset.

Defensive backs (10)

In: Xavier Rhodes, Terence Newman, Trae Wayne, Captain Munnerlyn, Mackensie Alexander, Marcus Sherels, Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo, Jayron Kearse, Michael Griffin

Out: Jabari Price, Anthony Harris, Antone Exum, Tre Roberson

Analysis: The Vikings' secondary has provided more than a few highlights over the last few weeks, thanks in large part to rookie safety Kearse, a seventh-round draft pick. Kearse's draft stock suffered due to questions about his work ethic, but Zimmer has lit a fire under the young defender, who has been all over the field for the Vikings. The cornerback group is among the deepest in the league, but there's still probably room for punt returner Marcus Sherels.

Specialists (3)

In: Blair Walsh, Jeff Locke, Kevin McDermott

Out: None

Analysis: Walsh is here to stay, while Locke is a cheap, solid punter. The Vikings extended McDermott through 2020 last month.

Follow Ryan Lund on Twitter