FELDY: ESPN 1500's Tom Pelissero gave his best guess earlier today at how the Minnesota Vikings final roster will shake out. Tom, a former co-worker of Phersy's, by the way (insert your favorite Sid Hartman "close personal friend" reference here) is with the team on a daily basis and clearly has a better understanding of who should make the team and who shouldn't.
But, there are so many "bubble" players this year, that there are toss-ups at almost every position, so I'll give this a whack, too, to see if we at Faceoff can guess who won't be a Viking by late Saturday afternoon.
Pelissero has Rochester's Marcus Sherels making the team, which would make sense considering he has outplayed several of the team's CBs who are also on the bubble. That said, NFL teams place a high value on players they drafted. Sherels was not drafted and, despite his strong play in the preseason, has been stuck behind some of these other guys (Asher Allen comes to mind) on the depth chart. With all of the teams in need of CB help due to injury, or just lack of consistent players, I have to believe Sherels will have a job in the NFL somewhere this season.
Elsewhere on the roster, with DT Kevin Williams being suspended for the first two games of the season, the Vikings will actually have to make one less cut than other teams. Suspended players do not count toward a team's roster total.
Anyway, here we go:
Quarterbacks: Donovan McNabb, Joe Webb, Christian Ponder. Comments: I'm going out on a limb here.
Running backs: A.P., Toby Gerhart, Lorenzo Booker, Ryan D'Imperio (FB). Comments: D'Imperio could be a cut, depending on how many tight ends the Vikings want to keep. I'd keep D'Imperio over Jeff Dugan. D'Imperio gives you a younger body who can block and play special teams. Dugan's special-teams upside isn't enough, to me, to keep him over a young guy like D'Imperio. And, there's no chance Dugan is a part of the passing game. Rookie Caleb King will certainly land on the practice squad, if another team doesn't snap him up first.
Tight ends: Visanthe Shiancoe, Jim Kleinsasser, Kyle Rudolph. Comments: This leaves Dugan and rookie Allen Reisner (undrafted, from Iowa) on the outside. Reisner, like King at running back, is an ideal practice squad guy, unless another team signs him to their 53-man, which is possible. He had a very good preseason, but is stuck behind three really good players. As for Dugan, see my comments in the RB's section. If he makes the team, it's because the coaches like his special teams value more than D'Imperio's. In that case, Dugan could be used at times as a blocking fullback.
Receivers: Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, Michael Jenkins, Devin Aromashodu, Jaymar Johnson. Comments: Johnson didn't do anything to single himself out as the No. 1 choice to be the punt returner ahead of Sherels, but Sherels probably didn't do enough, either. Johnson had a decent game at receiver on Thursday and will come much cheaper than Greg Camarillo, who has nearly a $1.8 million cap hit. On a team that is pushed up against the salary cap, that could be a deciding factor. Aromashodu was good on special teams in the preseason and made a few nice catches, so he likely sticks. Emmanuel Arceneaux and Juaquin Iglesias performed well in camp, but not well enough to say definitively that they belong on the roster.
Offensive line: Steve Hutchinson, John Sullivan, Anthony Herrera, Charlie Johnson, Phil Loadholt, Jon Cooper, DeMarcus Love, Ryan Cook, Chris DeGeare. Comments: This group could change if the Vikings find a player they like better on the waiver wire. Cook, from many reports, appears to be only an option at the three interior positions now, after playing as a tackle most often during his first few seasons in MInnesota. Love is raw, but likely wouldn't make it through waivers and onto the practice squad. Waiving draft pick Brandon Fusco (a center from Slippery Rock) is a risk, too, but he's not ready to occupy a place on the 53-man roster yet.
Defensive backs: Husain Abdullah, Jamarca Sanford, Tyrell Johnson, Eric Frampton, Mistral Raymond, Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin, Chris Cook, Brandon Burton, Asher Allen, Marcus Sherels. Comments: This could group, too, could be shaken up, based on who might become available in free agency. If Sherels is going to be the punt returner, he moves ahead of Burton, and possibly even Allen, on the list of CBs. I'd put him ahead of Allen now, but coaches and personnel men in the NFL put a ton of stock in players they drafted, especially in the early rounds. Allen was drafted in the third round in 2009. Sherels is an undrafted free agent. Hopefully, for Sherels' sake, the whole draft pick thing doesn't matter as much as I think it does. He deserves to be on the team. ... Now, I have 11 DBs making the team, including five safeties. That's a lot, but I don't know how the Vikes cut draft pick Mistral Raymond, and Eric Frampton is a tremendous special teams player.
Linebackers: E.J. Henderson, Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson, Heath Farwell, Kenny Onatolu, Ross Homan, Larry Dean. Comments: Dean may have played his way off the roster on Thursday, but the suspension to Williams gives the Vikings one more roster spot, for at least two weeks, and Dean may be the beneficiary. He did enough in the first three weeks to warrant serious consideration for a spot on the 53. The Vikings like Homan's potential too much to let him go, and Onatolu and Farwell are special teams aces. This list assumes Jasper Brinkley lands on I.R. and it leaves out David Herron, a veteran who was only with the team for a couple of weeks this preseason. Herron could well make the team in place of Dean, or they both could be cut.
Defensive linemen: Jared Allen, Kevin Wlliams, Remi Ayodele, Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, Adrian Awasom, LeTroy Guion, Fred Evans, Christian Ballard. Comments: Some of the team's toughest cuts may come here, with Stylez White and rookie D'Aundre Reed left on the outside. Griffen could be considered a linebacker, too, after getting some work there on Thursday, but after just one week of practicing (part-time) at LB, is he ready to play that spot against No. 1 offenses? And, can he cover slot receivers or tight ends? It's one thing to do it against the Texans backups, but what if he got matched up against Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates or Malcom Floyd in week 1? That's why I'll leave him at DE for now. And I'm betting they'll need him to sub for Robison far more than they're letting on. Guion will probably start alongside Ayodele in Williams' absence. Awasom was too good in the preseason to not have earned a spot on the 53, and Ballard could eventually out-perform his draft position. Evans could be a question mark here, though he'll likely stick around to add depth with Williams out.
Specialists: Ryan Longwell (K), Chris Kluwe (P), Cullen Loeffler (LS). Comments: duh.