NFL Minnesota Vikings

NFL: Predicting the Minnesota Vikings 53-Man Roster in 2013

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NFL 2013: Predicting the Minnesota Vikings 53-Man Roster

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings were one of the most surprising teams in the NFL last season, going 10-6 in the regular season before losing to the Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card Round. That was a seven win improvement over their low point in 2011, while also serving to raise outside expectations for the team in 2013.

Predicting most of the 53-man roster for any playoff team from the previous season is not usually difficult, and the Vikings are no different with plenty of notable names locked into their roles. But they do have some roster spots that could be up for grabs, and the competition to fill some key roles could be worth keeping an eye on. Third-year quarterback Christian Ponder faces a make-or-break season, and any hope the team has for taking the next step toward Super Bowl contention this coming season rests largely on his shoulders.

Offseason workouts and training camp will allow the Vikings’ roster to take shape in a more concrete fashion, and allow the coaches and the front office to get an extended evaluation of players that could be on the roster bubble as the summer goes on. Injuries can of course change things, and perhaps make further roster additions necessary, but for now the Vikings look content to go into their June minicamp with the players they have.

May is always early to make predictions about anything in the NFL with the season still nearly four months away, but here is my prediction for who will be on Minnesota’s 53-man roster for Week 1 of the 2013 season against the Detroit Lions.

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Quarterbacks (3)

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Christian Ponder

Matt Cassel

McLeod Bethel-Thompson

The Vikings upgraded their backup quarterback situation by signing Cassel, who could start games and keep things afloat if Ponder struggles like he did at times in 2012. Bethel-Thompson is an intriguing developmental prospect, but if he sees the field much this season things clearly aren't going well for Minnesota.

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Running Backs (5)

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Adrian Peterson

Toby Gerhart

Jerome Felton (FB)

Zach Line

Matt Asiata

Peterson is simply the best running back in the NFL, and the impact of his backups will be limited as long as he is healthy. Felton is coming off a Pro Bowl season and will again be a key cog in Peterson's success in 2013.

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Wide Receivers (6) and Tight Ends (3)

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Wide Receivers:

Greg Jennings

Cordarrelle Patterson

Jerome Simpson

Jarius Wright

Joe Webb

Stephen Burton

Tight Ends:

Kyle Rudolph

John Carlson

Rhett Ellison

The Vikings upgraded their wide receiver group by signing Jennings and moving back into the first round of April’s draft to select Patterson. The absence of Percy Harvin may hurt on the field, but eliminating an off-field malcontent feels may have been addition by subtraction. Webb is making a long overdue move from quarterback, and just how he will be used as a pass catcher is still a bit unclear.

Rudolph should take the next step to becoming one of the league's best tight ends this season. Carlson has to stay healthy to become a factor, and Ellison's potential could allow him to make a significant push for playing time in his second season.

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Offensive Lineman (8)

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Matt Kalil

Phil Loadholt

John Sullivan

Charlie Johnson

Brandon Fusco

Jeff Baca

Joe Berger

Travis Bond

The Vikings are well established at tackle (Kalil and Loadholt) and center (Sullivan), but the situation at guard is a little more in flux. Johnson should hold down the left guard spot for at least one more season, and rookies Baca and Bond could push Fusco for time at right guard.

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Defensive Lineman (8)

Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

Jared Allen (DE)

Kevin Williams (DT)

Brian Robison (DE))

Sharrif Floyd (DT)

Everson Griffen (DE)

Letroy Guion (DT)

Fred Evans (DT)

Christian Ballard (DT)

Allen, Williams and Robison are solid starters, but all three are entering the final year of their contracts. Floyd should have a significant role as a rookie, and is the likely heir apparent for Williams. Griffen could see more playing time this season, with an eye toward a possible starting spot in 2014.

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Linebackers (8)

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Chad Greenway

Erin Henderson

Gerald Hodges

Audie Cole

Tyrone McKenzie

Marvin Mitchell

Michael Mauti

Larry Dean

Rumors will surely continue to surround the Vikings and Brian Urlacher, but for now the team looks likely to roll with Henderson at middle linebacker in place of the departed Jasper Brinkley. Outside of Greenway and Henderson, this group has some potential impact players (Hodges, Mauti and Cole) as well as some journeymen that could contribute on special teams (McKenzie, Dean and Mitchell).

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Defensive Backs (9)

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Xavier Rhodes (CB)

Chris Cook (CB)

Harrison Smith (FS)

Josh Robinson (CB)

Jamarca Sanford (S)

Jacob Lacey (CB)

Mistral Raymond (S)

A.J. Jefferson (CB)

Robert Blanton (CB/S)

The Vikings addressed another pressing need by taking Rhodes with their second first-round pick in April, and he and Cook have the potential to form a nice cornerback tandem for years to come. Smith proved he belonged as a rookie last season, and Sanford and Raymond will likely battle for the other starting spot at safety.

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Special Teamers (3)

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Placekicker: Blair Walsh

Punter: Jeff Locke

Long Snapper: Cullen Loeffler

The Vikings cut Ryan Longwell prior to last season in favor of Walsh, and they hope the formula works again this year after drafting Locke and cutting Chris Kluwe