Minnesota Vikings Training Camp: Depth Chart Predictions

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Predicting the Vikings' Depth Chart - Training Camp Edition

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The Minnesota Vikings are coming into training camp with an entirely different outlook in 2013. Only a year ago, people were questioning if this team would even win five games. Now, it's a matter of how much noise they can make on their way back to the postseason.

Let's be honest, nobody saw the Vikings coming in 2012, so this year the entire league will be ready. Minnesota's schedule is noticeably tougher and the NFC is just loaded top to bottom. It's not going to be an easy road back to the playoffs, playing in arguably the league's toughest division.

Everybody's in love with the NFC West right now, but the NFC North has three 10-win teams from a season ago and a last place team that's back on the rise.

So as the Vikings prepare for training camp, it's time to start taking a look at this year's projected depth chart. RantSports.com will be bringing you previews of all the NFL teams, and in this installment we'll predict Minnesota's depth chart.

Now you have to remember, these are pre-camp predictions, solely based on what we know today. A ton can change between now and the end of the preseason. But with a team like Minnesota, there aren't a lot of positions battles. That's usually a good sign, as it typically indicates lots of proven players on the roster.

So with all that in mind, let's take a look at the Minnesota Vikings' projected starters for the 2013 season:

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Quarterback

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1. Christian Ponder

2. Matt Cassel

3. McLeod Bethel-Thompson

There's no QB competition in Minnesota this year, it's Ponder's job to lose. However, I don't think the Vikings will wait too long to go to Cassel if Ponder is struggling.

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Running Back/Fullback

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RB

1. Adrian Peterson

2. Toby Gerhart

FB

1. Jerome Felton

2. Rhett Ellison

These spots are basically set in stone. The Vikings have the game's best RB and one of the best FBs.

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Wide Receiver

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USA Today Sports

1. Greg Jennings

2. Cordarrelle Patterson

3. Jerome Simpson

4. Jarius Wright

5. Stephen Burton

6. Joe Webb

Receiver is going to get interesting after Jennings. He's clearly the team's No. 1 guy, but after that, it could be a game of musical chairs in training camp. Ideally, Patterson is the No. 2 guy right away, but that might not be a reality. He only played one season of major college football and he's said to be way behind the other WRs in terms of football knowledge. Vikings' fans shouldn't be surprised to see Simpson and Wright climb the chart, because they're simply more familiar with the system.

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Tight End

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1. Kyle Rudolph

2. John Carlson

3. Rhett Ellison

The only question at TE is whether or not Carlson will hold onto his No. 2 spot. He struggled mightily in 2012 and the Vikings could easily make the switch to Ellison in 2013. Carlson's contract was restructured this offseason, so to me that's clearly a sign that he'll be on a short leash.

Rudolph, meanwhile, should continue his way up the ranks of the NFL's best TEs. He's one of the Vikings' brightest young stars and he's likely in for a breakout 2013 season.

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Offensive Line

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LT - Matt Kalil

LG - Charlie Johnson

C - John Sullivan

RG - Brandon Fusco

RT - Phil Loadholt

All of these positions are locks except for RG. Fusco is the early favorite to win the position battle, but there are three other players also in the mix - Jeff Baca, Seth Olsen and Travis Bond. Olsen is by far the most experienced guy of the group, so if Fusco doesn't impress enough to win the coaches over, Olsen is likely to get the nod.

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Defensive Line

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USA Today Sports

LDE - Brian Robison

DT - Letroy Guion

DT - Kevin Williams

RDE - Jared Allen

The D-line is one of Minnesota's strengths in 2013. It's the team's deepest group, with several combinations of players that could be successful together. The starting four should be no different than a season ago, but with rookie Sharrif Floyd and emerging star Everson Griffen in the mix, the future is also looking very bright. With the Vikings expected to continue rotating players along their d-line, there are conceivably eight players who could get regular playing time in 2013.

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Linebacker

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SLB - Chad Greenway

MLB - Desmond Bishop

WLB - Erin Henderson

There are some who are predicting a position battle between Bishop and Henderson at MLB, but I think Henderson will ultimately go back to his WLB spot. It's his natural position and it will allow the group to be much more experienced if he slides back over. Rookie Gerald Hodges should be in the mix a lot his year along with Marvin Mitchell, but I think the starting three will be the proven veterans.

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Secondary

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CB

1. Chris Cook

2. Josh Robinson

3. Xavier Rhodes

4. A.J. Jefferson

5. Marcus Sherels

Safety

FS - Harrison Smith

SS - Jamarca Sanford

I believe this is how the chart should look to start the season. Eventually Rhodes is going to move his way up, but for now he's the rookie. It takes a lot of reps for NFL cornerbacks to get their feet under them, so I'm expecting Cook and Robinson to be the team's starters week one. The reality, though, is that the top four guys are all going to get a lot of playing time.

As far as the safeties are concerned, Smith and Sanford proved to be a solid duo in 2012 and that should continue this season. Smith looks like he's on his way to being one of the league's premiere safeties, while Sanford is establishing a reputation as one of the hardest hitters. Mistral Raymond will serve as the first backup and he should also see plenty of field time.

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Special Teams

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K - Blair Walsh

P - Jeff Locke

KOS - Jeff Locke

KR

1. Cordarrelle Patterson

2. Josh Robinson

PR

1. Marcus Sherels

2. Cordarrelle Patterson

The Vikings struck gold with Walsh a season ago, but their selection of Jeff Locke leads me to believe that they want to preserve his leg as much as possible. Locke was a KOS in college and if he can boot it out of the end zone every time, why not let him have the duties.

The return spots are maybe the most unpredictable of all. With Percy Harvin long gone, somebody has big shoes to fill. Word is that Patterson will be the guy eventually, but you never know how much a team will trust a rookie. I look for him to get the nod on kick off returns, but for Vikings to play it safe with Sherels as the PR to start the season.

 

 


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