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A Look at the Vikings Initial 53-Man Roster for 2021

The Vikings on Tuesday announced multiple roster moves to reduce the number of players on their roster to the regular-season maximum of 53.

Minnesota also announced four players — wide receiver Chad Beebe, guard Dru Samia, quarterback Nate Stanley and safety Luther Kirk — were waived with an injury designation.

Notable names such as Everson Griffen, Ameer Abdullah, Dakota Dozier, Jake Browning and Andrew DePaola were not included on the initial 53-man roster.

There are 24 players on offense, 27 on defense and two specialists among the 53 players.

It is worth noting that more moves could occur, as more than 800 players are waived during roster reductions across the league, but here's a position-by-position look at who made the initial 53, compared to what the Vikings did in the past five years under Head Coach Mike Zimmer.

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 5, 2022.

(all players listed alphabetical by last name)


Number of players kept: 2

2020: 2

2019: 2

2018: 3

2017: 2

2016: 2

On the Roster: Kirk Cousins and Kellen Mond

The Cousins era in Minnesota is entering Year 4. The quarterback endured an up-and-down August, whether it was missing practices due to the league's COVID-19 protocols or looking shaky at times in practices and limited preseason play.

But the focus is now on Week 1 in Cincinnati, where Cousins will have a better collection of skill players around him. Cousins is 25-21-1 in three regular seasons with the Vikings and 1-1 in playoff games.

Mond missed 10 days due to the league's COVID-19 protocols earlier this month, but he has rebounded well the past few weeks. He has picked up the pace in practice and seemingly improved in each of the three preseason games. The 2021 third-round pick likely won't play at all this season, but the next few months will be crucial for his development going forward.

Browning shined at the annual Night Practice when he was the only rostered QB available, but he was not able to earn a spot on the roster after a lackluster preseason.

View the best photos of Vikings QB Kirk Cousins from the 2020 season.

Running back

Number of players kept: 3

2020: 4

2019: 4

2018: 4

2017: 3

2016: 3

On the Roster: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison and Kene Nwangwu

Cook is the focal point of the Vikings offense and will be heavily counted upon once again in 2021. He has been up to the challenge in recent years, making back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2019 and 2020. Cook's 1,918 combined yards from scrimmage ranked second in the NFL in 2020 and that total was also the second-most in a season in franchise history, behind the 2,314 yards Adrian Peterson had in 2012.

Mattison is the clear backup but also hasn't practiced recently because of an injury. He has proven to be reliable when Cook has been banged up in recent years.

Nwangwu is a speedster. The fourth-round rookie could make an impact as a kick returner and in select offensive sets, but he played sparingly in Minnesota's first preseason game because he suffered a knee injury.

Abdullah did not make the 53 after spending the past two-plus seasons in Purple.


Number of players kept: 1

2020: 1

2019: 1

2018: 1

2017: 1

2016: 1

On the Roster: C.J. Ham

No surprise here. Ham is among the game's best fullbacks and is a key reason why the Vikings ground game has been so effective in recent seasons.

Wide receiver

Number of players kept: 6

2020: 7

2019: 4

2018: 5

2017: 6

2016: 6

On the Roster: Dan Chisena, Justin Jefferson, K.J. Osborn, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Adam Thielen and Dede Westbrook

Jefferson and Thielen are the headliners here, making up one of the league's top receiving duos. But the Vikings appear to have more depth behind them than in recent seasons.

Westbrook is working his way back from an ACL injury but has all the potential needed to be WR3 in this offense. Osborn could also fill that role, as he has shown tremendous progression from a year ago. Both players could be in the mix as returners on special teams.

Smith-Marsette is full of confidence, but he might not see the field much on offense as a rookie. Instead, he could be the kick returner and also help elsewhere on special teams.

And speaking of special teams, that is Chisena's bread and butter, as he is among the league's fastest players. He was on the team in 2020 and was primarily a gunner, but the hope is that the former Penn State track star is even better with a season of experience.

Beebe, as noted above, was waived with an injury designation.

Tight end

Number of players kept: 3

2020: 3

2019: 4

2018: 3

2017: 3

2016: 4

On the Roster: Tyler Conklin, Brandon Dillon and Irv Smith, Jr.

Smith looked primed for a mega year in camp, but he is currently sidelined with a meniscus injury and his recovery timetable is unknown.

Conklin also seems ready for a larger role and said Monday that he is planning to be ready for Week 1 following a recent hamstring injury.

Dillon, who spent most of the past two seasons on the practice squad, earned the final tight end spot over rookie Zach Davidson.

Offensive line

Number of players kept: 9

2020: 9

2019: 10

2018: 9

2017: 9

2016: 9

On the Roster: Garrett Bradbury, Blake Brandel, Ezra Cleveland, Mason Cole, Christian Darrisaw, Wyatt Davis, Rashod Hill, Brian O'Neill and Olisaemeka Udoh

Minnesota's starting five is set, as Hill, Cleveland, Bradbury, Udoh and O'Neill will line up from left to right. That group looked solid during 30 snaps together over the final two preseason games, but it will be heavily tested throughout the regular season.

Udoh and Hill are new starters this year, as O'Neill, Bradbury and Cleveland started all or most games in 2020. Cleveland, however, has switched from right guard to left guard.

Darrisaw and Davis are rookies who didn't crack the starting lineup and are in different places. Darrisaw, a left tackle drafted in the first round, missed all of training camp and the preseason with a groin injury, and his projected return is unclear. Davis has improved and is viewed as a depth player on the interior at the moment.

Brandel is likely the Vikings swing tackle. And Cole, who has 32 career starts, provides solid depth and position flexibility at either center or guard.

Defensive line

Number of players kept: 10

2020: 11

2019: 10

2018: 9

2017: 9

2016: 8

On the Roster: Jalyn Holmes, Danielle Hunter, Patrick Jones II, James Lynch, Michael Pierce, Sheldon Richardson, Dalvin Tomlinson, Armon Watts, Stephen Weatherly and D.J. Wonnum

This group looks almost entirely different than it did a year ago when the Vikings defensive line was among the worst in the league.

Hunter's return from a neck injury is a major boost, as is the presence of Pierce and Tomlinson in the middle. Opposing offenses will likely have a tougher time running the ball in 2021.

Wonnum and Weatherly both started all three preseason games at defensive end, but it was Wonnum who started with the first-team defense in a scrimmage last week. He could be the Week 1 starter if that projection holds true.

The Vikings also have ample depth along the line, as Richardson has 118 career starts and played well in Purple in 2018. He could be a factor on third downs and in other passing situations this season.

Watts has shown flashes in recent years and is a good depth player. Jones, a 2021 third-round pick, is the only rookie of this group. He may not play much this season but has solid potential down the line.

Holmes and Lynch are versatile pieces, as both can kick inside on passing downs to provide depth along the interior.

Griffen re-joined the team last week and had a sack in the preseason finale, but he did not make the initial 53-man roster.


Number of players kept: 7

2020: 5

2019: 5

2018: 5

2017: 6

2016: 7

On the Roster:

Anthony Barr, Ryan Connelly, Troy Dye, Blake Lynch, Eric Kendricks, Chazz Surratt and Nick Vigil

This group begins with Kendricks and Barr, who have seemingly been playing together forever. Kendricks is among the league's best at his position, and Barr is an effective player, too. Barr's health is a question here because he has not practiced since Aug. 6 with an undisclosed injury.

Vigil is expected to be the third starter in the base defense and has been among the team's most consistent linebackers behind Kendricks over the past month.

The rest of this group has potential and seemed to pick it up after getting called out by Zimmer a few weeks ago.

Connelly, Dye, Lynch and Surratt will likely be called on to be key pieces on special teams this season, and then step in if any injuries occur with the starters. Given Barr's uncertain status, that could mean a start for one of them in Week 1.

Defensive back

Number of players kept: 10

2020: 8

2019: 10

2018: 11

2017: 11

2016: 10

On the Roster: Mackensie Alexander, Kris Boyd, Bashaud Breeland, Camryn Bynum, Cameron Dantzler, Harrison Hand, Josh Metellus, Patrick Peterson, Harrison Smith and Xavier Woods

We'll start with the safeties, as Smith is still among the game's best entering Year 10 and was just rewarded with a multi-year contract extension. Woods will line up next to him and has drawn praise from teammates and coaches for how quickly he's acclimated to the defense.

Bynum and Metellus are the other safeties, as the Vikings kept four at that spot after keeping just two total safeties a year ago. Bynum was a fourth-round pick who played a ton in the preseason. Metellus is currently hobbled with an injury but was a special teams standout as a rookie in 2020.

Peterson, Breeland and Alexander are the starting cornerbacks, with Alexander set in the slot. None of this trio was on the team in 2020, and all should have a hand in helping improve Minnesota's pass coverage this season.

Dantzler, Boyd and Hand provide solid depth at cornerback. Dantzler was a starter in 10 of 11 games played as a rookie but has struggled with inconsistencies this summer. Boyd and Hand could play in the secondary if needed, but both are also reliable special teamers.


Number of players kept: 2

2020: 3

2019: 3

2018: 3

2017: 3

2016: 3

On the Roster: K Greg Joseph and P Britton Colquitt

This is a little unique, with DePaola being among the players waived to get to the initial 53.

Colquitt is entering his 12th season and has rounded into form of late. He was shaky early in camp and the first preseason game but has had better results the past two weeks. His ability as a holder shouldn't be overlooked, either.

Joseph is 27 years old. He has not kicked a field goal in a game since 2018 when he was 17-for-20 with the Browns. He made all nine extra points attempted with the Titans in 2019. A member of the Buccaneers practice squad in 2020, Joseph had a strong camp but has struggled from 50-plus yards in training camp and the preseason.