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A Look at the Vikings Initial 53-Man Roster for 2022

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

There are 25 players on offense, 25 on defense and three specialists among the 53 players.

It is worth noting that more moves could occur, as more than 800 players become available during the final round of roster reductions across the league, but here's a position-by-position look at who made the initial 53 in Head Coach Kevin O'Connell's first season, compared to what the Vikings did in the past six years under Mike Zimmer.

Teams will establish their 16-player practice squads on Wednesday, by the way, so some players who spent the offseason with Minnesota but didn't make the 53 could wind up staying with the Vikings.


Number of players kept: 2

2021: 2
2020: 2

2019: 2

2018: 3

2017: 2

2016: 2

On the Roster: Kirk Cousins and Nick Mullens

Cousins is once again the undisputed starter for the fifth consecutive season. He has thrown for at least 3,600 yards and 25 touchdowns in all seven seasons as a starter, going back to his time with Washington.

The Vikings evaluated Sean Mannion (two preseason starts) and Kellen Mond (one preseason start) to back up Cousins.

After its second preseason game, Minnesota executed a trade to acquire Nick Mullens from Las Vegas. Mullens had completed seven of nine passes for 94 yards, highlighted by a 34-yard touchdown, against the Vikings in Week 1 of the preseason.

Mullens did not play for Minnesota at Denver in the finale on Saturday.

Running back

Number of players kept: 4

2021: 3
2020: 4

2019: 4
2018: 4
2017: 3
2016: 3

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

Cook has made the Pro Bowl in each of his past three seasons, averaging 270 rushes for 1,283.7 yards and scoring 35 times on the ground in that span.

The new staff might try to reduce his rushing workload while also involving him in new ways in the passing game. He's averaged 43 receptions for 368 yards per season since 2019.

Mattison posted career highs in starts (four), rushes (134), rushing yards (491) and touchdowns (three), receptions (32) and receiving yards (228) in 2021, his third pro season.

Nwangwu only carried the ball 13 times as a rookie, but he gained 61 yards. The 2021 fourth-rounder make a mark on kickoff returns, becoming the first NFL player with two kickoff return touchdowns in his first five career games.

Chandler led Minnesota this preseason with 113 rushing yards on 15 carries (an average of 7.5 yards).


Number of players kept: 1

2021: 1
2020: 1

2019: 1
2018: 1
2017: 1
2016: 1

On the Roster: C.J. Ham

Rest easy, Duluth. Some folks who email the Mailbag have been worried that Minnesota's shift to O'Connell's offense might leave Ham on the outside of the 53-man roster.

At multiple steps along the way, however, O'Connell and other coaches have talked about their intrigue for implementing Ham and his commitment to doing things the right way.

Wide receiver

Number of players kept: 5

2021: 6
2020: 7

2019: 4
2018: 5
2017: 6
2016: 6

On the Roster: Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Jalen Nailor

Jefferson, Thielen and Osborn each posted 50 or more receptions, 655-plus yards and seven-plus touchdowns in 2021.

All three have had a strong camp, picking up where they left off. ESPN just placed Jefferson at No. 7 in its "NFL Rank 2022" and No. 17 in NFL Network's "Top 100 of 2022."

Smith-Marsette is trying to build off his rookie season, and Nailor is trying to make a splash as a first-year player.

Tight end

Number of players kept: 3

2021: 3
2020: 3

2019: 4
2018: 3
2017: 3
2016: 4

On the Roster: Irv Smith, Jr., Johnny Mundt and Ben Ellefson

Smith worked his way back from a torn meniscus that cost him all of his third pro season and looked great at the start of camp before suffering a thumb injury that required surgery. He and the Vikings have targeted a return for Week 1.

Mundt was signed early in free agency and has an extensive familiarity with Minnesota's offense from his time with the Los Angeles Rams that included having Vikings Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips as his position coach.

Ellefson, one of three Minnesota natives on the 53-man squad along with Ham and Thielen, played in five games after the Vikings claimed him through waivers

Offensive line

Number of players kept: 10

2021: 9
2020: 9

2019: 10
2018: 9
2017: 9
2016: 9

On the Roster: Christian Darrisaw, Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, Ed Ingram, Brian O'Neill, Blake Brandel, Vederian Lowe, Chris Reed, Austin Schlottmann and Olisaemeka Udoh 

Darrisaw and O'Neill could become one of the best bookend tandems in the business. Minnesota's coaches have expressed how excited they are to work with those players.

Cleveland is back for his second season in a row at left guard. He and O'Neill played every offensive snap for Minnesota in 2021.

Ingram climbed the depth chart in a battle with Jesse Davis, who was traded to Pittsburgh, at right guard and is projected to start.

O'Connell had mentioned the offensive line depth the Vikings have built. Keeping 10 at the position group for the second time in a seven-season span could be a sign of that.

Brandel, Lowe, Reed, Schlottmann and Udoh round out the group. Reed and Schlottmann were signed this offseason, and Lowe was a sixth-round pick.

Defensive line

Note: Defensive line from 2016-21 included defensive ends and defensive tackles. Minnesota's list in 2022 is interior defensive linemen.

Number of players kept: 6

2021: 10
2020: 11
2019: 10
2018: 9
2017: 9
2016: 8

On the Roster: Dalvin Tomlinson, Harrison Phillips, Jonathan Bullard, Ross Blacklock, James Lynch and Esezi Otomewo

Tomlinson's previous experience in a 3-4 in college at Alabama and with the New York Giants has helped Minnesota's defensive front with changes implemented this season.

Phillips was one of the first players signed by the Vikings when free agency opened. He will partner with Tomlinson as part of Minnesota's effort to strengthen its core.

Bullard was signed in free agency, and Otomewo was selected in the fifth round out of the University of Minnesota. Lynch possibly could be playing more similarly to where he did in college on the way to becoming a fourth-round pick in 2020.

The Vikings traded for Blacklock on Tuesday and opted to part ways with Armon Watts, a fourth-year pro who had often worked with the first-team during training camp.


Note: Linebacker from 2016-21 did not include defensive ends, who are now listed as outside linebackers. Minnesota kept five outside linebackers and four inside linebackers for its shift to a 3-4 base defense.

Number of players kept: 9

2021: 7
2020: 5
2019: 5
2018: 5
2017: 6
2016: 7

On the Roster (Outside linebackers):

Danielle Hunter, Za'Darius Smith, D.J. Wonnum, Pat Jones II and Luiji Vilain

Hunter and Smith are aiming to form one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL. Hunter has dabbled from a 2-point stance with the Vikings, and Smith has extensive experience in a defense similar to the one Minnesota will deploy. Both are Pro Bowl-caliber players who missed most of 2021.

Wonnum led Minnesota with 8.0 sacks last season and has the most by any player drafted in 2020 (11).

Jones is the only one of four players picked in the third round in 2021 who made this year's 53-man roster. He is joined by Vilain, a rookie who had a fumble recovery against San Francisco and an interception at Denver.

On the Roster (Inside linebackers): Eric Kendricks, Jordan Hicks, Brian Asamoah II and Troy Dye

Kendricks and Hicks are forming quite the tandem. Since their 2015 rookie seasons, Kendricks (782) and Hicks (637) rank third and 10th, respectively, in total tackles.

Asamoah showed grit at Denver after he was briefly sidelined. He returned quickly and played 60 of 63 defensive snaps.

Dye logged 326 special teams snaps, along with 54 on defense, in 2021.

Defensive back

Number of players kept: 10

2021: 10
2020: 8
2019: 10
2018: 11
2017: 11
2016: 10

On the Roster: Patrick Peterson, Harrison Smith, Cameron Dantzler, Sr., Camryn Bynum, Chandon Sullivan, Andrew Booth, Jr., Kris Boyd, Lewis Cine, Akayleb Evans and Josh Metellus

Peterson and Smith anchor the cornerback and safety positions, respectively, and have combined for 14 Pro Bowls in their careers.

Dantzler is entering his third pro season. He's had some great flashes and worked a lot with Peterson in the offseason.

Bynum, a former cornerback in college, transitioned to safety last year as a rookie. He's worked well with Smith and with Cine when Smith has rested.

Sullivan is a de facto starter as the team's top option at nickel. He rejoined his former defensive coordinator in Green Bay, Mike Pettine, this offseason.

Three of Minnesota's first five picks of 2022 — Cine, Booth and Evans — made the group. Boyd is back for his fourth season. He and Metellus have contributed significantly on special teams.


Number of players kept: 3

2021: 2
2020: 3
2019: 3
2018: 3
2017: 3
2016: 3

On the Roster: LS Andrew DePaola, K Greg Joseph and P Ryan Wright

Last year, the Vikings navigated some roster/injury challenges by not having DePaola on the initial 53. They had no need to do so this year.

Joseph has been locked in throughout the offseason and preseason. He closed the exhibition slate 4-for-4 on extra points and 4-for-4 on field goals, including a 58-yarder at Denver.

Wright competed with Jordan Berry all offseason and singularly handled punting duties against the Broncos after Berry's release. Wright averaged 56.3 with a net of 50.3 on four punts in the Mile High City.