The dust has settled (for now), as the Vikings announced their initial 53-man roster on Tuesday.
Multiple roster moves were made, including waiving Kellen Mond and releasing Sean Mannion. Mond and Mannion shared co-backup quarterback duties in the preseason.
Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com listed the decisions among “notable moves.” He wrote:
When the Vikings selected Mond in the third round of last year's draft, he was positioned by the regime in place at the time as a potential successor and threat to Kirk Cousins. One year later, there's a new coaching staff, Cousins has extended his contract yet again and Mond is no longer on the roster. Mannion was also cut, so Nick Mullens is set to be the team's backup.
Another transaction led by first-year General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was the acquisition of defensive lineman Ross Blacklock and a 2023 seventh-round pick from the Houston Texans in exchange for a 2023 sixth-round pick. To make room for Blacklock, a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Vikings waived DL Armon Watts.
Will Ragatz of Sports Illustrated wrote Blacklock showed a lot of improvement going into his second season:
Last year, Blacklock nearly doubled his snap count to 457 and boosted his PFF grade to 50.4, finishing the season with 25 pressures, two sacks, and 22 tackles.
The Vikings must feel like they can unlock more of the upside Blacklock was believed to have when he came into the NFL.
Two undrafted rookies made the initial roster, punter Ryan Wright and outside linebacker Luiji Vilain. Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press caught up with Vilain, who said he's grateful to make the team.
"It feels great,'' Vilain said shortly after the NFL deadline for cuts had passed at 3 p.m. Tuesday. "It's just the beginning. The work starts now. I'm ready to keep working and keep doing what I've been doing."
Vilain, who attended Michigan and then Wake Forest, recorded five total tackles in Minnesota's final two preseason games. He also had a fumble return against the San Francisco 49ers and an interception against the Denver Broncos.
Indianapolis Colts edge rusher and former Wolverines teammate Kwity Paye weighed in on Vilain's ability when he signed with the Vikings in May, calling him a "big steal."
Minnesota will face the Colts in Week 15 at home.
Vilain spoke Tuesday on his former college teammate's comments.
"I would say so, but obviously I've got some things I've got to keep getting better at,'' Vilain said. "But if Kwity calls me a steal, I guess so.
"I've just got to keep making plays. I'm trying to be consistent and getting better on special teams because I know that will be my role this year," Vilain added. "I can't wait."
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 14, 2023.
WR Justin Jefferson Among Top Offensive "Win Share" Leaders
Similar to wins above replacement (WAR) in baseball and plus-minus in basketball, Cynthia Frelund of NFL.com created a metric called "win share." Frelund said win share will measure players' contributions, position group and side of the ball for each snap in the NFL season.
Frelund added win shares will be calculated by how much players impact first downs and touchdowns that ultimately lead to wins and losses. She said win share will add the positive on-ball and off-ball impact plays while simultaneously subtracting negative plays to total the number of "wins" individual players are responsible for in a season.
Among the non-quarterback offensive players, Frelund listed Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson third at a projected 2.22 wins. Comparatively, Frelund projected Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp at 2.11 wins.
According to Next Gen Stats, Jefferson's 12.9 receiving yards per target against press coverage since 2020 is the second-best mark in the NFL — behind only Kupp's 13.7. But Jefferson's 1,249 total receiving yards on such targets pace the league in this span.
Lastly, Jefferson leads the NFL with 97 receptions on targets of 10-plus air yards since 2020; the next-closest receiver on these downfield passes is Stefon Diggs with 73.