Heading into training camp it's still unclear who will start at one of the Vikings safety positions. But fear not. Harrison Smith occupies the other starting position, and he's about as good as it gets at the position. Plus, there are plenty of capable hands on deck to fill the other position. Returning starter Robert Blanton has a leg up on the competition, but there's a long way to go and the competition will be thick.
Here's where the Vikings stand at safety heading into training camp...
View some of the best images of the Vikings defensive backs from the offseason program.
Total going to camp: 5
Total on 2014 opening day roster: 4
Average age: 25
Most experienced: Andrew Sendejo (5th season); Harrison Smith (40 games played)
Rookies: 1 (Anthony Harris)
Position Coach: Jerry Gray
As Good As It Gets
Perhaps as big a snub as there was on NFL Network's (player voted) Top 100 Players of 2015 list, Harrison Smith is an ace in Mike Zimmer's defensive deck and his presence alone makes safety a position of strength for the Vikings. Coaches often say that ideally their safeties are interchangeable, but it's quite infrequent to find a safety who is truly interchangeable between the free and strong positions. Smith is. He is a fierce hitter and an enforcer in the middle of the field and on the boundary. He supports the run well, he is an effective blitzer and he has improved dramatically in coverage.
Exum, Sendejo Chase Blanton
As fun as it is to watch Smith play, all eyes will be on the other safety in the Vikings defense during training camp and the preseason. Robert Blanton registered 111 tackles in 15 games with 13 starts at the position last season and he does return in 2015, but don't be surprised if Antone Exum and/or Andrew Sendejo push him for playing time. Exum was a sixth-round selection a year ago and there's a growing sense that he could take a significant step forward in his sophomore season under the tutelage of Zimmer and position coach Jerry Gray. Sendejo is the most experienced safety on the Vikings roster and the bulk of his contribution has come as a (very good) special teams player. Both Exum and Sendejo have an angle to catch Blanton in the race for a starting spot, but give the advantage to Blanton heading into camp.
Whatcha Got, Rook?
He's undrafted and he's undersized, but don't count out rookie Anthony Harris. The 6-1, 190-pound safety was a playmaker at Virginia, garnering 2013 First-Team All-ACC honors and registering 26 pass breakups and 10 interceptions over his final two seasons.* *That success and production at the collegiate level made him a sought-after free agent once the draft concluded and perhaps it was the prospects of this type of position battle at one of the safety spots that appealed to Harris as he surveyed his options across the League. Now that he's acclimated himself to the team during the offseason program, it's time for Harris to show what he's got down in Mankato.
Prater a Wild Card
Shaun Prater is not a name that comes to mind easily when one contemplates the position battles in the Vikings secondary. But he has a chance to change that over the next few weeks. Prater actually played for Zimmer in Cincinnati before the Vikings claimed him on waivers in 2013, and now the two are together again. When the Vikings claimed Prater and then subsequently during Prater's time with the Vikings, he's been listed and has trained at CB. Don't be surprised, though, if he cross trains or even completes a transition to safety this summer. Prater's experience as a CB plus his potential to transition to safety makes him a wild card in the secondary and in the process of whittling the roster down to 53 players in early September.