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Vikings' Defensive Roster So Far and Projected Starters


Jamie Harmer / April 2nd, 2022 / Photo:

 The Vikings entered this year's free agency thin on the defensive side and dawning a new scheme. The team faced player attrition at all three levels. Lost starters across the board. Said good-bye to: Michael Pierce, Anthony Barr, Nick Vigil, Bashaud Breeland, Mackenzie Alexander, Xavier Woods, and (at the time) Patrick Peterson. 

The Vikings front office had some work to do plucking starting talent while continuing to mind the cap. Let's take a look at where the team's defensive roster stands now two and a half weeks into free agency, starting with the weakest position first: Cornerbacks. 

The team was in desperate need of contributors in the secondary. Carrying just four cornerbacks at the time with not one being a clear-cut starter. The Vikings added four guys. Three of which have starting experience. The current cornerbacks room looks like this:

  • Patrick Peterson
  • Cameron Dantzler
  • Chandon Sullivan
  • Nate Hairston
  • Kris Boyd
  • Harrison Hand
  • Parry Nickerson 
  • Tye Smith
With Peterson, Dantzler, Hairston, and Sullivan as my projected "starters" out of this group. It's hard to see the Vikings not taking a corner at 12, and even adding another one in later rounds.

Next up we have the linebackers. Now under the new 3-4 scheme, the team will rely a lot more on its linebackers to cover, contain the run, and most importantly - get pressure on the quarterback. The team carried six linebackers (not including Danielle Hunter) and added two big contributors through free agency. This is where the current linebackers room stands:
  • Eric Kendricks
  • Jordan Hicks
  • Za'Darius Smith
  • Blake Lynch
  • Ryan Connelly
  • Troy Dye
  • Chazz Surratt
  • Tuf Borland
  • Danielle Hunter (DE/OLB)
The Vikings now have two tackling machines on the inside with Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks, plus two elite pass rushers in Danielle Hunter and Za'Darius Smith on the outside. Obviously, these four are my projected starters from this group. 

The team is carrying four safeties, and will likely look to add at least one more before the start of the regular season. Xavier Woods, one year rental, is over and the lone returning starter from the group is Harrison Smith. This is what the safeties room looks like as of today:
  • Harrison Smith
  • Camryn Bynum
  • Josh Metellus
  • Myles Dorn
I have a lot more confidence in my two projected starters here with Harrison Smith and Camryn Bynum, barring injury of course. Now I know Bynum only has a small sample size for us to look at in 2021, but let's not discredit what we did see from the now-second year safety. Metellus and Dorn will likely need to be heavy contributors on special teams.

Last, but not least by any means, is the trenches. The Vikings are currently carrying 13 players along the defensive line (I have Danielle Hunter included here due to his roster designation). The team has some intriguing young players in this group that have yet to see playing time, along with a few we would like to see get more playing time. Here's the current Defensive line room:
  • Danielle Hunter (DE/OLB)
  • D. J. Wonnum
  • Kenny Willekes
  • Patrick Jones II
  • Janarius Robinson
  • Dalvin Tomlinson
  • Harrison Phillips
  • Armon Watts
  • James Lynch
  • Jordon Scott
  • Jaylen Twyman
  • T.Y. McGill
  • T.J. Smith
Here the Vikings are the deepest on the roster. Ed Donatell and Chris Rumph will have plenty of different lines to choose from. My projected starters for a base 3-4 is Armon Watts, Harrison Phillips, and Dalvin Tomlinson. My reasoning here is purely gap control, but like I said the coaches will have their options with this group. Wonnum, Willekes, and Lynch have all been contributors. While we wait to see what guys like Robinson, Twyman and Jones II can bring to the table. The camp competition from this group should be a fun one to watch.

The Vikings have been able to address glaring needs without over spending. Especially on the defensive side of the ball. There is plenty of time before the final roster is in place, but so far the team is off to a solid start.