Now that the draft is over and mini camps are beginning to open, the Minnesota Vikings are sitting in a much better position than they were just a few months ago.
They still won't be competing for a division title this season, but the additions they made through the draft and free agency will bring some new faces to a lineup that desperately needed a new look.
With training camp still several months away, it is difficult to guess which rookies will be successful and who won't.
That being said, here's my best shot at trying to do just that.
Here is my prediction for the 53 men who will make the active roster.
Ponder may not have proven that he will be a great NFL QB up to this point. But for now, he's still the franchise QB and the guaranteed starter.
Some may argue that Webb should start over Ponder. He may not be the greatest QB on the team, but he makes plays, and he has a lot of value for a sixth round pick. Webb could make great trade bait down the road.
Rosenfels has likely seen his last opportunity as a starter in the NFL—that much is a given. Rosenfels does offer a veteran presence and a mentor to the two young QBs ahead of him on the depth chart.
Even though he had reconstructive knee surgery just a few months ago, Peterson still figures to be the No. 1 runner on this team by the time the season comes around and will continue to be the face of the franchise. Even if he isn't ready to start Week 1, Peterson is guaranteed a roster spot.
Gerhart proved in Peterson's absence that he is a very capable NFL ball-carrier. In all likelihood, Gerhart will be the opening day starter upon AP's continued absence, should his rehab slow.
Nothing special about Hilliard—he's just the next man up. The Vikings chose not to bring back Lorenzo Booker, and Hilliard has the most seniority among the remaining RBs on the team. This doesn't necessarily mean he'll make the team, but he gets my guess, for now.
Ellison is in line to take over for the retired Jimmy Kleinsasser. Ryan D'Imperio has been underwhelming—not terrible, but underwhelming—since the Vikings converted him to fullback from linebacker.
Ellison got drafted pretty high considering the role he'll be stepping into. It's hard to imagine him not making the roster.
Though Michael Jenkins was not a flashy target for the Vikings in 2011, he was effective when he was healthy. I fully expect him to retain his starting job at the conclusion of training camp as long as one of the young guys like Greg Childs doesn't completely blow up.
The Vikings' confidence to sign Simpson, even with a three-week suspension, tells me that he will be playing upon his return.
Aromashodu got a new one-year contract this offseason, presumably to show that he's worth a roster spot. He didn't look fantastic in 2011, but he's got "the p-word" (potential), and this is probably his last chance, at least in a Vikings uniform, to show that he can turn the potential into production.
I'm still in the minority that isn't convinced that Childs will be productive for the Vikings. But as a fourth-round pick and a guy with a lot of "the p-word," taking the risk of hoping someone doesn't snatch him off your practice squad will be too much for the Vikings to deal with.
Wright's spot behind Percy Harvin is pretty secure. Harvin takes a beating and is very tough, but will need a backup as the game wears on him. Wright also has the potential to be a kick returner and a punt returner.
Rudolph automatically becomes the starter after the loss of Kleinsasser and Visanthe Shiancoe.
Carlson will have to show what he can do as a blocker. His time in Seattle showed that he can catch, but can he block and can he stay healthy? That remains to be seen.
Don't think I'm counting Ellison twice, I know I already accounted for him. I just wanted to note that he will probably be utilized as a TE just as much as a FB. The Vikings don't use a FB very often, so this will be an added opportunity to get Ellison on the field.
Johnson's stint at left tackle for the Vikings was short-lived, and for good reason. Johnson has been thought to be able to play guard decently, and with Steve Hutchinson's release, he'll likely kick over one spot and play guard in 2012.
Schwartz was sort of the prize of the Vikings' free agent class this offseason, in a weird way. Schwartz will battle with Brandon Fusco for the starting RG spot.
DeGeare spent 2011 on the practice squad because of weight issues, but he was effective as a backup in 2010 when he was a rookie. If he comes back and plays well in camp, he'll get a roster spot in 2012.
Sullivan is the best offensive lineman on the roster at this point.
In the twilight of his career, Winfield will likely see his role limited to the nickel. He'll start opposite Cook on the outside at the beginning of the season, but I expect him to eventually be replaced by Josh Robinson as the starter.
Along with my expectation of Robinson eventually becoming the starter opposite Cook, Robinson will probably be used extensively on special teams.
Bowman wasn't very good in coverage for the Bears, but he was a solid tackler on special teams. I imagine that will be the extent of his role with the Vikings.
This last CB spot will come down to Asher Allen and Burton. Allen has had a lot more time to show that he belongs, and my current opinion says that he does not.
Raymond may not have done much in 2011, but he's got potential as a free safety playing opposite Harrison Smith.
Blanton will have an opportunity to fight Raymond for the starting job. From what I've heard, Blanton impressed coaches at rookie mini camp.
Despite not playing extremely well in 2011, Sanford is a fantastic special teams player and worth the roster spot.
Pretty much the same reasons as Sanford...
Robison showed in 2011 why he was worth the big, new contract and why it was okay for the Vikings to not re-sign Ray Edwards.
Griffen could possibly be the most talented guy that isn't starting for the Vikings. I wouldn't be surprised if he became trade bait for the Vikings, and if they got somebody good for him.
Not much to say about Reed—he was mediocre in 2011 when he actually saw the field. He'll be around for depth and continued development.
Guion will fill the spot left by the released Remi Ayodele, who was underwhelming at best in 2011. Guion has great size and the potential to play well as the NT in the Vikings' 4-3 front.
Ballard won't be starting any games for the Vikings in 2012, but he looks to be Kevin Williams' successor. Expect him to see an increased role in 2012.
Brinkley is likely the starter for the Vikings over the middle in 2012. Brinkley played all right for the team in 2009 as a rookie when E.J. Henderson was injured, but spent 2011 on the IR with a hip injury. This year may be his only shot to prove that he can be a starter.
I'd like to see the Vikings pick up another MLB to create some competition for camp. Rocky McIntosh has visited with the Vikings, but they have not signed anyone yet.
Henderson got a one-year deal this offseason and proved to be an adequate starter in 2011. This year will be his opportunity to make some BIG money.
This is the only undrafted guy I see making the team. The coaches have apparently been impressed with what he showed in rookie mini camp and Iowa produces great linebackers. Plus, putting him behind fellow former Hawkeye Chad Greenway could help him learn a lot.
The Vikings signed this former CFL star this offseason, and he could potentially come in and contribute on special teams right away. Elimimian was voted the "CFL's Hardest Hitter" by his fellow players. That sounds good for a gunner if you ask me.
Kicker: Blair Walsh
The Vikings surprised a lot of people by releasing Ryan Longwell. They spent a sixth-round pick on Walsh and expect some big things out of him. His accuracy in college was less than desirable, but playing in a dome might be able to help that. They will need him to grow up fast.
Punter: Chris Kluwe
Kluwe was very consistent in 2011 and is one of the better punters in the NFL. Even as he runs his mouth on Twitter—much to my personal enjoyment—his roster spot is safe.
Long Snapper: Cullen Loeffler
Loeffler got injured part way through 2011, and the field-goal units suffered without him. If he comes back healthy, he's got his spot.
Here's my potential practice squad predictions:
1. WR Stephen Burton
2. RB Derrick Coleman
3. DL Trevor Guyton
4. QB Mcleod Bethel-Thompson
5. OT Jose Valdez
6. DB Nick Taylor
7. RB Jordan Todman
8. CB C.C. Whitlock
Thanks for reading.