Minnesota Vikings: Pre-Training Camp Predictions for the 2011 Starting Lineup
Things are looking good for the end of the lockout coming soon.
The owners and players are meeting this week in Minnesota to continue negotiations to resolve the labor situation, and hopefully to get the lockout lifted in time for training camps in early July.
Well, July is tomorrow, so they better figure something out soon.
Once they do and training camps open up, teams like the Minnesota Vikings who have a lot of uncertainty on their roster will be able to figure out where they stand moving into the regular season.
This list includes my predictions for the 2011 starting lineup. Please note that I will not be including any unrestricted free agent signings or possibilities through trades.
Ponder is the obvious choice here. I realize that Leslie Frazier says the Vikings will have an open competition for the starting role, and possibly bring in a veteran to ease the transition for the rookie QB.
Like I said, I'm not going to speculate over free agents or trades for this article. That leaves Ponder and Joe Webb. I don't think they would've drafted Ponder number 12 overall if they weren't planning on starting him.
This list should include Sidney Rice, but since I am not including free agent signings he will not be counted. For what it's worth, I think Rice will still be a Viking in 2011, so this slide would be a little different.
1) Bernard Berrian:
Berrian shouldn't be a number one receiver for any team, but if the Vikings fail to resign Sidney Rice fans could face that hard reality. He will really have to show something at training camp to get this spot, because he could be on his way out if he doesn't produce.
Personally, I think that he will get cut if Rice stays in purple, but if not, Berrian is the guy.
2) Manny Arceneaux:
For those of you who don't recognize this name, remember it. Arceneaux was brought to the Vikings at the end of the 2010 NFL season from the CFL—where he was very successful with the BC Lions.
Arceneaux is a hard worker and has good size. I don't know what kind of star power he has, but he will be a factor for the Vikings in 2011.
Slot) Percy Harvin:
I know what you're thinking: why isn't Harvin in the top two? The reason is because Harvin has most of his success out of the slot instead of on the outside.
I think Ponder will get very comfortable throwing to Harvin and the Vikings TEs underneath, making each of them threats. The Vikings tend to run a lot of multiple WR sets, essentially making Harvin a starter, even out of the slot.
The Vikings drafted Kyle Rudolph to possibly be the league's next great TE, but like I've said in a very recent article, Shiancoe is still the alpha-dog in Minnesota.
I think Shiancoe is primed for a big year, he has put in a lot of work this offseason. I have no doubt in my mind that Shiancoe will be the number-one TE.
Bryant McKinnie has been the starter for some time now. I think the fact that the Vikings drafted so many offensive linemen and that everyone seems to be doubting him will make McKinnie play with a chip on his shoulder.
Steve Hutchinson is still one of the league's great offensive linemen. Just try and tell me he won't start.
Brandon Fusco is a rookie out of Slippery Rock. He may be inexperienced and from a small school, but I think that he is just as good an option as the centers the Vikings already have on the roster.
I think it would be a great idea for the Vikings to get the rookie QB Ponder and this rookie C to build some chemistry early if Fusco could be a long time option for the Vikings.
Demarcus Love is another rookie that I think could compete for a starting role this season. Love is a mature player who just finished his senior year at Arkansas, where he was a long-time starter—even a senior bowl starter.The Vikings drafted him in the sixth round, but at one point he was considered a second round prospect.
Love's poor performance in the senior bowl is the reason for his lowered draft stock. I am not convinced of this and like his potential. I think the rookie plays with a chip on his shoulder and works past his underachieving superiors at RG.
Phil Loadholt is the subject of much criticism, but in reality has improved a lot since his rookie year. Loadholt has been working hard this offseason and I think he will certainly be able to hang on to his starting role.
This one is obvious. Allen is one of the highest paid defensive players in the NFL. His goal of 17.5 sacks in 2011 will be in reach, because he isn't losing his starting role to anybody.
Robison is one of the only 2011 free agents that the Vikings were able to resign before the lockout, and they gave him a whopping contract.
Ray Edwards has both feet out the door, leaving Robison and Everson Griffen to compete for the starting spot. I think the fact that they gave Robison such a large contract makes him the obvious starter, but the competition between Robison and Griffen will be closer than people think.
Williams is another no-brainer. He is still one of the best run-stopping DTs in the NFL. I have no doubt that he starts.
With Pat Williams potentially gone, the DT spot opposite Kevin Williams is left open. I think that Guion is the most eligible candidate to fill that spot.
In a limited role, he has shown solid potential. At 6'4" and 303 lbs, he certainly has the size to compete for this spot. I think his main competitors would include rookie Christian Ballard and veteran Jimmy Kennedy.
I think in the end Guion is the best option, and Leslie Frazier will ultimately make a good call no matter who he goes with given his defensive background.
Chad Greenway is arguable the best LB on the Vikings roster. I know that he is technically a free agent, but because he received the Vikings' franchise tag I am confident that he will still be starting for the Vikings in 2011.
Erin Henderson will replace Ben Leber as the weak-side OLB. Leber is a free agent and an older one at that. I don't think anybody really thinks that Leber will be back.
This leaves Lil' Henderson (EJ's brother) as the only OLB qualified to do the job (in my opinion, of course). I know that he is a free agent as well, but his restricted free agent status has me confident that he will be a Viking in 2011.
Henderson is pretty much the best option here. Jasper Brinkley showed that he can fill in, but Henderson is far and away a better player.
After coming off a broken femur, Henderson immediately made the Pro Bowl—which is just a testament to his toughness and perseverance. Henderson will continue to be a centerpiece to the Vikings defense, at least for 2011. In 2012 Henderson will be a free agent.
Winfield is still one of the premier tackling CBs in the NFL. He is also pretty much the only stable CB on the Vikings roster. As long as he stays with the Vikings, I think he will be a starter.
Griffin will own the other starting spot once again—as long as he can stay healthy. After two torn ACLs, Griffin will have to work on his durability to remain a factor for the Vikings defense. But when healthy, he's as good as most other CBs in the NFL
Nickel and Dime packages:
Look for Asher Allen and rookie Brandon Burton to get some time playing in these packages. The two aren't strong enough to go up against number-one receivers, but do have the potential to play against multiple WR sets–probably against the Packers.
Madieu Williams is the Vikings' big money safety, and a waste at that. He has been an embarrassment to the Vikings' defense and a constant reminder of Brad Childress' incompetence. I think he gets cut after training camp.
Hussain Abdullah is probably the only safety on the Vikings 2010 roster that showed any sort of potential—or game at all. Even then, he was spotty.
Without considering free agent signings or trades, Abdullah is the best option for the Vikings, bar none. Like Erin Henderson, Abdullah is also a restricted free agent, which has me confident that he will still be a Viking in 2011.
Chris Cook was drafted as a CB, but with his proneness to injury I think a switch to safety could make sense. Like I've said in a previous article, the Vikings' need at safety could be enough to cause a switch for Cook. I think that if he does switch, he will be the starter for sure.
Another player to watch is rookie DB Mistral Raymond out of USF. He could get some decent playing time this year, but I don't think he will be the starter out of the gates.
This is my best shot at a pre-training camp starting line-up for 2011. I plan to assess the starting line-up as roster changes occur and we move closer to the regular season.
Thanks for the read guys.
Feel free to comment or shoot me a message if you have anything to say about my predictions. I really appreciate feedback.