Minnesota Vikings: Breaking Down the First 'Official' 2012 Depth Chart

Drew Tull@@drewtullContributor IIAugust 7, 2012

Minnesota Vikings: Breaking Down the First 'Official' 2012 Depth Chart

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    With the Minnesota Vikings preseason opener quickly approaching, the team released their first depth chart on Monday.

    There were only very minor surprises based on the snaps during training, but if you haven't been able to keep up with all the practices, this will serve as a good tool to catch you up.

    The Minnesota Vikings open the exhibition schedule at 8 p.m. CST Friday at San Francisco.

    Each slide will feature a specific unit and the "official" depth chart with some highlights.



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    1st: Christian Ponder

    2nd: Joe Webb

    3rd: Sage Rosenfels

    4th: McLeod Bethel-Thompson


    Offense Coordinator Bill Musgrave has very little surprises on his entire depth chart at this point, and the quarterbacks are no different.

    Christian Ponder is the unquestioned starter and Joe Webb is his backup quarterback.  

    Sage Rosenfels is the third-string quarterback and mentor to the three young quarterbacks

    McLeod (pronounced muh-CLOUD) Bethel-Thompson is the fourth quarterback and is a dark horse to unseat Rosenfels.  

    He has a cannon arm and looked very good early in OTAs and minicamp, but it will take a huge camp for the Sacremento State product to supplant the veteran Rosenfels.  

    Bethel-Thompson is more likely to be a candidate for the practice squad. 

Halfbacks and Fullbacks

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    Half Backs:

    1st: Adrian Peterson

    2nd: Toby Gerhart

    3rd: Lex Hilliard

    4th: Jordan Todman

    5th: Derrick Coleman


    Alright Minnesota Vikings fans—slow the excitement train down, Adrian Peterson shouldn't be penciled in as the opening day starter just yet.  

    The Vikings coaches actually did leave other injured players on the depth chart as well so we shouldn't be reading into this too much.

    Peterson will eventually be the featured running back again, but until then we are in the capable hands of Toby Gerhart.  Gerhart has added upper body muscle this offseason in preparation for the increased role.

    One of the anticipated camp battles is for the third running back role.  There are three players competing for the job in Lex Hilliard, Jordan Todman and Derrick Coleman.

    Hilliard has the edge according to the depth chart as well as experience.  Hilliard is entering his fourth NFL season after playing for the Miami Dolphins.  He's a big, versatile runner that can play fullback, halfback and special teams.  

    Todman is smaller with more of the scat-back game that features explosion and shiftiness out of the backfield.  Todman has been slowed by a left ankle injury and may be limited on Friday's opener. He is also a good special teams player, and is in the mix as a punt returner.

    Unless Peterson has a setback or the team is cautious, the Vikings may opt to keep just three running backs on the roster with either Hilliard and Todman filling that role.     

    Coleman, like Hilliard, is a big and versatile running back that went undrafted out of UCLA.  He is a long shot to make the final roster but could impress enough to make the practice squad.

    Full Backs:

    1st: Jerome Felton

    2nd: Ryan D'Imperio

    3rd: Matt Asiata


    Felton gets the nod as the No. 1 fullback entering the first preseason game.  Felton must be a favorite of the coaches after surviving his DUI arrest in June.  Felton is a decent lead blocker and could be used in short-yardage situations but not much more.  

    D'Imperio and Asiata round out the final two fullbacks on the roster but both would seem to be long shots to break camp on the 53-man roster.  

    Last season the Vikings had both players on the practice squad, opting only to keep hybrid FB/TE Jim Kleinsasser on the roster—the same role that many speculated the Vikings would do with rookie Rhett Ellison who is listed as the third-string tight end.  

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

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    Split Ends (X) Receivers:

    1st: Jerome Simpson

    2nd: Michael Jenkins

    3rd: Devin Aromashodu

    4th: Greg Childs

    5th: Emmaunel Arceneaux


    Jerome Simpson has had a great camp so far and is the unquestioned starter at split end.  His backup (and replacement for three games) remains the bigger question.

    That is one of the most talked about training camp battles.  Rookie Greg Childs was thought by many to have an edge because of his size and athletic abilities, before suffering a devastating torn patella tendon in both knees on Saturday—he's done for the year.

    That would seem to make Michael Jenkins the favorite to fill-in for Simpson.  However, there are concerns about Jenkins' health following his torn meniscus at the end of last season. Coach Frazier said that Jenkins "needs to come along physically" during the preseason.  Jenkins is a bit of a wild card as he could start opening day or not make the roster at all.

    The rest of the depth chart at split end is filled out by Devin Aromashodu and Emmanuel Arceneaux.  Aromashodu is a five-year veteran who got a lot of snaps in 2011 and did very little with it.  Arceneaux was signed out of the CFL last year and didn't play until the end of the year.  

    Both players are need very strong camps and preseason games to bypass a healthy Jenkins, but at this point there are more questions than answers at split end. 

    Flankers (Y) Receivers: 

    1st: Percy Harvin

    2nd: Stephen Burton

    3rd: Jarius Wright

    4th: Kerry Taylor

    5th: Bryan Walters

    6th: Kamar Jorden


    Harvin is the star of the receiving corps and seems to be quiet and happy since his "demand to be traded" episode happened.  He is already been named at least a part-time starter at kick returner.

    Behind Harvin, Stephen Burton has quickly climbed the charts with some outstanding work in OTAs and training camp.  

    Jarius Wright got the nod as the third flanker even though Kerry Taylor has seen more reps than Wright.  

    Taylor, along with Walters and Jorden, are long shots to make the 53-man roster unless they are standouts on special teams.  

    Walters with Wright are both competing to be the starting punt returners.  A good showing on special teams will go along ways to helping Walters chances of making the team. 

    Tight Ends:

    1st: Kyle Rudolph

    2nd: John Carlson

    3rd: Rhett Ellison

    4th: Allen Reisner

    5th: Mickey Shuler


    No real surprises on this list.  

    Rudolph is emerging as Ponder's favorite target.  

    Carlson, though injured, is the clear No. 2 behind Rudolph.  

    Ellison ranked third in front of Reisner is a little surprising as Reisner has seen more of the snaps that Carlson would be receiving if he was in camp.  

    I expect all four to make the final roster with Shuler an option for the practice squad.

Offensive Line

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    Left Tackle:

    1st: Matt Kalil

    2nd: DeMarcus Love

    3rd: Kevin Murphy


    Not a surprise on the list here, Matt Kalil has been the starter from day one at left tackle.

    Love backed up Charlie Johnson at LT last year and will likely break camp as the backup this year.  

    Kevin Murphy was just resigned, again, and is a long shot to make the final cut.

    Left Guard:

    1st: Charlie Johnson

    2nd: Chris DeGeare

    3rd: Tyler Holmes

    4th: Grant Cook


    With the drafting of Kalil, Johnson moves back to his more natural guard position and is the starter.  

    DeGeare has experience at both guard positions and has gotten increased snaps at RG with Schwartz out. That will help the former 2010 fifth-round pick's chances to make the final roster.  

    I don't expect Holmes or Cook to make the final roster, though Holmes would seem to have an edge in earning a practice squad spot.


    1st: John Sullivan

    2nd: Joe Berger

    3rd: Quentin Saulsberry


    John Sullivan is back with a new five-year contract and has emerged as the leader of the offensive line.  

    He is backed up by C/G Joe Berger who is a veteran with some starting experience.  His versatility makes him valuable enough to keep. 

    Saulsberry is an undrafted free agent with a solid college pedigree who could be kept on the practice squad

    Right Guard:

    1st: Brandon Fusco

    2nd: Geoff Schwartz

    3rd: Austin Pasztor

    4th: Bridger Buche


    Another of the tightly contested starting job in camp is right guard.  

    Fusco and Schwartz were thought to be the two in the battle, but injuries to Schwartz has slowed this competition down.  Fusco seems to be the favorite to open the season at right guard.

    Pasztor and Buche are very long shots to make the final roster cuts with an edge to Pasztor to earn a practice squad job. 

    Right Tackle:

    1st: Phil Loadholt

    2nd: Patrick Brown

    3rd: Levi Horn


    More of the same at right tackle where Loadholt is the starter.  

    Brown is the backup from 2011 and still likely to earn that job again.

    Horn is a a decent prospect at tackle and could land on the practice squad.

Defensive Line

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    Right End:

    1st: Jared Allen

    2nd: Nick Reed

    3rd: Jeff Charleston


    The NFL's 2011 sack leader, Jared Allen, is on top of the depth chart once again.  

    His backup may end up being Everson Griffen by the time the season opener is here, but for now it is Nick Reed.  

    Reed has some NFL experience (Chicago and Tampa Bay) in his three seasons and could earn one of the last spots on the final roster depending on where the team is with Griffen.  

    Charleston, signed from the Saints, will fight an uphill battle to oust Reed for a roster spot and neither is guaranteed a spot.

    Left End: 

    1st: Brian Robison

    2nd: D'Aundre Reed

    3rd: Ernest Owusu


    Robison returns after a very good year in 2011 and is the unquestioned starter.  

    Reed spent the entire 2011 season on the practice squad but could be poised to step up in 2012.  

    Owusu is a long shot to make the roster after being an undrafted free agent out of Cal. 

    Nose Tackle:

    1st: Letroy Guion

    2nd:  Fred Evans

    3rd: Chase Baker

    4th: Tydreke Powell


    Guion was re-signed to be the starting nose tackle and still has a hold on the job.  After playing mostly the three-techinique, the Vikings need Guion to step up next to Kevin Williams.

    Evans is a situational nose tackle that can provide depth behind Guion. He has good experience and the Vikings are banking on the sixth-year player to be more consistent.

    Baker and Powell are both undrafted free agents that aren't expected to make the final roster but the most impressive could be on the practice squad.

    Under Tackle:

    1st: Kevin Williams

    2nd: Christian Ballard

    3rd: Trevor Guyton

    4th: Anthony Jacobs 


    A healthy Williams is still a force at the three-technique tackle position.  

    Ballard is the immediate backup and may find time at nose tackle on passing downs.

    Guyton was the seventh-round pick in 2012 and may get the final roster spot on the defensive line. 

    Jacobs is a former Golden Gopher undrafted free agent that is on the outside looking in.


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    Weak-side Linebacker:

    1st: Erin Henderson

    2nd: Marvin Mitchell

    3rd: Everson Griffen


    Henderson was re-signed after a solid showing in his first season as a starter.  Though it's only a one-year deal, Henderson should be motivated to earn a big contract next offseason.

    Mitchell was originally signed to be in the mix in the middle so finding him as the No. 2 at WLB is a bit surprising.  

    Mitchell is another player that shines on special teams so this could be a where he is making his mark the most.

    Griffen is the wild card of the bunch.  Drafted as a defensive end, the Vikings decided at the end of OTAs to try him as a rush linebacker.  Griffen has a phenomenal athlete but the position switch may prove to be too much.  

    He will certainly make the team but it could be at DE rather than WLB.

    Middle Linebacker:

    1st: Jasper Brinkley

    2nd: Tyrone McKenzie

    3rd: Audie Cole

    4th: Tyler Nielsen


    MLB has been a concern of the Vikings since they let E.J. Henderson go in free agency.  Brinkley was basically handed the starting job but missed time in minicamp and OTAs, leading to more health concerns.  

    He has since had a very solid training camp and seems to have established himself as the starter in the middle.

    McKenzie served as the starter while Brinkley was out earlier this offseason and seems to have a strong hold on the backup job for now.

    Cole is a seventh-round draft pick that can play inside and outside and should be a solid special teams player.  

    Nielsen is an undrafted free agent from Iowa that may be buried on the depth chart.  

    He could be a practice squad candidate.  

    Strong-side Linebacker:

    1st: Chad Greenway

    2nd: Larry Dean

    3rd: Solomon Elimimian

    4th: Corey Paredes


    Greenway is coming off of a Pro Bowl season in 2012 and is the leader of the linebackers.  He is expected to take over the play-calling duties and adjustments on the field.

    Dean is a special teams standout that has been a pet project of Minnesota Vikings co-linebacker coach Mike Singletary.  

    According to this depth chart, Elimimian could be on the bubble to make the roster but the former CFL hard-hitter could turn heads once games get underway.

    Paredes has had moments where he stood out in practices but the undrafted free agent out of Hawaii is a long shot to make the final roster.

    He seems destined to battle for a practice squad spot.

Defensive Backs

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    Right Cornerback:

    1st: Chris Cook

    2nd: Chris Carr

    3rd: Josh Robinson

    4th: Zack Bowman

    5th: Bobby Felder

    6th: Chris Stroud


    Cook is the starter on the outside and will likely be asked to shadow teams' top receivers.  
    Carr has had a very nice offseason and is the likely starter on the outside when the Vikings are in a nickel package.

    Robinson has been slowed by injuries but still ranks ahead of Bowman and Felder.  Robinson is in the mix to return kicks as well.

    Bowman is a very good special teams player but hasn't climbed the depth chart.  He could be in danger of losing his spot to Felder.

    Felder is an undrafted free agent out of Nichols State who has caused a lot of buzz in training camp. He could be quickly climbing the depth chart if he can reproduce that level of play in preseason games.

    Stroud will not make the final roster.

    Left Cornerback:

    1st: Antoine Winfield

    2nd: Brandon Burton

    3rd: Marcus Sherels

    4th: Reggie Jones

    5th: Corey Gatewood


    Winfield is healthy and is looking to have a bounce-back season.  He is likely to play a lot in the slot in nickel packages but the coaches have said that they will move him around.

    Burton has been very solid this offseason and has a good chance to make the final roster.  
    The last man in could come down to Felder, Jones and/or Sherels.  Sherels has the edge on punt returning but after struggling at cornerback last year, he is no lock to make the team.  

    Jones, like Felder, has caused coaches to take notice and could be moving up the depth chart quickly with more good performances.

    Gatewood is not expected to make the roster.

    Nickel Cornerback:

    1st: Antoine Winfield

    2nd: Marcus Sherels

    3rd: Chris Carr

    4th: Robert Blanton


    No real surprises here with Winfield on top of the depth chart.

    The only surprise may be that Sherels is ranked second.  The second-year undrafted free agent out of the University of Minnesota will need to have a strong training camp to keep this spot.

    Robert Blanton is also a mild surprise to see on the list.  It will be interesting to see how the Vikings utilize the college cornerback turned safety in the preseason. 

    Free Safety:

    1st: Jamarca Sanford

    2nd: Harrison Smith

    3rd: Andrew Sendejo


    This is my biggest surprise so far on the entire depth chart.  Sanford "earned" his starting job in 2011 by beating out Tyrell Johnson in camp, but was ultimately ineffective. Sanford thrives on special teams where he can best utilize his high motor on returns. 

    Sanford may have the nod right now based on trying to keep Smith motivated in proving himself. Smith is the 2012 first-round draft pick that was getting some first team reps early in camp but has given way to Sanford recently.  

    Smith is a very smart, steady player that may shine in game situations.

    Sendejo has spent time with the Jets and Cowboys.  He saw action in a career-high three game in 2011 with Minnesota but will not likely make the final roster. 

    Strong Safety:

    1st: Mistral Raymond

    2nd: Eric Frampton

    3rd: Robert Blanton


    No real surprises at strong safety.  

    Raymond has seemed to be the starter since minicamp and hasn't relinquished the role yet. He was not a great coverage safety in 2011, which he will need to improve upon to keep the role.

    Frampton is the leading returning tackler on special teams and could earn a spot based solely on that role alone.  

    He is certainly on the bubble for a roster spot and will be pushed by rookie Robert Blanton.  

    Blanton was the 2012 fifth-round draft pick and will be given time to learn his new safety position after playing cornerback at Notre Dame.  Blanton is also in the mix to earn snaps as a nickel cornerback.

Special Teams

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    Chris Kluwe


    Blair Walsh

    Long Snapper:

    Cullen Loeffler


    Chris Kluwe


    Kluwe returns for his seventh season with the Vikings and will be the punter and holder once again. Kluwe had a career-best touchback percentage last year, and the Vikings will expect the veteran to help the rookie kicker, Blair Walsh, get his feet wet.

    Walsh was drafted in the sixth-round in 2012 and made veteran kicker Ryan Longwell expendable.  

    Walsh is known for his very strong leg on both field goals as well as kickoffs which is something the Vikings lacked with Longwell.

    Loeffler is one of the most consistent long snappers in the NFL and his veteran presence along with Kluwe will be a great asset to the rookie Walsh.

    Punt Returner:

    1st: Marcus Sherels

    2nd: Jarius Wright

    3rd: Josh Robinson

    4th: Bryan Walters


    Sherels opens the preseason as the first-string punt returner, a role he had all of 2011.  The undrafted free agent will have some stiff competition to hold off in 2012 if he expects to keep the job.

    Wright is a very quick and elusive player which are strengths that make up a great punt returner. If he can keep getting more looks on special teams he could overtake Sherels.

    Robinson and Walters round out the depth chart, and could make waves with a good showing in preseason games.  

    Robinson has amazing speed but has been limited in with an ankle injury.

    Walters has experience with the return game from his time with the San Diego Chargers but the Vikings have more dynamic weapons on the roster.

    Kick Returner:

    1st: Percy Harvin

    2nd: Marcus Sherels

    3rd: Jarius Wright

    4th: Stephen Burton

    5th: Josh Robinson


    Harvin will be at least the part-time kickoff returner in 2012, like he has in previous seasons.  Harvin will likely be used in certain situations only to limit his exposure to injuries.

    Sherels handled most of the kickoffs last year opposite of Harvin and is second on the depth chart again in 2012.

    He will be challenged by an emerging Burton who has been impressive in camp so far.  Burton has a great size and speed combo to be a threat.

    Both players could eventually be replaced by the rookie third-round draft pick Robinson.  Robinson ran an amazing 4.29 40-yard dash at the NFL draft combine making him a threat to win the job.  Once Robinson can move past a minor ankle injury, he could start moving up the depth chart.

    Drew Tull blogs for the Sports Authority Network, which covers all Minnesota sports teams.  

    For Bleacher Report, Drew blogs on the NFL with primary coverage of both the Minnesota Vikings and the Atlanta Falcons.

    Follow him on Twitter or keep up with discussions on the Facebook pages dedicated to the VikingsFalcons or Minnesota sports.