The Vikings won't be making their first round of cuts until Tuesday, although they did get a head start on things this week. Those first round of cuts, and even the final cuts, will include a lot of names that we are barely familiar with - rookie undrafted free agents and assorted NFL flotsam and jetsam. There will also be some guys we aren't familiar with who will survive both round of cuts and make the team. Who might those guys be? Here are some possibilities.
The Vikings couldn't have thought too much of Felder's chances of making the 53-man roster as his profile shot on the team website (click on his name to go to the link) features a shot of Felder's back. It doesn't even show the guy face on. Anyway, I don't know if Felder did anything in the first preseason game, but he certainly looked good returning punts and covering punts against the Bills, including breaking off a 37-yard return. Returning punts was Marcus Sherels job last year, but he hasn't shown he can be a viable cornerback in the league. He's only making the team if no one else is any good at returning punts. Felder showed in Buffalo he can be good at it, too. Felder's also quite a bit stockier than Sherels, and if he can hold up in coverage during the final two preseason games while continuing to impress returning punts and playing on the coverage units, he's making this team. It doesn't hurt his chances that the Vikings cut veteran cornerback Jacob Lacey this week (see above) and underwhelming Brandon Burton is also competing with Felder for a roster spot.
Smith was not a terribly productive player at Florida State. He went undrafted this spring. He's caught just one pass in two preseason games. But the catch he made was a beauty. Smith is also listed at 6'6 and about 220 pounds and can run in the 4.5 range. That's a combination NFL teams are after. The conventional wisdom is the Vikings may only keep five WRs and Stephen Burton has played well enough to be that fifth guy. I agree. However, if Smith can make some more catches like he did against Buffalo he could steal a roster spot from Burton - who blocks well but hasn't shown he can get open during real games and catch passes. And isn't catching passes what a WR gets paid to do?
I hadn't given much thought to McCloud making the team until I read this writeup in Pro Football Focus on the Vikings-Bills game praising McCloud's power and ability to blow up Buffalo running plays. Christian Ballard's leaving the team doesn't help McCloud because Ballard's an under tackle and McCloud's a nose tackle. What does help McCloud is that ahead of him on the Vikings depth chart are Letroy Guion and Chase Baker.
OK. Line had the 61 yard catch and run for a TD in the preseason opener that was part good blocking, part defensive ineptitude by Houston and part individual effort. Against Buffalo, Line had a block that helped spring Joe Banyard for a 38-yard run that set up the Vikings first touchdown. That's only two plays, but they are two good plays. The Vikings already have Jerome Felton to play fullback and I can't see them keeping two on the roster. But Line is doing some nice things with his snaps and will be a difficult guy to cut (and then stash on the practice squad) if it comes to that.