I haven't really been doing these "look-aheads" on any sort of a schedule, as too many other real life things keep getting in the way. Hopefully I can rectify that issue in the near future, but for today we're taking a look at the remaining skill position players on the Minnesota Vikings' roster. We're combining two different positions in this one because, well, there's one of the two that won't really necessitate a whole lot of conversation.
The fullback position for the Minnesota Vikings, much the same as it has for many teams across the National Football League, has decreased in its level of importance. After seeing the field on just one out of every six plays in 2014, former Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton declared that he was going to seek greener pastures elsewhere, voiding the final year of his contract. Felton probably still has some value to some team somewhere in the NFL, but that team is not going to be the Minnesota Vikings.
The only other player on the roster that could really be classed as a fullback is Zach Line. Line's time in Minnesota has been fairly up-and-down. He had a long touchdown reception in his first pre-season game and made the team coming out of training camp, but then suffered an injury that caused him to be placed on injured reserve. He wound up on the practice squad in 2014 and was brought up to the active roster, but saw very little action. We haven't really seen enough of Zach Line to know how much value he has to the Vikings at this point, but as I said, he's about the closest thing this team has to a fullback with Felton leaving town.
I really don't think that the fullback position is one that the Vikings are going to spend a lot of time on in free agency, and I wouldn't anticipate them using a draft choice on one, either, unless it's in one of the final two rounds of the selection process. There's just no reason for them to do so. Honestly, there's a chance that this team might not have any fullbacks on the roster in 2015. . .that wouldn't surprise me, either.
The tight end position is an interesting one for the Vikings, as they have three guys that are all under contract and bring some different skills to the table. Of course, any discussion of Minnesota tight ends has to start with Kyle Rudolph, the recipient of a big contract extension prior to the 2014 season. When Rudolph is healthy, he's very good. . .he has an enormous catch radius and is a very good red zone target. The problem is that he hasn't been able to stay healthy. He has only started in 16 games over the last two seasons, missing time in 2013 with a foot injury and this past season with an abdominal issue. If Rudolph can shake the injury bug in 2015, I would expect him to have a big year with Teddy Bridgewater getting him the football on a regular basis.
That brings us to a guy that had plenty of snaps in Rudolph's stead in 2014, Chase Ford. Ford, who prior to last season had been best known for a play where he sort of carried Adrian Peterson to a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys, was cut by the Vikings coming out of training camp in 2014, as he spent some time on the PUP list in the pre-season. When Rudolph went down, Ford was called up from the practice squad, and showed some real flashes. He wound up catching 23 passes for 258 yards (11.2 yards/catch) on the season, and scored his first NFL touchdown against the Washington Redskins. Ford has shown the ability to get open and possesses a pretty good set of hands. If the injury bug should hit Rudolph again, the Vikings know they have a pretty solid understudy to step in for him in Ford.
Then there's Rhett Ellison, a guy that has garnered a bit of a cult following among Vikings fans. Ellison is one of the better blocking tight ends in the NFL, and has lined up quite a bit as a fullback as well. He also had more catches this season (19) than he had in his previous two seasons combined (12). Ellison is never going to be a premier receiver or anything, but he's better than people want to give him credit for. He's in the final year of his contract, and it honestly wouldn't surprise me to see the team extend him sooner rather than later
When it comes to the off-season, I definitely wouldn't expect the Vikings to go hunting around free agency for a tight end. And, as much as the Minnesota homer in me would love to see a tandem of Kyle Rudolph and Maxx Williams in a two-tight end set for the Vikings, I don't think there are going to be a whole lot of draft choices used on one, either. Tight end is one of the few positions on this roster where fans really shouldn't expect any turnover, as the team has three guys that have all proven that they belong in the NFL and can be utilized in different ways.
So, that's a look at the fullbacks and tight ends for the Minnesota Vikings. Definitely not the most exciting look-ahead we've had thus far, but given what the team has to work with at those spots, that's probably a good thing.