We’re going through the Minnesota Vikings’ roster and breaking down who’s on the roster at the present time, and whether or not the purple need to draft a player at certain positions when we get to the 2017 NFL Draft. I took a look at the quarterback position, and Ted did a piece on the running backs. With the Adrian Peterson era officially ending in Minnesota, the team is almost certain to draft a running back when everyone gathers in Philadelphia in a couple of weeks, but who are the players they should be looking at?
People who are much wiser about the draft and scouting than I am have repeatedly said that this is one of the deepest running back classes they’ve ever seen, and quality players are going to fall very deep into the draft. So, I’m going to take a quick look at a group of players at the position that the Vikings could potentially target. Since this list is going to be longer than the quarterback list, I’ll break them down by round.
Also, since the Vikings have no first-round pick, I’m going to assume that they have no shot at LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, or Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, as they should all be long gone by the time the Vikings are called. So, here we go.
Joe Mixon, Oklahoma - We could just as well get the proverbial elephant in the room out of the way first. Ordinarily, Mixon’s name would be included in conversations about the first back off the board. He’s definitely the most famous running back in this year’s draft. . .unfortunately, most of his fame doesn’t have anything to do with what he’s done on the field. Yes, his assault on a female student in 2014 is what people are focused on with Mixon, and that’s understandable. . .it was pretty heinous. That’s why he’s going to go much lower than his talent would indicate. Given the recent history the league has had with Ray Rice. . .and, yes, with Adrian Peterson (whether anyone wants to admit it or not). . .teams might be hesitant to bring Mixon into the fold. Someone’s going to get a pretty good running back out of the deal, though.
Alvin Kamara, Tennessee - Warren already did a pretty good feature on Kamara, and I can’t add a whole lot to what he’s already put out there about him. The Vikings are pretty high on him, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they used one of their two third-round selections on him. He’s incredibly dangerous in space, but I’m not sure how much of an inside runner he’s going to be at the NFL level. He also puts the ball on the ground a little more often than you might like (once every 40.6 touches).
Wayne Gallman, Clemson - Gallman doesn’t have any particular strengths, but he doesn’t have any real weaknesses, either. He’s a solid inside runner and has enough speed to get to the outside as well. He’s also ready to contribute right away as a receiver. If anything in his game still needs some work, it’s his pass blocking abilities, but he at least shows a willingness to get in front of people as a blocker. Gallman has plenty to work with, and could become a part of the rotation very quickly.
D’Onta Foreman, Texas - Opinions vary quite a bit on Foreman. He’s a huge back, weighing in at 250 pounds. He got a lot of touches for the Longhorns in his final year and rushed for over 2,000 yards. As a runner, Foreman has few peers in this class. However, his receiving skills at Texas were basically non-existent (he had just 13 catches in three seasons), and might end up being a two-down back in the NFL. Still, if a team has a solid complement to him, he could be worth taking a stab at. Round 3 might be a bit early for him, too. . .he could slide to the draft’s third day.
Samaje Perine, Oklahoma - The Sooners’ all-time leading rusher, Perine is another bigger back at 235 pounds. Like Foreman, he doesn’t have a lot of skills in the passing game yet, though he is more advanced than Foreman in that area. He’s had a series of minor, nagging injuries throughout his college career, which could be a concern going forward.
Kareem Hunt, Toledo - Hunt is a guy that I like a lot as another all-around type of prospect. He doesn’t have a lot of top-end speed, but he’s the type of runner that can gain tough yards inside and break enough tackles to turn ordinary runs into longer ones. He’s also very capable as a receiver, and in 850 career touches for the Rockets only put the ball on the turf one time.
Marlon Mack, South Florida - Mack is another runner that’s more of an outside-the-tackles type that can be devastating in space. He has outstanding top-end speed and has some skills as a receiver, but his pass blocking skills need a lot of work. He might be able to add some more weight without sacrificing his speed, which could help both his inside run game and his pass blocking skills.
Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State - The all-time FBS rushing leader, Pumphrey will likely find himself limited by his size (175 pounds). He’s got speed to burn and can accelerate quickly, but might not ever be more than a change-of-pace sort of back or a return specialist at the NFL level. He’s also had over 700 touches over the past two seasons, which is likely going to wear on him.
Brian Hill, Wyoming - Another player that’s more of a pure runner than an all-around back, Hill does have some abilities as a blocker in the passing game. He doesn’t have great hands, however, and that could limit him to a two-down role.
Jeremy McNichols, Boise State - McNichols had a very good season in 2016 for the Broncos, rushing for over 1,700 yards and finding the end zone 23 times. He’s one of the better pass blocking backs in the draft and has shown himself to be capable as a receiver. But, at 5’9” and 210 pounds and without great top speed, he might be more of a third-down back.
Corey Clement, Wisconsin - Clement missed most of 2015 with an injury, but had a breakout year in 2016, at least from a rushing standpoint. He also doesn’t offer much in the passing game, either as a receiver or a blocker. Still, he might be a fit as a part of a committee/rotation approach at the running back position.
There are eleven running backs that the Minnesota Vikings could potentially target. Yes, there are others, and I’m sure I’ve left some players out. . .but then, if I wanted to run down every draft-eligible running back, I’d be here until the draft started on 27 April. If there are running backs you like or others you’d like to discuss, feel free to toss them out in the comments below.