I continue to predict the depth chart for the Minnesota Vikings in 2017. Next up: The Running Backs
RB1: Dalvin Cook
The Vikings traded up and picked Dalvin Cook with the 41st selection of the draft. After having the 32nd ranked rushing attack, head coach Mike Zimmer was adamant about improving the run game immediately. With the departure of Adrian Peterson, the Vikings needed to add more versatility to the position, and still create explosive plays. Early in his career Peterson showed the ability to create plays despite opposing defenses game planning against him. He showed speed and vision by bouncing plays to the outside, or creating extra yards after contact.
At Florida State, Cook displayed a similar skillset with his speed and homerun play ability. Cook ran for 1,195 yards after contact and that skillset will prove to be important for the Vikings. Minnesota has taken steps to improve their offensive line by the signing of Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers, and drafting former Ohio State center Pat Elflein.
Cook has gotten more work with the second team offense, but it won’t be long until he is the starter. Latavius Murray had offseason surgery, and he likely won't be seen until training camp. Cook should get the nod over Murray, but he will need to prove to be worthy starting job.
RB2: Latavius Murray
Latavius Murray joins the Vikings after spending four years with the Oakland Raiders. The Vikings upgraded their backfield with Murray and Cook, after the departure of Adrian Peterson and Matt Asiata. Murray could win the starting job over Cook, but his offseason surgery might make things harder. Murray could fill Asiata's role on third downs and goal line situations, but he will be given opportunities to contribute on first and second down.
Murray will be more of a primary runner than pass catcher. Murray scored twelve touchdowns last season on the ground, and posted only two fumbles. With a career average of 7.0 yards per reception, he doesn’t produce as much as Cook’s 11.8 yards per reception during his time at Florida State. Murrays contract situation also allows the Vikings to release Murray after the second year with no dead money.
RB3: Jerick Mckinnon
Jerick Mckinnon has a lot of talent that he brings to the table. After putting on ten pounds of muscle without losing any of his 4.41 speed, Mckinnon is more equipped to handle the pounding he receives. Mckinnon probably won’t be in the conversation for the starting role, but he has shown patience and the ability to create extra yards to be the backup.
Mckinnon is the most athletically gifted back of the three, but the Vikings have failed to proper utilize his talents.
Mckinnon is a mismatch against most linebackers, and that was on display in 2015 against the Green Bay Packers (Mckinnon wheel route on first play). It will be in the Vikings interest to find ways to get Mckinnon the ball, if not, the writing might be on the wall for McKinnon’s future with the team.
Other Running Backs on Roster: