With the 2019 NFL Draft now, officially, just a few days away, it’s time to take a look at the Vikings’ biggest areas of need. I’m going to do a quick series of articles throughout the next couple of days to look at what I think the team’s biggest needs lie and where they could potentially look for a player at those spots. This is just one man’s opinion, and your mileage may vary.
We’ll start with what I feel is the team’s fifth-biggest need, that being the running back position.
Current Vikings running backs: Dalvin Cook (starter), Ameer Abdullah, Mike Boone, Roc Thomas, C.J. Ham (fullback)
We’ve gotten glimpses of what Dalvin Cook is capable of over the past two seasons. He’s great at catching the ball out of the backfield, he can get tough yardage between the tackles, and he has the speed to break long runs when he gets to the second level. The problem with Cook thus far certainly hasn’t been his talent. . .it’s been his availability.
Since the Vikings drafted Cook, they have played in 34 games, counting the postseason. Cook has played in 15 of those games. He has just two career games where he’s carried the ball 20 or more times, and he hasn’t done that since Week 3 of his rookie season. Until Cook shows that he can be on the field consistently and be someone that the Vikings can rely upon, having a solid backup for him is going to be a necessity.
The loss of Latavius Murray this offseason is significant, because he served as that solid option for the Vikings for the past couple of years, whether as part of a tandem with Jerick McKinnon in 2017 or carrying most of the load last season. With Mike Zimmer, apparently, wanting to continue to emphasize running the football, that need becomes even bigger, which is why I have it in my Top 5 Vikings needs.
Of the options currently on the roster, Mike Boone probably has the best chance of emerging as an in-house option, but he only saw 11 season. (For comparison, Stefon Diggs carried the ball 10 times.) Roc Thomas now has off-field issues to deal with, and I’m not sure if anyone considers Ameer Abdullah as a guy that’s going to get serious time at the running back spot. I mean, he might, but it seems that the Vikings view him as more of a special teams option at this point.
Who could they look at and when: Obviously, with placing this at #5 on the list, I don’t think this is a position that the Vikings need to spend a pick on until Day 3. The devaluation of the running back position plays a role in this as well.
With the Vikings’ current picks, the spot for them to address this might be in the fourth round at #120 overall. (Yes, I suspect that Rick Spielman is going to acquire more picks, but right now he doesn’t have them.) The homer in me thinks that they would be well-served to take someone like a Bruce Anderson from North Dakota State (though they might be able to get him later), as he seems to be the sort of back that could step into the Murray role sooner rather than later. If they want to wait a little longer, they could look at a player like Jalin Moore from Appalachian State, who is an outstanding athlete but had an ankle injury that cut his 2018 season short and could see his stock drop as a result.
Another possibility would be Bryce Love out of Stanford, but the Vikings would have to weigh whether or not they can wait for him to recover from the knee injury he suffered at the end of 2018. His talent would be well worth the risk if the Vikings think they can wait for him to recover.
If the Vikings do want to address this on the first couple of days of the draft, they could grab someone like Penn State running back Miles Sanders, Iowa State’s David Montgomery, or Rodney Anderson out of Oklahoma with their third-round selection. Anderson, like Love, suffered a knee injury last season, but he had his much earlier than Love did, so he could be closer to contributing early on than Love is.
What do you think about the Vikings’ need at running back? Have I put it too high or too low on the list, or is this just about the right spot?