Jan 21, 2013; Fairhope AL, USA; Senior Bowl south squad wide receiver Quinton Patton of Louisiana Tech (4) wide receiver Ryan Swope of Texas A

Senior Bowl: Vikings Meet With Several Prospects, Including Running Backs

The Vikings are out of it now so you know what that means. Time to crank up Speculation Season. For the next few months it will be all guess-work, reading between the lines of statements that probably don’t mean anything and generally trying to conjure news where there isn’t any. Because – important thing to remember this time of year – nobody really knows much of anything. That includes the so-called draft experts. And teams will deliberately add to the confusion by smokescreening the crap out of it. Remember last year when so much came out about the Vikings maybe liking Morris Claiborne or Justin Blackmon instead of Matt Kalil? And it was all baloney. Some of which was deliberately put out there by journalists paying back favors to the organization. Gotta watch out for that stuff.

We’re still a long way from the draft obviously – speaking of statements you’re going to be hearing a lot over the next few weeks – but it’s never too early to start taking guesses about personnel strategy. What are the Vikings looking for this offseason? We think we know their top needs. Receiver. Defensive tackle. Cornerback maybe. Safety. Linebacker. In whatever order you want. But of course we are not privy to internal thinking. Who knows what Rick Spielman and his gang really think about various guys. For all we know they could be sold on guys like Jasper Brinkley and Mistral Raymond. Even though most of us out here agree those guys are mediocre at best.

This brings us to this week’s Senior Bowl practices. What can we glean from these sessions about player value? More importantly, what can we guess about the Vikings’ personnel priorities? Are they targeting any particular positions? Maybe we can get a read on that by looking at which players the Vikes are known to have met with so far at the practices. According to Walter Football, the Vikes have spoken to at least seven prospects, three from the North team and four from the South. They may have talked to more guys but these are the ones we know about so far. Here is the list of names and their positions. Then we can start reading into this:

RB Andre Ellington
OT Oday Aboushi
RB Stepfan Taylor
S Baccari Rambo
CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson
LB Ty Powell
CB Desmond Trufant

Might mean nothing, but I see two running backs on that list. Both guys who project in that 2nd-through-4th round area. Does this mean the Vikes are looking at possibly going running back in round 4 or so? Running back wouldn’t seem to be a huge need for them on the surface. But let’s look a little closer. Right now you have Toby Gerhart as your #2 back. Toby’s a rugged player but what actual value is he giving you? My memories of him from this season are mostly of fumbles, missed 3rd down blocks and him not having enough speed to break a screen pass into a big play. And a couple solid runs sprinkled in.

In all honesty, I think the Vikes can do a lot better than Gerhart as their #2 running back. He has no value as a change-up back – Percy Harvin was really their change-up back last year until the injury – and he’s just not that good on 3rd down. You look at one guy on that interview list, Andre Ellington of Clemson. He’s a guy with some quicks and receiving skills who could give you that legitimate change-up dimension. And he’s viewed as a guy who will stick his head in there and try to block. Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor doesn’t have the speed but he’s a very good receiver and he has a reputation as a good blocker who picks up blitzes well. Think of how often we became frustrated last year with Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart missing blitz pick-ups?

We know the Vikes don’t like leaving Peterson on the field on 3rd down. Unless that thinking changes, they will have a need for a third down back. And Gerhart in that role is barely passable at this point. So yes, it does make sense that they would be targeting a running back with certain skills. And it just happens that they met with two RBs at the Senior Bowl who happen to possess those skills. And would be there at a point in the draft where it might make sense to take a RB.

Not saying, just saying.

The other guys on that list are obvious. Linebacker. Defensive back. Offensive line. But of course the guys the Vikings really like, they won’t meet with at all. Cause – sssshhh – they don’t want us to know! Cloak and dagger!!! God I love this nonsense.

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