Vikings recently met with lightning-fast RB prospect

Former Memphis RB Blake Watson
Former Memphis RB Blake Watson / Justin Ford/GettyImages

The Minnesota Vikings running game hasn’t been successful since Kevin O’Connell arrived two years ago, but the team could be looking to add another playmaker after meeting with Memphis running back Blake Watson on Tuesday.

The Draft Network’s Justin Melo reports that Watson visited TCO Performance Center as part of a pre-draft top 30 visit on Tuesday, and he is expected to meet with the Denver Broncos later this week. 

Watson began his career as a wide receiver at Old Dominion but transitioned to running back in his junior year, collecting 1,232 yards and seven touchdowns from scrimmage in 2022. 

RB prospect could be an intriuging addition for the Minnesota Vikings in the 2024 NFL Draft

After transferring to Memphis the following year, Watson exploded for the Tigers, racking up 1,632 all-purpose yards (1,152 rushing, 480 receiving), averaging six yards per carry, and scoring 17 total touchdowns.

Following his participation in the Senior Bowl, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. called Watson a player to watch in this year’s draft.

“He did it at Old Dominion, where he was special and getting a lot of carries. Remember, this guy who’s a former wide receiver at the prep level, early on at Old Dominion. He goes to Memphis [and] he’s outstanding.

…This is a kid who was a great kickoff returner as well, early in his career. Then he catches the heck out of the football.”

Watson went on to run a 4.39-second time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL’s Scouting Combine, but he is currently projected a sixth-or-seventh-round pick according to The Athletic’s Dane Brugler.

The Vikings have had to overhaul their running game over the past two years but haven’t been able to find consistent success on the ground under O’Connell. While Dalvin Cook ran for 1,173 yards during the 2022 season, his 47.3 percent success rate ranked 37th among 46 qualifying runners that season.

Minnesota thought Alexander Mattison could replace Cook as the team's No. 1 running back, but the 25-year-old ran for just 700 yards and no touchdowns last season, and 2023 seventh-round pick DeWayne McBride didn’t make the team out of training camp despite receiving a "starter grade” during the pre-draft evaluation.

The Vikings still have Ty Chandler, who ran for 461 yards and three touchdowns primarily as Mattison’s backup last season, and Minnesota added Aaron Jones earlier this year after the Green Bay Packers released him on the first day of free agency.

But Chandlers’s inconsistency and Jones’s injury history are points of concern moving forward. Even if Watson isn’t projected to be a starting running back, his multi-faceted game could help him produce as part of a committee that O’Connell has been trying to construct since coming to Minnesota.

The Vikings will be a pass-first offense as long as O’Connell is their head coach, but adding another running back – whether it’s Watson or someone else – figures to be a good idea in the later rounds of this year’s draft.

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