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.
With Latavius Murray signing with the Saints this offseason, the Vikings find themselves in need of a back-up running back.
Many believe that could come through the draft considering the running backs on the roster (Ameer Abdullah, Roc Thomas and Mike Boone) aren’t exactly inspiring.
The aftermath of the Nebraska spring game provided a cool moment for Husker fans, and one that star quarterback Adrian Martinez called “an honor.”
The Heisman Trophy candidate went 100 yards with former Husker star Ameer Abdullah, who helped broadcast the spring game on the Big Ten Network. Abdullah received his own Heisman consideration in 2013 and left Nebraska with 4,588 career rushing yards and 46 touchdowns.
The two touched on a variety of topics during a 100-yard walk of the practice facility in Lincoln.
Martinez wrapped the interview with the kind of statement you want the face of your program to make about the Husker offense.
“It’s limitless,” Martinez said. “It really utilizes space well. When you have guys like coach Frost, coach (Troy) Walters, coach (Mario) Verduzco, really talented guys across the offensive staff, it puts the power in the players hands. It allows us to make plays. I’m thankful for that, and just a message for any talented ball players out there, if you have a skill and want to come make some plays, this is the place to do it.”
Both Abdullah (Alabama) and Martinez (California) came a long way to enroll at Nebraska, and both players found a perfect fit.
“A lot of different things (brought me to Nebraska),” Martinez said. “Ultimately it came down to the coaches, finding a community that fit me and was supportive and the right opportunity. God willing, the opportunity presented itself at the perfect time for me. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.”
If the Vikings can finally have running back Dalvin Cook healthy for a full season, with knee and hamstring trouble having limited him to just 15 of 32 games over his first two years, their offense will get a big lift.
They’ll need a complement, though, after letting Latavius Murray leave as a free agent. Ameer Abdullah was re-signed, but don’t rule out the possibility of the Vikings taking a running back in the middle rounds.
“It’s controlling the game. It’s the mentality, the physicality. If you look at the teams playing really good on offense this year, the final four teams, they ran the ball,” Zimmer said. “Everybody says this is passing, this and that, but the good offenses run the football.”