The draft weekend was nothing like Onterrio Smith had imagined.
In several pre-draft publications, his name was mentioned by NFL beat writers as a possible second- or third-round selection on the radar screen of at least a dozen teams. One of the teams not mentioned was the Vikings, who had him rated as the No. 1 running back on their draft board. When he was still available on the fourth round, the Vikings could wait no longer and ended a draft day wait Smith expected to be over by mid-afternoon Saturday and didn't end until late Sunday morning.
"I was very (surprised)," Smith told VU about having to wait so long to get selected. "There were no indications I was going to drop to the fourth round."
A player who bypassed his senior year, some draft analysts said he would have been a Heisman candidate and a first-rounder if he came out in the 2004, but the Vikings believe he was the best of the class of '03 as it was. That is one of the reasons Smith is happy to be a Viking, but contributed to his angst for remaining on the board as long as he did.
"I got to the point where I started to get anxious," Smith told VU. "I'm not going to say that I wasn't disappointed that I didn't go yesterday. It would have been disappointing if I didn't go at all in the draft, but just being in this situation -- I'm happy for that."
Smith knows that coming into a team with an established featured back like Michael Bennett will require him to bide his time, but he understands the reality of running backs in the NFL.
"Backs are the most pounded players in the NFL, so we take a lot of punishment," Smith said. "Teams need two or three backs to last through the course of a season. If one back can get it done, that's good, but I was a coach or a G.M. my preference would be to run a two-three backfield -- a rotation of two or three running backs."
While he may have to wait his turn to be a big-time contributor, Smith will take on the role of a relief pitcher -- knowing eventually he will be needed and preparing himself for when that time arrives.
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