It's becoming something of a habit for the Vikings on draft weekend – wait until the fourth around and take a running back that can contribute and come away with a player they feel is a gem.
In 2003, it was Onterrio Smith, who draft guru Mel Kiper had rated as the second running back in the draft that year. In 2004, it Mewelde Moore, who was just the second Division I running back in history to have 4,000 career rushing yards and 2,000 receiving yards. This year, that player is Ciatrick Fason – a fourth-round selection with a second-round grade.
"We feel he's a younger, faster Moe Williams," coach Mike Tice. "We were pleased to get a guy we had rated highest on our board."
The value the Vikings placed on Fason was clear. After assessing their draft board and their roster, the coaching staff believed that there was little chance that more than one of the final four picks in the 2005 would have a legitimate shot to make the team. As a result, the Vikings targeted Fason and contacted "seven or eight teams," according to Tice, to move up in the fourth round until the Washington Redskins agreed to a deal that would give them the Vikings' fifth-round choice as well.
While the team made an investment in Fason, the plan isn't to push him into action immediately. Rather, the objective will be for him to battle to beat out Butchie Wallace for the fifth RB spot and take it from there.
"There's not going to be any pressure on him," Tice said. "We've had great success in the fourth round with running backs. He was too highly rated (No. 52 on the Vikings draft board at the 112th pick) on our board not to take a chance."
The anticipation is to get Fason acclimated as a special teams player – whether in coverage or as a kick returner. He will also get a chance to showcase himself in the preseason – a vow by Tice that all of his running backs are going to see a lot of action.
"They're all going to get an honest chance to be the guy," Tice said. "I like to have one guy be the guy that gets in a rhythm. We haven't had a chance to do that in some time."
If history means anything, Fason may get his chance. Michael Bennett will be a free agent after this year. Onterrio Smith is one positive drug test away from a one-year suspension and Mewelde Moore is a work in progress. While it looks like there is a lot of depth now, fans, players and coaches alike know that a depth chart can get depleted in a hurry – which is why the team moved up to make the deal and secure Fason.
"It was too much of a value not to take him," Tice said. "It was a ‘no-lose' pick."
Vikings Got Draft Value, Depth With Fason
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