Vikings Talk with Rookie Running Backs

Vikings coach Brad Childress admitted at the NFL Combine that the team is lacking depth at running back, which is why the team was interviewing a number of the draft's top running backs. Find out which ones we know they interviewed and what the players had to say.

Mewelde Moore could enter the 2006 season as the Vikings starter at running back … or maybe not. Ciatrick Fason could be the short-yardage back … but nothing is for sure with the new coaching staff. Onterrio Smith's status won't get any clearer until May, after free agency and the draft. And Adimchinobe Echemandu is an unknown to Childress' staff.

Although the Vikings have an interest in signing Baltimore Ravens free agent-to-be Chester Taylor, according to a league source, and to a lesser extent the Seahawks' Maurice Morris, nothing is guaranteed in free agency either.

All of the uncertainty had the Vikings interviewing at least four running backs at the NFL Combine last month—Minnesota's Laurence Maroney, South Florida's Andre Hall, Mississippi State's Jerious Norwood and Penn State's Michael Robinson, an athlete who wants to play quarterback at the NFL level but who teams project as either a quarterback, running back, wide receiver or safety.

Maroney, who checked into the Combine at 5-foot-11, 217 pounds, is the only one among those who is considered a first-round draft pick. He didn't work out at the Combine because of a strained hamstring and plans to run at his March 23 Pro Day.

Maroney has been compared to Shaun Alexander and Edgerrin James. He doesn't agree with the comparisons to the league MVP, but he thinks there are similarities between himself and James.

"I can see that. Edgerrin James, he has a nice little swagger about himself," Maroney said. "He's shifty and still a downhill runner and has good hands, speed and feet."

If the Vikings do select a running back in the first round, it would likely be Maroney or Memphis' DeAngelo Williams. USC's LenDale White and Reggie Bush are expected to be selected before the Vikings' No. 17 pick.

Maroney also talked with the St. Louis Rams and Indianapolis Colts, among other teams, but there are other reasons he could see the Vikings being a good fit.

"I feel like that would be a good place, too, knowing that they're trying to get a new stadium. I might help publicity," he said. "And still I feel like I'd get home-court advantage because I've play there (at the Metrodome) all three years and know that field, the ins and outs."

While White, Maroney and Williams are four-star draft picks, according to scout.com, Andre Hall garnered three stars and is the 10th-ranked prospect at the position.

The 5-8, 208-pound back displayed a love for the game and upbeat energy during his Combine session with the media.

Asked if he planned to do a full workout at the Combine, Hall said: "I'll do whatever—jump, run, roll, hop, skip—I don't care, man. Whatever they want me to do, I'll do it today, tomorrow, they can call me three weeks from now and I'll do it again."

Hall relished the chance to stack himself next to the bigger names in the draft at his position and felt he showed well. He is the typical small-small school athlete looking to prove himself.

"I've got a little chip on my shoulder. That's just how I feel. I've got to prove a lot of things to a lot of people," he said.

He thought he needed to prove he could run faster than the high 4.5s people had him listed at before the Combine. Instead, he ran in the mid-4.5s, posting a 4.54 and 4.56.

Then there is the soft-spoken Norwood.

He posted a 4.42 and 4.40 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine and could be the type of back that could be used in the backfield or lined up at receiver, similar to how the Eagles used Brian Westbrook and part of the reason some teams are looking at his receiving ability at the next level.

"I hear a lot of teams say that I'm not an every-down back, but I know that I can get the job done whenever I had an opportunity. Me carrying the ball as much as I did at Mississippi State, I think that shows that I can get the job done," Norwood said.

Norwood averaged 5.6 yards per rush on 573 carries in his career at Mississippi State, but he never carried the ball more than 200 times per season.

Finally, there is Robinson, a 6-1, 226-pound athlete who wants to play quarterback and thinks all he needs is more game reps to establish himself as a legitimate NFL signal caller. However, the Vikings were among the teams asking about him as a running back.

"I feel like I can better suit a team at quarterback, and I feel like once I get into a camp, God-willing, and learn an offense, it wouldn't be a question once I get there," Robinson said. "At the same tie, I'm a realist. People have seen me run the ball, people have seen me catch the ball, and they figure this kid can help us out with two or three roster spots. … I'm more than willing to do that; I just want a shot at quarterback."

With the draft so deep at running back and espousing so many different types of players, the Vikings don't have to stretch for a first-round running back. But they might. And then they might take another later in the draft. Their options are wide open.


VikingUpdate.com will have more extensive reports and audio interviews with these players and many more prospects between now and the draft at the end of April. For much more information on the players and the draft, please visit our draft portal page, and don't forget that if you're a monthly subscriber you only have until March 15 to upgrade to a six-month or annual subscription and still receive the 2006 Scout.com Draft Guide.

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