Do Vikings Still Have Interest in RB?

The Vikings showed an interest in a number of running backs at the NFL Combine, and they could be looking to add more depth behind Chester Taylor. See what one of those running backs that received interest from the Vikings had to say about his draft prospects.

The Vikings were one of the first teams UCLA running back Maurice Drew mentioned he was speaking with when asked early in the process which teams were interested in him.

Now, weeks later, the Vikings have signed veteran running back Chester Taylor to a four-year, $14.1 million deal that they expect will put him as their featured back for years to come. Still, the questions surrounding Maurice Drew and the Vikings' potential interest persist.

One of the reasons for Drew speaking with the Vikings is obvious: Drew's position coach at UCLA last year was Eric Bieniemy, now the running backs coach for the Vikings. That connection also has people continuing to speculate on a Drew-Vikings pairing on the opening day of the NFL draft, April 29.

Since those days following the NFL Combine, however, the Vikings haven't been among the teams mentioned as having an interest in Drew. That could be the Vikings wanting to keep their intentions secret, it could be they already know enough about him, or it could be that the signing of Taylor has taken Drew off the Vikings' radar.

But since the Combine, Drew has been shown interest by more than a dozen teams, with workouts and visits with a handful of teams.

At only 5-foot-7, 207 pounds, height is a negative factor for many in analyzing Drew, but it has also caused comparisons to Barry Sanders.

"But I think I'm more of a power runner than Barry Sanders. He's a shifty back; he's very fast," Drew said. "I know with my certain talents I've got to be able to run through people to get the job done."

"I'm a versatile back. I can run, catch, block, return, basically anything you want me to do I'm going to go out there and do. I'll make plays for you."

Drew expects to be selected somewhere late in the first round or in the second round, which was a contributing factor in his decision to leave school early for the NFL. But it was also a personal decision.

"My grandfather passing away was a big reason," he said. "It was pretty tough on my family coming back to the games without him, because he'd never missed a game, so it was pretty tough on my grandmother and my mom. Also, he'd told me before he passed away to send in an evaluation and if I got a decent grade to leave. I got a decent grade. I trust his word over anything, so he wanted me to leave."

After getting a favorable draft grade returned to him by the NFL, Drew started the process of marketing himself to NFL teams. While each of the top four projected running back prospects at the Combine decided to forgo the workouts, Drew did everything to try to impress the scouts.

He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 and 4.47 seconds, some of the better times among those at the Combine. He hopes that shows that he can break off a long run at any time, just like the projected first selection in the 2006 NFL Draft, running back Reggie Bush, who played for Los Angeles rival USC.

"He's exciting to watch," Drew diplomatically said of Bush, who Drew termed as a great player and great guy. "He can take it the distance at any point in the game. It could be a punt return, catching the ball, some people think they've got him in the backfield for a 5-yard loss and he's going down the sideline. So he's exciting to watch."

And Drew thinks he can be the same type of player.

"I feel I can. I know I can. I feel like I can take it the distance any time, any where," he said. "I showed it in college, and now I've got to be able to show it in the NFL. I feel I'm ready to do that."

His speed is also an asset as a kick returner, something he also worked on showcasing at his Pro Day, but the whole package – the speed, the elusiveness, the pass-catching skills, the return ability – make him a valuable asset.

Just like another running back that Vikings coach Brad Childress is familiar with.

"I think all the teams like me as a returner, and there's about seven or eight teams that like me as a running back," Drew said. "A lot of teams are liking the versatility that I have, kind of like Marshall Faulk and Brian Westbrook and things like that. A lot of teams are starting to evolve with that offense."

TFY DRAFT PREVIEW ANALYSIS

Full Name: Maurice Drew School: UCLA Pos:
RB

Ht: 5-6.5 Wt: 207 40: 4.44 Year: 3Jr

Bio: All-Conference and All-American selection last year after leading UCLA in rushing with 183/900/13 and adding 29/424/4 as a receiver. Averaged 29.1 yards on 14 punt returns, three of which were brought back for scores. Sophomore totals included 160/1,069/8 rushing.

Pos: Game-breaking skill player a threat any time he handles the ball. Runs low to the ground, gets lost behind blockers and is deceptively strong. Keeps his feet off the initial hit, cuts back against the grain and makes defenders miss. Follows blocks anywhere on the field and displays great awareness. Natural receiver with the ability grab the errant throw from the crowd. Solid in pass protection, picking up assignments and blocking with leverage. Game-breaking return specialist.

Neg: Not as effective as a short-yardage runner nor a pile mover. Lack of height could turn teams off.

Analysis: An exciting player, Drew nicely projects as a situational runner/third-down back who will impact as a return specialist. May not be a back for everyone, yet will be productive in the NFL if given the opportunity to handle the ball.



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