Vikings to Meet with Running Back

The Vikings are scheduled to visit with one of the top running backs in the NFL draft next week.

The Vikings are scheduled to meet with University of Minnesota running back Laurence Maroney next week, according to a league source.

Maroney spent two years splitting time in the Gophers backfield, first with Marion Barber III, who was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys last year, and then with Gary Russell in 2005. Maroney, who entered the NFL draft after his junior season at Minnesota, saw his stock rise quickly when he announced his decision and has been considered a first-round selection since before the NFL Combine in February.

However, Maroney wasn't able to work out at the combine because he pulled his hamstring while preparing for the NFL scouting event in Indianapolis.

He said most of the questions from scouts and coaches at the combine centered around his ability to block.

"That was one of the major things guys wanted to see. It wasn't that the running backs couldn't catch, it just wasn't a part of our package," Maroney said. "We were just used specifically for running. I had some catches this year. I've been working on that in Arizona (training at Athletes' Performance). Pass blocking, they wanted to see me do that, because we do a lot of three-step drops and our coaches teach us to cut block, so there's never too many times where we have five-step drops where we really have to square up and hit the 'backer. So I've been working on that."

Before the Vikings acquired Chester Taylor as their featured back, most experts saw the team selecting a running back in the first round. When Maroney was asked about that in February, he acknowledged the inherit advantages of staying in Minnesota.

"I feel that would be a good place for me, knowing they're trying to get a new stadium. That would probably help a lot for publicity going in there," he said of continuing his career in the Metrodome. "And I feel I got home-field advantage there. I played there all three years and I know all the ins and outs of their field. I feel that would be a good opportunity. But I feel I can play anywhere."

At 6 feet, 217 pounds, Maroney has been compared to many running backs in the NFL, Edgerrin James and Shaun Alexander among them. He could see the similarities in James, but not Alexander.

Maroney also interviewed with the Vikings at the combine, but at this point the fact that he is still considered a first-round pick and the Vikings having Taylor on the roster, his visit might be considered more of a "hometown" courtesy than anything else.


TFY DRAFT PREVIEW ANALYSIS

Bio: Started the past three seasons in a rotational system at Minnesota. Awarded All-Conference honors since his freshman campaign. Junior totals included 281/1,464/10 on the ground with 17/170/1 as a pass-catcher. Ground totals the prior year included 217/1,348/12.

Pos: Patient, elusive ball carrier with outstanding instincts. Waits for blocks to develop, weaves through the traffic and finds the open space. Quick-footed, cuts back against the grain and makes defenders miss. Bounces around piles or beats defenders around the corner. Does not go down without a fight and falls forward when tackled.

Neg: Cannot run to daylight and presents himself as a one-speed back. Must pick up the blocking intensity. Not a pile-mover. Has had problems with minor nicks and bruises in the past.

Analysis: Handling a lot of carries in college, Maroney showed up bigger and stronger at the combine. Could be an effective West Coast back in the NFL.


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