The indications of the Minnesota Vikings' search for another running back have become too strong and too frequent to ignore.
While Chester Taylor is cemented as the team's starter this year as long as his health allows, the Vikings showed initial interest in former free-agent running back Sammy Morris—who eventually signed with the New England Patriots as Laurence Maroney's backup.
Now, the Vikings' quest for a complement to Taylor has apparently turned to draft prospects, and the team was working to set up a private workout in early April with University of California running back Marshawn Lynch, according to Scout.com's Tony Pauline.
Lynch measured in at his pro day at 5-foot-11, 218 pounds, and it is believed that Vikings coach Brad Childress is looking for a versatile back similar to what he had in Brian Westbrook (5-foot-10, 203 pounds) when Childress was the offensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Ironically, with Childress in Minnesota, Westbrook surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the first time in his career in 2006, garnering 1,217 yards on the ground on a career-best 240 carries. His receptions weren't affected either, as he pulled in a career-high 77 for 699 yards, becoming the first Eagle to have 1,000 yards rushing and 600 yards receiving in the same season. But Westbrook's versatility has been on display since the Childress days in Philadelphia. Since 2003, Westbrook leads NFL running backs in receiving yardage (2,350), touchdown catches (18) and yards per touch (6.0).
In his first year as a featured back in the NFL, Taylor produced similar rushing yardage to Westbrook, getting 1,216 yards on 303 carries and added 42 receptions for 288 yards last season.
However, Taylor's willingness to be the workhorse and the Vikings' other lackluster offensive options appeared to take a toll on Taylor's body throughout the season. His production and gametime slipped as the season wore on. In the last five games of the season, he never carried the ball more than 20 times. That had happened only twice in the first 11 games of 2006.
Adding a versatile complementary back could help lengthen Taylor's career and improve his effectiveness throughout the season, and the Vikings don't appear to be convinced that Mewelde Moore is tough enough or Ciatrick Fason fits their desires on offense. Restricted free agent Artose Pinner's opportunities last year were limited.
The Vikings' desires with Lynch could be tied to a potential trade down out of the No. 7 overall draft spot. The book on Rick Spielman, the Vikings' vice president of player personnel who will be conducting his first draft with Minnesota, is that he likes to trade down to accumulate extra draft picks. However, the Vikings likely won't be able to move below the Buffalo Bills' 12th pick, as the Bills are believed to like Lynch and need a replacement for Willis McGahee, who was traded to the Baltimore Ravens this offseason.
Lynch was the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year last season after posting 1,245 yards and nine touchdowns on 203 carries and 311 yards and four touchdowns on 31 receptions. He had 1,246 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore.
Here is TFY Draft Preview's analysis on Lynch:
Positives: Explosive ball carrier with terrific size and speed. Runs with good lean, has a burst of speed and does not go down without a fight. Makes defenders miss and possesses outstanding open-field skills. Picks his way on the inside and weaves his way through the traffic. Possesses the speed to cut the corner yet consistently runs north/south. Strong, breaks tackles and is very tough to bring down. Puts his shoulders into opponents and falls forward when tackled, delivering a blow. Solid pass-catcher who shows himself to be a downfield receiving threat. Gives effort blocking and picks blocking assignments.
Negatives: Not overly creative nor is he truly an elusive ball handler. Stands to improve his route-running at receiver.