A Running Back of Interest?

Why would the Vikings be looking at rookie running backs? In this case, because they might not have to invest much to take an extended look. See who they were talking to at the Senior Bowl.

The Vikings would seem to have little need for a running back, but that didn't stop them from investigating at least one possibility at the Senior Bowl.

On the surface, the Vikings would seem to have little need for a running back. You may have heard of some guy named Adrian Peterson, who is playing in the Pro Bowl this weekend after his first season in the NFL, and his veteran sidekick Chester Taylor.

But Rick Spielman and his personnel staff aren't ones to overlook any legitimate NFL prospect, and USC running back Chauncey Washington is hoping he is just that. The Vikings were one of several teams showing an interest in Washington at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., where he finished the game with the highest yards-per-carry average at more than 7 yards a crack.

But the questions about Washington are many.

First are the injuries. He sat out the opener in 2007 because of a sprained shoulder and was coming off a sprained knee late in the 2006 season. Earlier in 2006, he struggled with a hamstring injury as well.

The second question revolves around his academics. He was ruled ineligible multiple times during his career with the Trojans, missing the 2004 and 2005 season for that reason.

Third is his athletic ability transferring to the NFL level. Washington had 1,778 career rushing yards at USC, with 969 of those coming in his senior season, when he registered 10 touchdowns rushing and two more receiving.

But even beyond his production at USC are questions about his speed and awareness. He can hit the hole with authority, but he isn't seen as a fast running back, an important factor in being able to capitalize on the precious few opportunities at the professional level. And his lack of speed has some wondering if he can get to the outside edge to keep defenses guessing. He appears to have decreased that stigma somewhat at the Senior Bowl, but he still isn't ranked in the top 20 running backs on Scout.com's rankings.

"Washington isn't the fastest back, but he has nice size and showed good vision this week," Scout.com draft analyst Chris Steuber wrote after watching several Senior Bowl practices in Mobile. "He runs well between the tackles and has the ability to get around the end. But he has to improve his hands and become more productive as a receiver. He's done a nice job of chipping defenders and positioning himself in the flat."

He may have some selection-worthy qualities, but all of those questions have him projected as either a late-round pick or even an undrafted rookie free-agent possibility.

Without needing to give up much to take a look at him in rookie camps – and given the possibility of losing running back Mewelde Moore in free agency – the Vikings' interest in finding out more about Washington may make sense.

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