Potential UDFA among visitors

Not all predraft visits are made by first-round choices. Some aren't even expected to be drafted at all. That's the case with one of the players that was expected to visit the Vikings last week.

Not all of the Vikings' predraft visits were made by high-round draft choices. In fact, a couple of them may not even be drafted at all. Falling into the latter category is California fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou.

How can we be so sure? Well, for starters, Ta'ufo'ou isn't even mentioned in a Cal pro day report from NFL.com that reported on six others prospects. And fullbacks don't tend to generate much draft buzz anyway.

The Vikings have had players in for predraft visits in the past that weren't drafted but later signed with them as undrafted free agents. Ta'ufo'ou could fit that category and he was scheduled for a visit with the Vikings, according to a league source.

"Fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou does not suffer from a lack of talent, but could go undrafted, because not that many teams use a fullback on a consistent basis," wrote CalSportsDigest.com in its analysis of the Cal pro day. "He proved that he has good speed out of the backfield and has very good hands. Ta'ufo'ou could be very effective in red zone situations."

Ta'ufo'ou hasn't been a big rusher or receiver out of the backfield for the Bears, as he carried the ball only 16 times during his four-year career and caught only 13 passes.

"For us fullbacks, we're like an undercover job," Ta'ufo'ou told CalBears.com last fall. "We do everything for our teammates. We do it for our self-pride. I think I've learned to have a different appreciation for what I do. Before, I didn't really understand the fullback position, coming from high school where I got the ball a lot more. And now I look at blocking like that one block could be what springs the run."

With Adrian Peterson in the backfield, the Vikings don't necessarily need their fullback to carry the ball that often, and the team could be looking for an eventual replacement for Naufahu Tahi.

Minnesota tendered Tahi at the minimum $1.01 million mark as a restricted free agent, but the Cincinnati Bengals upped the ante when they signed him to a $1.4 million offer sheet with $500,000 guaranteed. The Vikings took the full week to consider that offer but eventually relented and signed Tahi to the one-year deal.

Without another pure fullback on the roster, Ta'ufo'ou could learn on the practice squad in 2009, just like Tahi did at the early stage of his career with the Bengals before the Vikings signed him off Cincinnati's practice squad on Nov. 22, 2006. Last year, Tahi became the starter after Tony Richardson signed a free-agent contract with the New York Jets and Vikings free-agent signee Thomas Tapeh was released only two games into the season.

Jim Kleinsasser played fullback earlier in his career but is considered a better in-line blocker and Jeff Dugan is more of a H-back/tight end type than a consistent lead blocker out of the backfield.

Ta'ufo'ou's bread and butter has been as a lead blocker in college and he might be able to get that chance in the NFL.


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