Young backs catching Vikings' interest

The Vikings tried to land veteran RB LaDainian Tomlinson, but their fallback plan could be in the draft. They have been showing pointed interest in a couple of the higher rated draft prospects. Specifics, analysis and quotes inside.

With the LaDainian Tomlinson dine and dash behind them and Chester Taylor blowing out of Minnesota to the Windy City, the Vikings are left without much experience at running back behind Adrian Peterson.

Tomlinson is the only veteran running back the Vikings are known to have shown much interest in, but if their activity around incoming rookies is any indication, they could be preparing to supplement Peterson with youth.

According to Roy Philpott of CUTigers.com on the Scout.com network, the Vikings were one of three teams that showed a lot of interest in Clemson running back C.J. Spiller, who is expected to be a first-round pick that likely gets drafted before the Vikings' selection (30th in the first round), during his recent pro day.

But the Vikings have also made an impression with Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer, whose draft stack is expected to match right around where the Vikings select. According to Ed Thompson of Scout.com, the Vikings have shown "consistent interest" in Dwyer throughout the last few weeks of the predraft evaluation process and that continued at his pro day Monday, where vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman was spotted scouting him.

A running back in the first round would be an upset pick, but Dwyer has been used to proving people wrong.

When the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets switched to a triple-option offense and were counting on Dwyer to replace Tashard Choice, Dwyer pounded through Choice's previous production, just like the big-framed Dwyer does at the line of scrimmage.

He rushed for 1,395 yards in 2008 to earn ACC Player of the Year and equaled that rushing yardage in 2009, although Spiller took the award last year for conference player of the year.

Dwyer checked into the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last month at 229 pounds after losing some weight, a goal of his in order to improve his appeal and production at the pro level.

"Coach (Paul Johnson) wanted me to gain some weight when the option offense came in. I realized after the season that my comfortable weight was between 225 and 230," Dwyer said. "I worked hard and lost some weight. I got down to 225 before I got here. … I weighed in at a good weight that I wanted to weigh in at."

Dwyer's times in the 40-yard dash proved he isn't a speedster – he ran in the high 4.5s – but that was never part of Dwyer's game. He is known as a hard-charging runner who can show some elusiveness.

"I'm going to be a different kind of back. I could be the back who can make the homerun play, be physical," he said. "Every time I get the ball I'm going to make sure that it's going to be positive yards. I just want to be a key factor in the offense for our team."

Scout.com draft analyst Chris Steuber has Dwyer pegged as a second-round prospect and says he compares to Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart.

"A two-year starter at Georgia Tech, Dwyer compares favorably to former Oregon and current Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart. The difference between the two runners is that Stewart is more explosive and was a more accomplished receiver entering the NFL than Dwyer," Steuber writes in his analysis of Dwyer.

For his part, Dwyer knows there are areas of his game he need to improve.

"Even when you reach your goal of playing in the NFL, you still have things in your game that you have to perfect. There are still some things that I want to get better at. That's just something I'll have to sell them on. We'll see," he said. "I think I'll be a productive player. Only time will tell. I'm just going to continue to work hard and give it everything that I've got."

But before he finds out which team will select him, he's busy trying to sell teams on his abilities.

"In this whole process of going through interviews, you have to separate yourself from the other guys and express what you can bring to the table," he said. "Like myself, if you're looking for someone to be a complete back who's able to pass block, run inside and run outside. You have to be the type of guy that they want or need. If they need a guy to make a big play, I can be that guy. If you need a guy to return kicks, I can play special teams. That's me.

"If a team makes a mistake and doesn't draft me, I'm going to be a handful every time that we play them. That's just the type of a mindset I bring to every interview I go in."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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