Running back Zach Line had a very good collegiate career at SMU, with three straight seasons with at least 1,200 rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns. He ended his career by winning Conference USA Player of the Year honors as a senior in 2012, as he rushed for 1,278 yards on 277 carries with 13 touchdowns while adding 33 receptions.
Line went undrafted in April, and landed with the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent. The Vikings have arguably the league’s best running back in Adrian Peterson, which does not leave a lot of room for anyone else to make an impact as long as he is healthy. Behind Peterson is Toby Gerhart, who looks cemented into the No. 2 spot on the depth chart as long as he is not traded prior to the start of the season.
Line brings some versatility as a tailback-fullback hybrid that might appeal to the Vikings, but without a lot of room for offensive playing time his clearest path to a spot on the 53-man roster looks to be on special teams. Matt Asiata, his most likely competition for a roster spot, had just three carries last season as predominantly a special teamer. If Minnesota deploys Line a lot on special teams during training camp drills and preseason games, that may be a positive sign they are trying to find room for him on their Week 1 roster. A couple of other running backs (Joe Banyard and Jerodis Williams) may also be in the mix, but both look like nothing more than practice squad fodder barring something unforeseen.
Line should get plenty of playing time during the preseason, and if the Vikings simply have no room for him other teams may have interest. Gerhart is entering the final year of his contract, so if the Vikings can find a way to keep Line around I like him as the top option to take over as Peterson’s primary backup in 2014.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.