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NFL Minnesota Vikings

2014 NFL Draft: 5 RBs the Minnesota Vikings Could Target

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5 RBs the Minnesota Vikings Could Use

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

This offseason, the Minnesota Vikings will be faced with the tedious task of finding a new No. 2 running back to be Adrian Peterson’s immediate backup.

With Toby Gerhart headed for free agency and unlikely to re-sign with the Vikings in hopes of finding a featured role elsewhere, GM Rick Spielman will need to find a reliable runner to take his spot on the depth chart. Matt Asiata filled the role adequately in his short stint as the Vikings’ starter, but is limited in terms of potential. That’s why the Vikings would be wise to find their next No. 2 via the 2014 NFL Draft.

The 2014 class offers plenty of promise at the position, especially with a plethora of underclassmen cutting their college careers short to test their luck in the pros. From small-school studs to former five-star recruits who failed to live up to the hype, there will be no shortage of talent available on draft day.

What the Vikings need, though, is a third-down back who can keep Peterson fresh throughout the game and act as a receiver/blocker on critical downs. They’ll be looking for a running back with a reliable set of hands and the ability to create sparks in the passing game. Above all, the Vikings will be hoping to find a capable ball-carrier who can carry the load if Peterson falls to another injury (knock on wood).

Here’s a look at five running back prospects who might just fit the Vikings’ needs when the 2014 NFL Draft rolls around in May.

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Bishop Sankey, Washington

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While Sankey doesn’t do any particular thing well, he’s a well-rounded runner with the ability to consistently move the ball on the ground. He doesn’t have the electrifying receiving skills the Vikings are looking for, but he’s a quality Day 2 prospect with the tools to be a reliable backup to Peterson for the next few seasons.

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James Wilder Jr., Florida State

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A part of the Seminoles’ trio of running backs, Wilder has the tools to be a solid backup in the NFL. While he doesn’t possess the third-down abilities the Vikings need, he’s a tough, strong runner who could easily take on the role that Gerhart is vacating. Wilder could easily slip to Day 3 if he doesn’t show well during pre-draft activities, which could provide the Vikings with an opportunity to scoop him up.

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De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon

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The ultimate utility player, Thomas projects as the ideal third-down back in the NFL. He has speed, elusiveness and reliable hands that make him an intriguing threat out of the backfield. His stock fell significantly in 2013 due to an injury-plagued season, but there’s no denying that Thomas can be a sparkplug with the ball in his hands. If Thomas slides during the draft, the Vikings would be wise to use a third- or fourth-round pick on the former Duck.

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Antonio Andrews, Western Kentucky

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One of the most underrated runners of the 2014 class, Andrews offers an exciting package at running back. A versatile back with the ability to make plays through the air, Andrews excels at picking up big yards off of screens and wheel routes. When he’s taking handoffs, he displays outstanding strength, vision and the tenacity to run through defenders. Andrews would be an outstanding No. 2 behind Peterson who could step in and start at any moment.

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Marion Grice, Arizona State

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

If the Vikings are looking for a third-down back who can be a difference-maker, they need look no further than Grice. A scoring machine who racks up yards with the ball in his hands, the Arizona State product has all of the tools to excel as Peterson’s backup. Not only does he make plays on the ground, but he’s an outstanding weapon out of the backfield. In only two seasons with the Sun Devils, he’s scored 39 touchdowns and shouldn’t have too much trouble duplicating that production at the next level.

Gil Alcaraz IV is the Director of Content for Follow him on Twitter @GilAlcarazIV, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.