In the lead-up to the 2020 NFL Draft, Vikings.com is taking a position-by-position look at prospects who have garnered a range of attention from national outlets. The series will include rankings by national outlets, stats and background information for multiple prospects. We'll also include comments that experts shared during interviews.
Vikings Status at the RB Position
Minnesota is returning all four of its running backs – and its fullback – from the 2019 season.
Dalvin Cook started 14 games last season and racked up 1,135 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on 250 carries. He also added 53 catches for 519 yards through the air.
Alexander Mattison, a 2019 second-round draft pick, and Mike Boone remained under contract, and the Vikings are bringing back Ameer Abdullah, who also served as Minnesota's kick returner.
Minnesota native C.J. Ham was set to become a restricted free agent, but the fullback signed an extension before the new league year opened.
The Vikings certainly don't have a glaring need at running back, but you can't rule out Minnesota selecting one if the situation makes sense.
About the expert
For running backs, we reached out to Chad Reuter, a draft analyst for NFL.com.
Chad Reuter has covered the NFL draft since 2000. He was hired by NFLDraftScout.com as a senior analyst in 2007 and then continued in that role when NFLDraftScout and CBSSports.com formed their partnership for the 2009 draft. He joined NFL Network and NFL.com in December 2011 as a senior researcher, assisting in the production of the East-West Shrine Game, Senior Bowl, Scouting Combine and NFL Draft.
Follow him on Twitter @chad_reuter for his analysis.
While the Vikings don't have a pressing need at running back, we asked Reuter for his thoughts on one prospect who likely will go a little earlier in the draft and another prospect who could add some value for a team in the later rounds. Reuter's evaluation of Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor and Florida's Lamical Perine are included below.
We also asked Reuter to provide his thoughts on the 2020 running backs draft class as a whole.
"I would say that this year's running backs group is fairly typical," Reuter said. "I won't say 'average' because that has a negative connotation that I don't mean to imply. There are talented players who will be picked late in Round 1 and throughout Rounds 2-3 that will be excellent contributors. And there will definitely be Saturday selections that will become starters, but they fall into the later rounds due to the nature of the running back position in today's NFL.
"So, it's a typical group in which teams should find value," he added.
NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah currently has four running backs in his overall Top 50: 16. D'Andre Swift, 30. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, 35. Jonathan Taylor, 40. J.K. Dobbins. Worth noting is that Jeremiah previously had Dobbins slated at No. 34 but moved him down.
ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., has one running back in his overall Top 25: 17. Swift
PFF included four RBs in its overall Top 100: 52. Zack Moss, 57. Swift, 72. Taylor, 76. Dobbins
Positional rankings by NFL.com's Bucky Brooks, ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., analytics site Pro Football Focus and The Athletic's Dane Brugler impacted the players listed for this series. Rankings by each are noted under each prospect.
School: Georgia | Year: Jr. | Ht: 5-foot-8 | Wt. 212 pounds
Rankings: No. 1 RB by Brooks and Kiper; No. 2 by PFF and Brugler
2019 stats: 14 games (11 starts) 196 carries for 1,218 yards and 7 touchdowns; 24 catches for 216 yards and 1 touchdown; named All-SEC First-Team by coaches and All-SEC Second-Team by the Associated Press
Freshman phenom: Swift became a full-time contributor for the Bulldogs as a true freshman in 2017, earning Coaches' Freshman All-SEC Team honors. He was Georgia's third-leading rusher with 618 yards and ranked fourth on the team in receiving with 17 catches for 153 yards. On two different occasions, he led the Bulldogs in rushing, including in the SEC Championship Game versus Auburn. His best performance as a freshman occurred against Mizzou, when he exploded for 94 yards on just six attempts.
School: Ohio State | Year: Jr. | Ht: 5-foot-9 | Wt. 209 pounds
Rankings: No. 1 RB by Brugler; No. 2 by Brooks and Kiper; No. 4 by PFF
2019 stats: 14 games (14 starts); 301 carries for 2,003 yards and 21 touchdowns; 23 catches for 247 yards and 2 touchdowns; became first Buckeye in school history to top 2,000 rushing yards in a season; named First-Team All-Big Ten (coaches and media) and First-Team All-American (Football Writers Association of America)
Predicting productivity: *According to an article published by The Athletic's Bill Landis, Dobbins sat in a hotel lobby three-plus years ago with Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford and *talked about his future with the Buckeyes. The coach and player discussed Dobbins being a team captain, vying for the Heisman Trophy, going to Big Ten championships and playing for national titles. And then, Landis wrote, "they talked about … Dobbins needing to make a decision about his future three years down the line." Nearly everything Dobbins predicted for the star running back, including his resolution to leave Ohio State after his junior season and declare for the 2020 NFL Draft. Dobbins finished his collegiate career No. 2 all-time in school history with 4,459 rushing yards, and his 19 100-yard games ranked fourth in Buckeyes history. He won three Big Ten championships, served as a captain in 2019 and finished sixth in Heisman voting.
School: Wisconsin | Year: Jr. | Ht: 5-foot-10 | Wt. 226 pounds
Rankings: No. 3 RB by Kiper, PFF and Brugler; No. 4 by Brooks
2019 stats: 14 games (14 starts); 320 carries for 2,003 yards and 21 touchdowns; 26 catches for 252 yards and five touchdowns; 26 total touchdowns led FBS; named Doak Walker Award winner for second consecutive season; named First-Team All-American
Showed his speed: Taylor led all running backs at the NFL Scouting Combine with a 40-yard dash time of 4.39 seconds, with the next-closest time being 4.41 by Appalachian State's Darrynton Evans. Taylor ranked fourth among running backs in the 3-cone drill (7.01 seconds) and sixth in the 20-yard shuttle (4.24 seconds). He also was listed as a top performer in the vertical jump (tied for 11th with 36 inches) and the broad jump (tied for ninth with 10 feet, 3 inches).
Reuter's reaction: "Carrying the ball 926 times in three years can be seen as a sign of reliability or 'too much mileage.' Taylor's 15 career fumbles are also a large number (J.K. Dobbins had four in 725 carries). However, not only is he a workhorse who runs a sub-4.4 40-yard dash, but he was the most impressive back in receiving drills at the combine. He is worthy of a first-round pick."
School: LSU | Year: Jr. | Ht: 5-foot-7 | Wt. 207 pounds
Rankings: No. 4 RB by Kiper and Brugler; No. 5 by Brooks and PFF
2019 stats: 15 games (13 starts); 215 carries for 1,414 yards and SEC-leading 16 touchdowns; 55 catches for 453 yards and 1 touchdown; tied LSU single-season record for receptions by a running back; named First-Team All-SEC; named LSU's MVP
Big day in the big game: Edwards-Helaire helped LSU defeat Clemson 42-25 in the CFP National Championship Game. After seeing limited time against the Sooners in the Peach Bowl (a national semifinal) because of a hamstring injury, Edwards-Helaire bounced back in a big way. Against Clemson, he racked up 110 yards on 16 rushes. He also added five catches for 54 receiving yards.
School: Utah | Year: Sr. | Ht: 5-foot-9 | Wt. 223 pounds
Rankings: No. 1 RB by PFF; No. 5 by Kiper and Brugler
2019 stats: 13 games (12 starts); 235 carries for 1,416 yards and 15 touchdowns; 28 catches for 388 yards and 2 touchdowns; named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and Pac-12 All-Conference First-Team
Comeback campaign: Moss suffered a season-ending injury in 2018 but returned to the field last season with a vengeance. Thanks to his 2019 campaign, he broke six Utes career records: carries (712), rushing yards (4,167), 100-yard rushing games (18), rushing touchdowns (38), all-purpose plays (778) and total touchdowns (41). Moss also tied an additional two records: career 200-yard rushing games (two) and single-season rushing touchdowns (15). Moss became the first player in Utah's history to notch three 1,000-yard seasons.
School: Florida State | Year: Jr. | Ht: 5-foot-10 | Wt. 217 pounds
Rankings: No. 3 RB by Brooks; No. 6 by PFF and Brugler; No. 7 by Kiper
2019 stats: 11 games (11 starts); 231 carries for 1,144 yards and 14 touchdowns; 30 catches for 225 yards and 4 touchdowns; 4-for-6 passing for 50 yards; his 34 total touchdowns tied for 6th in Seminoles history; named Second-Team All-ACC
Followed in Cook's cleats: After the Vikings drafted Dalvin Cook in 2017, Akers became Florida State's starting running back and stepped in well to fill the void. In fact, he broke the Seminoles freshman rushing record previously held by Cook when he racked up 1,024 yards and seven touchdowns on 194 carries. Akers became the third Seminole in school history to notch multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons (2017 and 2019), joining Cook and Warrick Dunn.
School: Florida | Year: RS Sr. | Ht: 5-foot-11 | Wt. 216 pounds
Rankings: No. 7 RB by Brugler; No. 8 by Kiper
2019 stats: 13 games (13 starts); 131 carries for 677 yards and 6 touchdowns; 40 catches for 262 yards and 5 touchdowns; his 5 receiving scores tied for 2nd among RBs in the FBS and were the most in a season by a Florida RB since James Jones in 1982.
Football family: Perine's father, Terrance, played at Auburn; Perine also is a cousin to Dolphins running back Samaje Perine, whom Washington drafted in 2017, and Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack, a 2016 second-round draft pick by Jacksonville.
Reuter's reaction: "Lamical Perine is one of the more underappreciated backs in the country. He does not 'wow' the casual college football fan in any one category – but he does everything well enough to earn carries on early downs and reps as a receiver/blocker on third downs in the NFL."
Anthony McFarland, Jr.
School: Maryland | Year: RS So. | Ht: 5-foot-8 | Wt. 208 pounds
Rankings: No. 8 RB by Kiper; No. 10 by Brugler
2019 stats: 11 games (7 starts); 114 carries for 614 yards and 8 touchdowns; 17 catches for 126 yards and 1 touchdown; fastest Terp to 11 career rushing TDs since 2010; first Maryland player to have 7 rushing touchdowns in the first 6 games of a season since 2007
High school honors: McFarland grew up in Maryland and attended DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville), where he missed his senior season due to injury. As a junior, he combined for 913 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns (eight rushing and four receiving). McFarland's standout season occurred during his sophomore campaign in 2014, during which he racked up 1,124 rushing yards. DeMatha Catholic has produced a number of NFL players, including former fullback Steve Smith (Riders and Seahawks, 1987-95) and Brian Westbrook (Eagles and 49ers, 2002-10).