With the Vikings returning to Winter Park on Monday for voluntary offseason workouts, the focus has shifted toward the 2017 season.
There are still a little over four months to go until the regular season, but Tim Yotter of Viking Update took a peek at which young offensive players on Minnesota's roster could push for a more expanded role this season.
Yotter mentioned running back C.J. Ham as a potential player to watch in the backfield.
The Duluth native spent the 2016 season on Minnesota's practice squad.
*C.J. Ham put together a pretty decent preseason as an undrafted rookie last year, finishing with the most carries (44) and second-highest average (3.2 yards) behind a shaky offensive line. Without Matt Asiata (or Peterson) on the roster, Ham may get more looks in the preseason in an effort to earn a spot on the roster. He'll be fighting for that spot with Bishop Sankey and an anticipated draft pick. But don't count out Ham. (Latavius) Murray and Jerick McKinnon are expected to occupy the first two spots on the depth chart, but Ham could push for time, especially if an injury pops up in front of him. *
Yotter said tight end David Morgan, a sixth-round pick in 2016, could be one to keep an eye on in offseason workouts. Morgan had one catch for four yards in 12 games as a rookie while contributing on special teams.
*Without Rhett Ellison, David Morgan will see more time. So, too, will an expected draft pick. But Morgan had a year to be slowly immersed into the lineup without the pressure to do it all. This year, without Ellison or Zach Line (still a free agent that could be signed later), Morgan should get the opportunity to explore a bigger role as a move tight end/H-back. *
As for the offensive line, Yotter didn't name a player on the Vikings current roster, as he projects Minnesota to draft a lineman early on in next week's draft.
*This year, the breakout guy might not be on the roster yet. The feeling here is that the Vikings will use one of their first three picks (one in the second round and two in the third) on a guard. That guy will get every opportunity to win the spot vacated when the Vikings released Brandon Fusco and Mike Harris. They have other options, like Joe Berger or Nick Easton moving from center to guard, or one of the right tackles sliding inside, but ideally a Day 2 pick in the draft is the one to emerge and solidify the spot. *
McKinnon excited to team up with Latavius Murray
Time flies fast in the NFL, something McKinnon knows all too well.
The Vikings running back is entering his fourth professional season but is looking to rebound from a tough 2016 campaign.
McKinnon recently chatted with Matthew Coller of 1500ESPN.com about a variety of topics, including what he's looking forward to this season.
McKinnon had 159 carries for 539 yards and two touchdowns in 2016, while adding 43 catches for 255 yards and another pair of scores.
The former 2014 third-round pick will see a new face in the running backs room this season.
The soon-to-be 25-year-old playmaker has a new bandmate in the backfield. The Vikings signed former Raiders running back Latavius Murray earlier this offseason. Last year, the Raiders used Murray as part of a trio that gained 1,922 yards, sixth most in the NFL.* *
McKinnon understands it's a one-two punch league. Only one running back carried the ball 300 times last season (Ezekiel Elliott) as opposed to 2006 when there were 10 backs with 300-plus rushes, so it's likely that the new co-workers will both see plenty of playing time.
"I texted him after he signed the new contract to congratulate him, he seems like a cool guy so I just told him that, on my end, I just want to come in and compete so it will be good working with him and learning from him," McKinnon said. "He's been named to one Pro Bowl, so he's had success in the league. I'm looking forward to getting in there, working with him, competing against him, learning about how he thinks about certain things, getting his point of view on certain situations and runs and plays, stuff like that."