The 2017 NFL Draft class is a deep one for running backs.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman addressed the media from the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday and said he doesn't remember such a high number of running backs coming out during his 10-plus years in the league.
"We just got out of our draft meetings, and there's a significant amount of talent at that position," Spielman said.
It's a theme of conversation across the board this year.
The Vikings announced Tuesday that they will not exercise the 2017 option on Adrian Peterson's contract. Although there's a chance Peterson re-signs with Minnesota and Spielman said that conversations are ongoing, the popular opinion of experts is that Minnesota should keep a close eye on this year's running back class, including 33 invited to the combine.
Albert Breer of The MMQB pointed out that, in the case that Peterson would not be with Minnesota for the 2017 season, the Vikings still have Jerick McKinnon, "a young guy that they think a lot of." Breer added, however, that the advantage of this year's draft is that it offers value at running back beyond the first round.
"There's strength at the top, and there's depth all the way through," Breer said. "There are options in free agency, yes, but the depth in the draft and the price tag you're going to pay for a rookie, lack of tread on the tires, all that, I think if you're looking for a back, it's a good year."
ESPN's Kevin Seiffert said that the Vikings should take a look at running backs in the draft this year because of how much value there is, from "high-end" guys to those who will go in the later rounds and be less flashy and explosive but incredibly productive.
"There's a lot of variety this year," Seiffert said. "From a financial and salary cap perspective, it's a great bargain to use a young running back."
According to NFL Media analysts Mike Mayock and Bucky Brooks, the top two of the position group are LSU's Leonard Fournette and Florida State's Dalvin Cook, both of whom are projected to go in the first round of the draft.
Another recognizable name garnering attention in the top-five is Christian McCaffrey, the son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey.
ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan weighed in on McCaffrey during an interview on *9 to Noon *with "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen.
"One GM said to me that he's a bigger version, a much bigger and talented version, of [Chargers running back] Danny Woodhead," Caplan said. "McCaffrey's stop-and-start, stop-and-start, makes guys dive; he makes them miss, kind of like Woodhead. This kid is really good."
Caplan said the biggest issue with drafting running backs in the first round – where he believes McCaffrey has a chance to go – is that the team needs to be certain that the player is capable of carrying the load of a starting back.
"This is where coaching and the personnel department have to be aligned," Caplan said. "If you don't know how to use him, don't draft him."
While there's a common consensus on the top five running backs likely to jump off the board early, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller delved into the later-round options that could still start for a team in year one.
According to Miller, who also joined Allen on a segment of 9 to Noon, Wayne Gallman out of Clemson is a player that could be a great get on day two of the draft. Miller described Gallman as a three-down back who can help in both the run and the return game and can also be a receiver out of the backfield.
Miller said Gallman has received a little less credit than he was due because he was surrounded by such a talented team at Clemson.
"He's probably capable of being a starter that would come out of the third round," Miller said. "I've been telling people, this is the deepest running back class that I've ever seen."
Even into the fourth round, Miller feels that solid names will remain available for a team's picking.
Toledo's Kareem Hunt and North Carolina's T.J. Logan are two players who caught Miller's attention during the season.
"[Hunt] could be a Jordan Howard type that's like a really good college back who just gets lost in a good class and then becomes a starter. If he's there in the fourth round, I think he'd be a good pick," Miller said. "The guy I've got really warmed up on lately is T.J. Logan … He is explosive. I thought he was the better running back. Elijah Hood got more carries and more yards and everything, but I think T.J. Logan was a much better player."
Added Miller: "If I could get that one-two punch, I'd feel pretty happy."