- Currently On Roster: Latavius Murray, Jerrick McKinnon, Dalvin Cook, Bishop Sankey, C.J. Ham, Terrell Newby
- Additions: Latavius Murray (free agent), Dalvin Cook (draft), Terrell Newby (undrafted free agent)
- Subtractions: Adrian Peterson (free agent), Matt Asiata (free agent)
Murray (6-3, 230, 5th season) – Signing a three-year, $15 million deal in the off-season, Murray is expected to fill enormously large shoes, as long-time Vikings rusher Adrian Peterson moved on to the New Orleans Saints. Having said that, the former Raiders rusher brings a more versatile skill-set, that is better suited for offensive coordinator Pat Shumur’s offense.
Murray finished as one of the best pass protecting backs in the NFL and has collected an impressive 18 touchdowns the past two seasons. He is expected to bring a tough and hard nose running style, as well as being a consistent option as a pass catcher out of the backfield.
McKinnon (5-9, 205, 4th season) — Entering his fourth season, McKinnon finds himself at a bit of a crossroad. Showing promise in his first two seasons, “Jet” took a bit of a step back last season. The team possessed the worst rushing attack in the NFL and there were many factors that contributed to that.
Averaging a career low 3.4 yards per-carry in 2016, McKinnon is looking to rebound, but it will most likely be in a much smaller role than he’s accustomed to, as the team signed Latavius Murray and traded up to draft the highly touted Dalvin Cook in the second-round.
Cook (5-11, 213, 1st season) — Arguably the most talented running back in the 2017 NFL Draft, Cook enters the Twin Cities with heavy expectations. The Vikings fanbase has been spoiled with outstanding running back play since 2007. With the porous output last season on the ground, the talented rusher is expected to be a possible solution.
Cook enters his first training camp as an unknown due to being a rookie. Having not played a single NFL down, it is likely that the team will ease him into the rotation. What we’ve seen in years past though is that if there’s one position that a rookie can make an instant impact at, it is at running back.
Sankey (5-10, 209, 4th season) — A former second-round pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2014, Sankey has bounced around the league to this point. After spending time on the Chiefs active roster and Patriots practice squad, Sankey was eventually signed to the Vikings practice squad last November.
Currently with 762 career rushing yards on 199 carries, Sankey figures to be a prime practice squad candidate. With Murray, Cook and McKinnon already in the fold and expected to be a part of the teams plans next season, it is already a crowded backfield. Sankey is fighting an uphill battle in order to make the final 53-man roster.
Ham (5-11, 235, 2nd season) — After going through a rookie tryout with the team, Ham was signed by the Vikings. In his first pre-season he seemed to standout and grind out the tough yards in every game that he played in. The team has had plenty of previous success with players who try out and become feel good stories, Adam Thielen being the most notable example.
Ham has now made the switch to fullback. Even though it is a dying position, he has embraced the switch and looks to fill the hole that Zach Line left after the team opted not to re-sign him. Ham and tight end David Morgan will most likely split the fullback responsibilities, despite it not being a huge role in Shurmur’s offense.
Newby (5-10, 200, 1st season) — Entering training camp as an undrafted free agent is tough for anyone, especially in Newby’s situation. The former Cornhusker is out with a point to prove though. After finishing as Nebraska’s leading rusher the past two seasons, Newby is aiming to prove his worth.
Despite battling a multitude of injuries, he never missed a game in his collegiate career. Newby will mostly likely aim to be a special teams contributor or practice squad candidate because the teams backfield is crowded with a lot of notable names and his carries will most likely be limited.
Outlook: The Vikings backfield is one of the most intriguing positional battles of any throughout the roster. It is a position the team has not had to worry about due to the greatness of future Hall-of-Famer Adrian Peterson.
With his departure, the team has updated their offense and evolved to a running back-by-committee approach. The trio of Murray, McKinnon and Cook has the potential to be an upgrade from last season. The biggest question surrounding the trio though, is who will get the majority of the snaps in each area. Each rusher brings their variety to the table and it will be fun to see how it all unfolds.
For NFL news and draft analysis, follow J.R. on Twitter @JReidDraftScout.
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