Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Vikings position-by-position snapshot: Running backs

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: April 28, 2014 - 7:02 AM

The Vikings haven’t drafted a running back in four years, but that could change next weekend.

From 2010 to 2013, Toby Gerhart rode shotgun to Adrian Peterson, who is the engine of the Vikings offense. But they let him walk as a free agent in March, leaving a void behind Peterson.

Peterson is 29 and has 2,033 regular-season carries on his odometer, but besides his recent abdominal injuries, he hasn’t shown any major signs of slowing down. In 14 games, Peterson ranked fifth in the NFL with 1,266 rushing yards in 2013 and also rumbled for 10 touchdowns.

But Peterson can’t carry the ball every single time, which made Gerhart a valuable reserve.

Gerhart averaged 4.7 yards per carry in his Vikings career and had an impressive 7.9 yards per carry -- albeit on just 36 rushing attempts -- before he was sidelined by injury in December.

With Peterson hobbled and Gerhart inactive, the Vikings were forced to rely on Matt Asiata, a little-known 26-year-old with little experience. He rushed for 51 yards and three scores in his first NFL start, but it took him 30 carries to get there. He fared better with 115 yards in Week 17.

Heading into the draft, Peterson is the only proven commodity on the depth chart (sorry, Mr. Asiata, but you’re not established quite yet). They also have Joe Banyard and Bradley Randle, neither of which has carried the ball in a regular season game (though Banyard has caught one pass).

The Vikings are expected to address the position at some point in the draft, though they won’t use their top pick like they did with Peterson in 2007. The top backs in this draft include Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde, Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey and Auburn’s Tre Mason, and the Vikings have also gotten under the hood of other running back prospects over the past couple of months.

PROJECTED STARTERS: Peterson, of course, with Jerome Felton bulldozing a path for him.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT: Banyard, signed as a street free agent in 2012, is not the fastest back, but he’s a willing inside runner who reads his blocks well. He got lost in the shuffle behind Asiata last season, but he will get an opportunity to prove himself to the new coaching staff.

LEVEL OF NEED: Moderate. Peterson is still the best running back in the game, but Father Time eventually tackles every man, and he does it sooner with running backs than any other position. The Vikings need a reliable backup. Finding Peterson’s eventual replacement would be a bonus.

FIVE PROSPECTS TO REMEMBER: Mason, Carey, Florida State running back Devonta Freeman, Towson running back Terrance West and Oregon runner/receiver/returner De’Anthony Thomas.

OUR BEST GUESS: The Vikings will take a running back, perhaps as early as the third round.

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Baltimore 2 FINAL
Detroit 15
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Northeastern 1 FINAL
Boston 2
Miami-Fla 1 FINAL
Miami 7
Pittsburgh 8 FINAL
Toronto 7
San Francisco 4 FINAL
Oakland 9
Cleveland 0 FINAL
Cincinnati 10
Boston College 0 FINAL
Boston 1
Arizona State 0 FINAL
Arizona 4
Boston 79 FINAL
Cleveland 110
LA Lakers 103 FINAL
Charlotte 104
Sacramento 124 FINAL
New York 86
Houston 96 FINAL
Atlanta 104
Utah 93 FINAL
Memphis 82
Washington 92 FINAL
Chicago 97
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
Denver 106
Nashville 1 FINAL
New Jersey 3
Calgary 3 FINAL(OT)
Philadelphia 2
Washington 5 FINAL
Columbus 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Toronto 3 FINAL
Florida 2
Ottawa 2 FINAL(SO)
Minnesota 3
NY Islanders 2 FINAL(OT)
Dallas 3
Anaheim 4 FINAL
Arizona 1
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
Edmonton 2
San Jose 6 FINAL
Vancouver 2
Ole Miss 82 FINAL
Alabama 74
Eastern Mich 67 FINAL
Ball State 60
Kent State 81 FINAL
Bowling Green 80
Ohio 66 FINAL
Buffalo 93
Georgetown 60 FINAL
Butler 54
Toledo 77 FINAL
Central Mich 85
Rhode Island 59 FINAL
Dayton 75
Youngstown St 67 FINAL
Detroit 77
North Carolina 81 FINAL
Georgia Tech 49
Loyola-Maryland 45 FINAL
Holy Cross 62
Iowa 77 FINAL
Indiana 63
Akron 63 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 70
Army 52 FINAL
Navy 56
Maryland 60 FINAL
Rutgers 50
Kennesaw St 54 FINAL
USC Upstate 90
Jacksonville 63 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 81
Lipscomb 76 FINAL
Northern Ky 73
Stetson 67 FINAL
North Florida 81
Wright State 57 FINAL
Ill-Chicago 60
Western Mich 63 FINAL
Northern Ill 65
Nebraska Omaha 80 FINAL
North Dakota 78
Houston Baptist 71 FINAL
Abilene Christian 83
NC State 66 FINAL
Clemson 61
Texas A&M 62 FINAL
Florida 66
Kentucky 72 FINAL
Georgia 64
West Virginia 69 FINAL
Kansas 76
Auburn 61 FINAL
Missouri 63
Michigan 78 FINAL
Northwestern 82
Villanova 76 FINAL
Creighton 72
Longwood 55 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 63
Charleston Southern 39 FINAL
Presbyterian 47
Coastal Carolina 54 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 68
NJIT 51 FINAL
UMass Lowell 60
West Virginia 55 FINAL
Kansas State 59
TCU 45 FINAL
Texas 79
Fresno State 61 FINAL
Air Force 41
San Jose St 76 FINAL
Boise State 91
Nevada 61 FINAL
Colorado State 68
UNLV 61 FINAL
San Diego State 76
Wyoming 61 FINAL
Utah State 57
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

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