The 185-pound junior totaled a school record 1,805 yards and 18 touchdowns for the Ducks in 2011, and his speed and versatility have major contributions to Oregon's speedy offense. Despite being such an impact player, his proneness to injury and relatively small size have him only projected as a second- or third-round player.
This is where the Minnesota Vikings come in.
The Vikings have a lot of needs going into this year's draft, and you wouldn't think RB would be one of them—but you'd be wrong to a certain degree. The Vikings hold the No. 3 overall selection with which they'll probably draft either Matt Kalil, Justin Blackmon or Morris Claiborne.
Though their first-round selection may seem like the most crucial after a 3-13 season, it will be their later picks that define this team moving forward. Along with needs on their offensive line, at wide receiver and in their secondary, the Vikings could also use some depth at just about every position—including RB.
Adrian Peterson is now recovering from surgery that repaired his torn ACL and MCL in his right knee. Though the Vikings have hopes for Peterson to be available on opening day for the 2012 season, an insurance policy more extensive than Toby Gerhart might be a good idea.
That's nothing against Gerhart, either. The Vikings will more than likely start the season with Peterson on the PUP list and will probably have lost (generous word choice) Lorenzo Booker to free agency, leaving Gerhart the only qualified RB on the roster.
That being said, the NFL has become a two-back league at the very least. Starting the season with Gerhart and a group of practice squad-worthy RBs will not suffice—especially with how much this team is built around running the football.
Despite having one of the best passing attacks in the NFL, the New Orleans Saints also boasted the sixth-rated rushing offense in the league. They don't possess the stereotypical franchise RB like the Vikings, but the nucleus of ball-carriers in New Orleans really holds up well in their offense.
Drafting LaMichael James would give the Vikings the same versatility at running back that the Saints already possess—except the Vikings would be better.
At RB for the Saints are Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles: an all-purpose back, a battering-ram and a speedy third-down back, respectively. When considering the possibility for the same archetype in Minnesota, you'd have Peterson as the best every-down back in the NFL, Toby Gerhart as the deceivingly-speedy bulldozer and LaMichael James as a receiver-back on third downs and in the return game.
Not a bad system, right?
Drafting LaMichael James would not only give the Vikings some much needed depth at RB to begin the season, he would create one of the scariest three-headed-monsters of a running game this league has ever seen—and he could be acquired by the Vikings early in the second or third round.
Though the Vikings have many other needs besides running back, this surprise selection could add a nice dimension to a struggling Vikings offense.
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