Minnesota Vikings: Full Position Breakdown, Depth-Chart Analysis at Running Back

Giancarlo Ferrari-KingFeatured ColumnistJune 8, 2014

Minnesota Vikings: Full Position Breakdown, Depth-Chart Analysis at Running Back

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    ANDY CLAYTON-KING/Associated Press

    In Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner's scheme, having an effective, diverse group of running backs is vital.

    When you think about a Turner offense, your brain gets overwhelmed with thoughts about the Vikings attacking opposing defenses utilizing a vertical passing game.

    But lost in all of the aerial hyperbole is the fact that some of the NFL's most lethal running backs have performed incredibly well with Turner as their leader.

    "Turner's backs have led the league in rushing five times," Brian Hall of Fox Sports North wrote. That statistic bodes well for Adrian Peterson, the most talented halfback Turner has worked with since LaDainian Tomlinson.

    While all of us would like to see Peterson touch the football 30 times a game, that likely won't be the case.

    The Vikings desperately need productive runners sitting behind AP on the depth chart if they want to be successful on the ground in 2014.

    Checking out all of the names competing for roster spots this summer, it's time to break down and analyze the entire running back situation.

5. Dominique Williams

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    The Vikings' quest to build a capable running back corps led them to Wagner University's Dominique Williams.

    At Wagner, Williams was a steady option in the backfield. Rushing for 4,435 yards and 42 touchdowns during his career, he became a major component of the Wagner attack.

    After the 2014 draft closed up shop, the Vikings signed Williams as an undrafted free agent.

    Williams won't break into the top three on the depth chart, but he does have an outside shot to surpass Joe Banyard as the team's fourth option in the coming weeks.

    Of course, there will be a series of wide-ranging questions he's going to have to answer. For starters, does he have breakaway speed? Can he be effective in pass protection? The list goes on and on.

    It's going to be up to head coach Mike Zimmer and Turner to try to decipher that information.

    The only thing we know for certain is that Williams has a long road ahead of him this summer.

4. Joe Banyard

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Banyard's 2013 season with the Vikings saw him bounce between the active roster and the practice squad.

    Now in 2014, with a new coaching staff in place, Banyard will once again have to prove himself.

    With minimal work under his belt, it's difficult to construct a complete picture of his skill set.

    Checking out what scouts had to say about him leading up to the 2012 NFL draft, the people over at DraftInsider.net wrote about some of his talents:

    "Shifty ballcarrier who is best on the inside. Runs low to the ground, plays with good balance and keeps his feet moving up the field. Shows some wiggle in his running with the ability to sidestep defenders. Effectively follows blocks. Solid receiver out of the backfield."

    Banyard is going to have a tough time finding a permanent spot on this roster.

    He may have some useful elements to his game, but with third-round Jerick McKinnon now on the team, the No. 3 spot on the depth chart isn't as cut and dry as it was heading into the draft.

    Once again, Minnesota's practice squad seems like the most logical landing spot for the 25-year-old running back.

3. Jerick McKinnon

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Of all the Vikings' 2014 draft picks, former Georgia Southern multipurpose threat McKinnon was the most unusual one.

    The Vikings needed to add another layer of depth into their backfield. Choosing a guy who played halfback, as well as option quarterback, over an established running back prospect was a unique decision by the Vikings' brass.

    McKinnon's biggest asset as a player is the fact that he's an athletic marvel. Obliterating the 2014 NFL combine led to the meteoric rise of his draft stock.

    How the Vikings decide to use McKinnon moving forward is going to be fun to watch. However, until he learns the nuances of the position, he'll be more of a change-of-pace halfback.

    Slotted in as the team's No. 3 option on the depth chart, McKinnon will have to figure out a way to be an efficient pass-blocker if he wants to surpass Matt Asiata during the regular season.

2. Matt Asiata

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Toby Gerhart's decision to take his talents to Jacksonville has left a void on this depth chart.

    The battle for who will get the honors of being listed as Peterson's backup should come down to third-round pick McKinnon and Asiata.

    We already talked about what McKinnon does well. Asiata on the other hand, well, he's a completely different type of runner.

    In a vacuum, last season was the first time we got to watch Asiata in a lead-back role. With Peterson and Gerhart sidelined, he took the reins against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 15.

    Registering 30 carries, Asiata struggled to open things up, picking up just 51 yards.

    The saving grace that week was the three rushing touchdowns he managed to punch in during a 48-30 win.

    Going back and examining the tape, Asiata's biggest issues came from facing a stout Eagles run defense. For the bulk of the game, they were able to control the line of scrimmage, giving Asiata zero room to breath.

    But Asiata isn't blameless. Repeatedly on film, he struggled with his decision-making.

    The second time he lined up as the team's No. 1 running back, it was a different ballgame. On just 15 carries, the big halfback rumbled his way down the field, picking up 115 yards in the process.

    Again, all of the work we saw the 26-year-old tailback put in was in a vacuum.

    Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune summed up Coach Zimmer thoughts on Asiata. "He talked about how Asiata is able to do a little bit of everything for the Vikings, including catching passes, too, and handling pass protection," Vensel wrote.

    Asiata's best chance of holding down the No. 2 slot is going to center around his evolution as a runner and his competence in pass protection.

1. Adrian Peterson

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    ANDY CLAYTON-KING/Associated Press

    Despite being 29 years old, Peterson is still the spine of the Vikings offense.

    There have been zero indications that the 2014 season will be any different when it comes to Peterson's ability to run the football.

    Last season on 279 carries, Peterson chugged along, picking up 1,266 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. Posting double-digit touchdowns once again means that Peterson has still never scored fewer than 10 rushing touchdowns during his illustrious eight-year career.

    Coach Turner's entrance as the team's offensive coordinator may have you thinking the Vikings aren't going to utilize him as much as they have in the past.

    That idea couldn't be further from the truth.

    Sure Peterson may swap some carries for receptions over the course of the season, but his unwavering ability to dominate with the ball in his hands is something this offense desperately needs to cling to.

    Just like years past, Peterson sits comfortably atop the Vikings' depth chart once again as the team's go-to halfback.

     

    All CFB stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com, unless noted otherwise. All stats courtesy of NFL.com.