Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 4/1/12
With the NFL's free agency a month underway and about three weeks to prepare for the Draft, NFL coaches and front offices scramble to start adjusting the rosters and figuring out cap space.  Most, if not all of the high valued free agents have signed with their respected teams and at this point it is slim pickings when it comes to available and effective players that are left.  At this point the most effective players left will be in this year's Draft, an option many teams choose to use when rebuilding and adding depth.

The Minnesota Vikings are going into the 2012 season with a bit of uncertainty at the running back position.  Everyone knows they have All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson.  But Peterson suffered a late season-ending knee injury that required him to have offseason surgery.  All reports and interviews show he is well on his way to recovery and Peterson hopes to be in the starting lineup when they start the first week of the regular season. Knee injuries are hard to completely recover from and most of the time, the player that sustains these injuries never play at the high level they used to.  With that being said, I would expect the Vikings to use a running back by committee approach in the upcoming season.  Toby Gerhart, Petersons' backup, played very well in the short time he took on a full load when Peterson went down with his knee injury, but would sustain a hip injury in the last game that initially thought would need surgery, but later found out to be not true and that he would not require his hip to be worked on.

When asked if running back was an area of concern, Head Coach Leslie Frazier said, "We'll probably have to either bring in a veteran guy or draft someone to help us with Toby Gerhart. We want to have a third guy on our roster for sure, whether he's a guy that's only used in third-down situations or has the capability of being used in first- and second-down situations."

I get the feeling Frazier is not looking for another big smash-nose kind of back. He will be looking more for a smaller, speedier back that can come in on 3rd and long.  They need someone in the backfield that can catch, but will also stick his nose in front of a blitzing linebacker.  Those kind of running backs are a rarity and it is hard to find a reliable one that is not sitting out half the year with nagging injuries. These kind of players are becoming more and more valuable come draft time with teams like the Saints with Darren Sproles, or Danny Woodhead of the Patriots being very effective coming in and having the ability to make game-changing plays.

The Vikings will not use one of their first two picks in the Draft to address this issue at running back but with three 4th round picks this year, I would expect them to grab one in either the 3rd or 4th round this year.  One player to me fits exactly what the Vikings need, and that person is LaMicheal James from Oregon. At 5'9" and 190 pounds, this speedster set a school record for career rushing yards  (5,082) and was also good for 14th best all-time in NCAA history.  On January 2, 2012 James helped the Ducks defeat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl 45-38 behind James'  159 yards rushing and a touchdown. 

ESPN once clocked James during a game at 24 mph and this speedster could come in and instantly boost an offense that had a hard time finding a rhythm, or a big-play kind of guy that could bring energy into the offense.  LaMicheal James is that guy.  He can do everything the Vikings will want him to do and not only would he help in the backfield but could also be a huge factor in the return game and special teams.  Another area the Vikings are lacking in is a true return man that could relieve current returner, Percy Harvin. This would allow Harvin to see the field a bit more as a receiver. 

James does have a few off the field issues that will scare a lot of teams away, but his locker room attitude and his work ethic have never come into question.  Taking someone like this is a high risk/high reward kind of player.  The Vikings are known to take risks on players like this in the past and some have worked out (Percy Harvin) and some have not (Randy Moss, Demetrius Underwood).  In 2010 the Vikings took a chance early in the 2nd round to select cornerback Chris Cook.  Cook was known to be a trouble-maker and his stock fell because of it.  The Vikings in need of instant help in there secondary took the chance and drafted him only to have to suspend him early in the 2011 season because of charges of domestic assault.  Cook is still with the team but is on a short leash.  So the question is, will the Vikings continue to take chances on players like LaMicheal James? It might be in there best interest.   We will find out draft day!

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