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Vikings 2012 NFL Draft: Chris Rainey Scouting Report
Despite the long list of holes that must be filled this offseason for the Minnesota Vikings, there is one area of concern that continues to get overlooked.
The Vikings need an explosive third-down running back.
Although the Vikings' running game already boasts the talents of Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, the depth chart gets a bit cloudy past there. With Lorenzo Booker unlikely to return in 2012 and the rest of the running back stable unprepared to see quality playing time, the Vikings will need to find a third-down back who can fill that void this offseason.
With such a deep running back class in 2012, the NFL Draft could be just the place to do that.
It was reported that the Vikings have interviewed Florida running back Chris Rainey during the NFL Scouting Combine. Rainey, known for his blistering speed and burst more than anything else, could be the effective third-down back that they haven't had since Chester Taylor.
Most importantly, Rainey is one of the fastest players in the 2012 draft class. Mixed with an impressive arsenal of moves and good hip flexibility, his speed makes him extremely dangerous in the open field.
Rainey was the first player in Florida football history to lead the team in rushing yards, receptions, punt return yards and all-purpose yards in one season. That fact right there should be more than enough to prove Rainey's versatility and the potential that he holds as a utility player. Not only can he run the ball and pick up yards on the ground, but he also has the ability to catch passes and cause coverage mismatches. Throughout his time at Florida, he lined up numerous times as a slot receiver and runs crisp routes out of the backfield.
The biggest downside to Rainey as a running back is his lack of size. Coming in at a little over 5'8'' and weighing about 178 pounds, Rainey's small, thin frame doesn't allow him to run inside or pass block effectively. On top of that, his lack of bulk makes him easily susceptible to injury.
All too often, Rainey bounces runs outside in an effort to outrun the defense instead of just cutting upfield and getting what he can. In the NFL, his speed won't bail him out as often as it did at Florida. His size doesn't allow him to push the pile and he simply isn't effective inside of the tackles. Even when Rainey does have proper blocking, he has the tendency to get impatient and will outrun his blocks from time to time.
Apart from his on-field concerns, Rainey also has had some off-field issues that could raise red flags. Back in 2010, he was arrested and charged with stalking after sending threatening text messages to an ex-girlfriend. If he hopes to prove that he's draft-worthy, he's going to have to impress teams in interviews and display improved maturity.
As of right now, the Vikings have a few options for the third-down running back spot, including Jordan Todman and Caleb King. Unfortunately, both are raw and will need more time and experience before they're ready to consistently contribute.
Even if he's not ready to contribute as a third-down back, Rainey could find a way to be productive as a return specialist. The Vikings have lacked an electrifying returner apart from wide receiver Percy Harvin for quite some time, and Rainey could be just what they need to re-energize their special teams units.
When it all comes down to it, the biggest question regarding Rainey's value is how many touches the Vikings can get him. Whether it's as a third-down running back or a slot receiver, he's the type of talent that deserves touches and needs to be with a team that knows how to use him. Unless the Vikings can develop to specific plan to implement him into the offense, he might not be worth more than a fourth or fifth round pick.
At this point in the draft season, Rainey is moving up draft boards. Considering his versatility and value as a sparkplug on both offense and special teams, he'll definitely have a few teams considering spending a third-round pick on him if he can impress during interviews. The Vikings have plenty of holes to fill, but could afford to spend a fourth-rounder on Rainey if he's still available.
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