Adrian Peterson's future as a Minnesota Viking is anything but clear, even after the NFL announced he will be reinstated effective Friday. The club could release or trade Peterson, whose relationship with the club has been strained, or try to mend the fence and bring him back.
The Vikings will need to make a decision quickly, however, as the NFL draft is just two weeks away and no team would want to have uncertainty about a key player linger into draft weekend. And while the 11th pick of the first round might be a little rich for a position that hasn't cracked the first round since 2012, a second-round pick might not be too soon. NFL Media analyst Lance Zierlein looks at two potential replacements for Peterson that, if necessary, the Vikings could look to add in the draft:
"I would say based on what they do, based on Norv Turner's background, (Alabama's) T.J. Yeldon could be a second-round guy for them," Zierlein said. "They like for backs to be multi-faceted and be able to play on third down. They like Jerick McKinnon, so if they continue to go by committee, that means they'll look for value. T.J. Yeldon has already played in a committee. He's got good size and the ability to play on first, second or third down."
Yeldon's experience in a crowded backfield goes back to his freshman season at Alabama, when he shared carries with Eddie Lacy, now the Green Bay Packers' starting running back. After Lacy was drafted in the second round, Yeldon began splitting carries primarily with Derrick Henry, who will be a junior at Alabama this fall. The shared workload still took its toll on Yeldon, however, as he battled minor injuries throughout his junior year. Yeldon was Alabama's best receiver and pass protector at the position and ran a 4.61 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"If they try to get a guy later in the draft, it could be (South Carolina's) Mike Davis. He has good initial burst, and if Norv Turner believes he could play like he did his sophomore year, he could carry the load for them. He's a guy you could take in the third or fourth and could get a starting running back for quite a few years," Zierlein said.
Davis was spectacular as a sophomore at South Carolina in 2013, rushing for 1,183 yards (5.8 per carry). But he looked a step slow as a junior last year, dealt with some minor injuries, and his average per carry slipped nearly a full yard (4.8). Despite the slip in production, however, Davis chose to enter the draft as an underclassman. Like Yeldon, he also ran a 4.61 40-yard dash at the combine.
"He's a great pass catcher and has had a strong offseason," Zierlein said.
Johnson wouldn't figure to come at too high a price in the draft for the Vikings -- he projects as a late-round selection -- but he excelled during the practice week at the Senior Bowl and turned in an impressive 4.50 40-yard dash at the combine.
Zierlein said Allen (6-0, 221) could also be a strong late-round fit for the Vikings' needs in the absence of Peterson. Allen exploded or 1,489 yards last year for the Trojans and was prolific as a receiver -- something the Vikings would value in an every-down back -- with 41 receptions. Allen turned in a 4.53 40 at the combine.