In the last few weeks before the Minnesota Vikings begin training camp, we're going to take a look at a number of players on their roster with something to prove this season, excluding rookies. We will focus primarily on veterans or players being asked to assume a larger role this season. Today: fullback Jerome Felton.
Why he has something to prove: Felton was a perfect fit for the Vikings' old scheme, working almost solely as a blocking back and helping Adrian Peterson run for 2,097 yards in 2012 on the way to a Pro Bowl selection of his own. But after serving a three-game suspension last year for a 2012 drunken-driving arrest, Felton saw his playing time drop slightly last season, and he could be on the way to a bigger change in Norv Turner's offense, which has typically featured a "F back" that can block, catch the ball out of the backfield and even motion out wide, instead of a traditional fullback. Felton took a paycut this offseason, and got the option to void his 2015 contract in exchange for the salary reduction. He'll have to evolve in a new scheme if he wants to continue to play a meaningful role with the Vikings.
What he must do: Felton got a little work as a receiving option during the Vikings' minicamp, but he'll have plenty to learn there in training camp. He's been at his best as a lead blocker who's not afraid to initiate contact, but he's spent little time doing anything else. He ran a pass route on just 58 snaps last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and caught only one of his six passes lined up in the slot. Considering Zach Line showed some flashes as a receiver during the preseason last year, and Rhett Ellison has been more of a fullback/tight end hybrid during his career than anyone else on the Vikings' roster, Felton will likely have to ply his trade in a number of different ways this season. His best season as a receiver came back in 2009, when he caught 13 passes for 133 yards with the Detroit Lions. Can Felton contribute that much as a receiver to the Vikings? It'd certainly help his case.
Projection: Considering the number of other options the Vikings have, the guess here is Felton will see his role reduced in the Vikings' offense unless he can find a niche in a number of different facets of the Vikings' offense this fall.