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NFL: Vikings could be hunting for Peterson backup in draft

The Vikings will look for a possible franchise quarterback in the NFL draft. They also might seek a future key running back.

The upcoming season will be Adrian Peterson’s final season in his 20s. With backup Toby Gerhart having bolted to Jacksonville as a free agent, it’s not too early to be thinking about Peterson’s eventual replacement.

For the immediate future, the Vikings at least need a runner to spell Peterson as they plan to decrease his carries under new offensive coordinator Norv Turner.

“He’s getting to the point where you don’t have to give him the ball 50 times a game for 16 games,” said general manager Rick Spielman. “Adrian’s the face of our franchise, but Norv has a history of having two backs to keep him fresh, because I think it’s very important as you go through the season that they’re still strong in Week 16 and they’re still strong when you get into the playoffs.”

Minnesota doesn’t have a surefire No. 2 back on the roster. Matt Asiata filled in for the injured Peterson and Gerhart in two games last December and performed admirably with 166 yards on 44 carries (a 3.8 average). But Asiata, entering his third season, is still raw.

After that, Minnesota has just Joe Banyard and Bradley Randle on the roster. They’ve mostly been practice squad players.

Asked if Minnesota definitely will take a running back in the Thursday-

Saturday draft, Spielman said, “That’s your words.” But Spielman did say in March the Vikings had “honed in on a couple of running backs in the draft.”

It’s not a great year for running backs, with none projected to go in the first round. But solid backs often can be found in later rounds.

Some well-known prospects from big-name schools include Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde, Auburn’s Tre Mason, LSU’s Jeremy Hill and Florida State’s Devonta Freeman. Some guys from small schools who could come up big include Towson’s Terrance West and Alabama State’s Isaiah Crowell.

An intriguing late-round pick could be Wisconsin’s James White. Taking over for the departed Montee Ball, White rushed last season for 1,444 yards.