Don’t be fooled. Zach Line might be listed as a 230 pound fullback on the Vikings roster, but the undrafted star from SMU has the versatility, production and work ethic of a featured running back. As a matter-of-fact, the more I read about him, the more I believe he has the talent to make the Vikings 53 man roster. Greg Maiola Senior Analyst for Bleacher Report called Line the best kept secret in the 2013 draft. Maiola also writes that Line fights through and breaks tackles like Mike Alstott. He is patient like Arian Foster and pass block as well as Joseph Addai did with the Indianapolis Colts.
In June Jones’ spread offensive attach, Line proved to be a versatile workhorse earning 2012 C-USA Offensive Player of the Year Honors as a senior. His outstanding career would see him tie the great Eric Dickerson with 47 touchdowns and surpass him in total all proposes yards with 4715.
SMU Head Coach June Jones was planning on using Zach as a linebacker early on, but after watching him as a lead blocker, Jones moved him to fullback. Line looked good as a freshman fullback helping lead the way for Shawnbrey McNeal to rush for 1,188 yards. The SMU coaches promoted Line to be the featured back after McNeal departed for the NFL. And Line didn’t disappoint, rushing for 3 straight 1,000 yard seasons for the Mustangs.
Jones is outspoken about Zach’s character. “If Bill Walsh were still alive, Bill would take this kid right now, and he would be a star. You cannot have too many Zach Lines on your football team, and that’s why he’s going to make it in the NFL.”
Zach knows he will need to compete and work hard to earn a roster spot in the NFL. He prides himself on the effort he spends preparing for a game. “My practice habits and work ethic are unmatched. I train like I play.” Line’s hard work shows in the passing game as he proved to be a reliable target catching 75 balls out of the backfield over his career. This old-school football player also mastered the craft of pass blocking in a high octane offense.
The big knock on Line is that he is not fast enough to be a featured back in the NFL. With Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart at the top of the depth chart, the Vikings don’t need Line to be the head-line back anyway. But just for the record, Zach Line’s 4.77 combine forty-time is identical to Matt Asiata’s combine time… yet Zach is 2 inches taller and 10 pounds heavier. It might also be worthy to note that Line out performed Asiata in the bench press with 26 reps to 22.
Zach did have fumbles against Baylor and TCU as a senior. So, Zach must convince the coaching staff that this opportunity is not too big for him and that rookie mistakes like fumbles, drop ball and missed assignments will not be a part of his game. If Line can find a way to contribute consistently on special teams during camp and preseason, he just might have chance to steal the #3 running back job away from Matt Asiata.