With training camp well underway, the position battles are starting to heat up. The highly popular battles like linebacker and quarterback are getting a lot of attention and commentary; however, there are battles that could impact the 2014 team that might be seen as under the radar at the moment.
With tight end Chase Ford entering camp on crutches and the PUP list, the depth chart behind Kyle Rudolph and his new 5 year contact gets a little foggy. Versatile 3rd year man Rhett Ellison is a shoe in to make the team and be a strong contributor with his ability to play either tight end or full back.
The battle for the 3rd tight end spot is currently up for grabs. During my time in Mankato over the weekend, a player vying for that 3rd spot immediately jumped out to me.
Undrafted rookie AC Leonard from Tennessee State seems to be making the most of his opportunity to climb the depth chart while getting plenty of time with the 2nd team offense. Oddly enough, I did not see former undrafted addition Allen Reisner get many reps at all over the weekend. I found this curious if nothing else because of how highly the Vikings thought of Reisner after picking him up from the University of Iowa. Reisner received a lot of attention for ‘catching everything’ as a relatively unknown rookie and after spending time on the Vikings practice squad and with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Reisner was resigned by the Vikings. I think this says something about what Leonard has been able to do with the team in a very short time.
Leonard is an intriguing prospect for a variety of reasons, but he is clearly talented. After starting his college career at the University of Florida, Leonard was atop the Gators’ tight end depth chart that included current Washington tight end Jordan Reed.
Leonard’s time in Gainesville was short lived, however, and he left the program prior to the 2012 season. While at Tennessee State, Leonard displayed his athleticism and receiving ability while hauling in 85 receptions for 1,214 yards and 11 touchdowns over his two years with the Tigers.
There is no doubting Leonard’s receiving ability. Leonard has displayed a nice release off the line and seems to be fluid and athletic in route running. He also possesses the type of speed and acceleration needed to get behind a defense and stretch the field from the tight end position.
After yesterday’s practice, I asked Leonard what type of player he was and what he felt he brought to the Vikings.