Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Five 'Under-the-Radar' Players to Watch: A.C. Leonard- #2

Daniel House continues to analyze 'under-the-radar' players and tells you why A.C. Leonard could be a secret weapon for the Vikings in 2014. 

Updated: July 22nd, 2014 10:15am

By: Daniel House

Since the Vikings signed A.C. Leonard as an undrafted free agent in May, many involved with the team are excited to see what he can provide as a playmaker. At his 6'2" 242-pound frame, Leonard is one of the most athletic tight ends that you will find. He spent time early in his college career at Florida, but later transferred to Tennessee State for his last two collegiate seasons.

Leonard ran a 4.50 forty-yard dash at the scouting combine, which led the entire position group. Off-the-field concerns led to his drop in the NFL Draft, but it appears those issues have been resolved. Leonard has extremely solid hands and body control in traffic, along with superior acceleration skills in the second level of the defense. If he can show better abilities as a run blocker, he will be right in the hunt with this squad. He already had a very impressive mini-camp and hauled in a long reception during the media portion of practice. Leonard will see plenty of reps at training camp and you have to believe Norv Turner has some plays designed to compliment his athletic skill-set.

He may be slightly undersized, but his athletic ability compensates for this weakness. Leonard could line up on the outside and play more in two tight end sets with Kyle Rudolph. He will need to become a more skilled run blocker, as well, which is something he hasn't had to do much of in his college career. The Vikings will be looking for the tight end in this group that can be the most versatile and Lenoard will need to show he can be multi-dimesional as a pass catcher and run blocker.

I talked with Leonard back in June and he was very excited to get to training camp to display the hard work he has accomplished during the off-season break. He has been working on every route in the tree sequence and his workouts have been intense, in an effort to prepare for the pace of training camp practices. Leonard and all the Vikings will need to have studied the playbook during this five-week absence from the team. The coaching staff has indicated that the players that understand the playbook will see extended reps. Mike Zimmer has repeatedly made it known he is looking for smart football players and this is something Leonard will need to show he can accomplish. He played at a smaller school and we will see if he is ready to make the transition to the NFL.

Leonard will be competing for the final spot at the tight end position with Chase Ford and Allen Reisner. He will need to show he is committed and that will come through showing he understands the playbook and has put in time during the off-season mini-camp break. He has the athletic ability and the skill to be successful, but the mental aspect will be the biggest obstacle for A.C. Leonard to overcome.

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