The Minnesota Vikings entered the NFL draft last Thursday needing to find some help at middle linebacker.
They exited the draft without any clear help added but with a plan. The goal is to see Erin Henderson, the starter on the weak side last season, make the move into the middle for Leslie Frazier’s defense.
Minnesota must replace Jasper Brinkley, who departed for the Arizona Cardinals via free agency, and the hope is Henderson can excel in the middle. He’s certainly mobile but it remains to be seen if he can fight off blocks to make plays.
“I’m excited for the opportunity, man,” Henderson said, according to Dan Wiederer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “My time here has been spent playing the will linebacker. But I got a taste of that mike and what it’s about when I’ve had the chance to play in those nickel situations. I look forward to the challenge. It’s something new for me to learn, something new for me to put my brain to and help me refocus a little bit with the kind of work and time I have to put in in order for us to be successful.”
The Vikings hinted to Henderson about the possible switch earlier in the offseason and he was receptive. Now, he’s planning to be the starter there although there have been rumors linking the club to ex-Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.
“You never really know how things go and what things they might talk about as we move forward and what they might decide that they want to do,” Henderson said. “Right now, that’s where my mind is, that’s what I’m studying and that’s what I’m trying to prepare myself for.”
Henderson played at 240 pounds last season and said he’s bulking up for the transition. He is up to about 248 pounds right now. Maybe the team will want him to add a little more bulk.
“Even though they wouldn’t really give me a definite answer or let me know what might happen,” Henderson said. :I knew the draft would play a big part of it. But it’s something I was kind of anticipating and hoping came into fruition.”
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune