Wendell Mathis was projected as a solid 5th round choice by most NFL scouting services. There was a good chance he could have went as high as the 4th if a certain team did not want to risk losing him in the later rounds. It was a shock to see the first team all-WAC running back go undrafted.
The only good thing about not being drafted was Mathis was able to choose what team to sign with. He inked to a free agent deal with Minnesota where he will be coached by his former college running back coach, Eric Bieniemy, when he was at UCLA from 2001-2002. He is happy to be a Viking.
He was not the only big name running back to go undrafted. DonTrell Moore of New Mexico joined only a select few of running backs, last year, to have run for at least 1,000 in all 4 years of college. It was not enough to get him drafted.
Texas Tech's Taurean Henderson started all four years in college in a pass happy offense. He was a tremendous receiving threat out of the backfield, but was never able to prove himself as a between the tackle runner in Mike Leach's offense and , therefore, went undrafted.
Tennessee's Gerald Riggs Jr. is the son of a Pro Bowl running back and a former high school all-American. His career at Tennessee was rocky, no pun intended, but still was considered a legitimate Heisman candidate heading into 2005. But a less than stellar senior season led to him going undrafted.
Andre Hall was South Florida's leading rusher and was considered a borderline first day pick, but didn't hear his name called on either day of the draft. Oregon's leading rusher Terrence Whitehead, former NCAA leading rusher Patrick Cobbs of North Texas, and Wake Forest's all-everything Chris Barclay were some of the other good backs that were not drafted, as well.
Mathis has a very good shot at making the Vikings roster, but he will have to battle Henderson for spot. Most NFL teams have 3 running backs on the roster, a fullback and possibly a special teams players listed as a running back. Minnesota has four running backs listed on the roster: Mewelde Moore, Chester Taylor, Ciatrick Faison and Joe Echema.
Moore is penciled in as the starter but has yet to prove to be a 16 game NFL starter. Taylor an experienced between the tackle back, but is a career back up. Faison is by far the most explosive but is still raw and inexperienced. Echema is only filling up roster space. For Mathis to make this roster he has to prove that he is a complete back.
At Fresno State he was an every down back per se, he rarely lined up in the shotgun formation or in obvious passing downs. He was not a kick returner in college nor a special teams player. Henderson, on the other hand, is an underrated runner, a legitimate receiving threat and can return kicks. He fits the mold of a third down back in the NFL.
Mathis' best shot at making the club is proving he is a between the tackle runner that can catch the ball out of the back field and be an effective pass blocker. If he proves taht he can beat Taylor for his spot on the roster, is younger, and will be far cheaper for Minnesota to sign.