Barberheaded to Dallas

Marion Barber III was picked eighth in the fourth round Sunday.

by David McCoy

Minnesota has a history of producing running backs as NFL Draft picks.

And with the eighth pick of the fourth round in Sunday’s portion of the NFL Draft, Marion Barber III joined the club.

The Dallas Cowboys selected Barber 109th overall.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said they picked Barber because he’s a perfect fit for their type of offense.

“When he comes in the game, we can do the same things with him that we do with (starting running back) Julius Jones,” Jerry Jones said. “We didn’t have to change anything structurewise or formationwise, or change anything we were doing offensively.”

Barber leaves Thursday for Dallas, where he will participate in minicamp Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He will make the permanent move to Dallas on May 16, said his agent, Craig Domann.

Barber was not made available for comment.

Domann said Barber could get a three- or four-year deal.

Barber’s father, Marion Barber, Jr. was drafted in the second round by the New York Jets in 1981 after playing four years at Minnesota.

And even though the younger Barber stayed at Minnesota only three years before entering the draft, he still ranks as one of the best running backs in Gophers history.

In spite of missing nearly all of the 2002 season with a hamstring injury, Marion Barber III is third on Minnesota’s career rushing list, with 3,276 yards, and second in touchdowns, with 35.

He also ranks fourth in all-time punt return yards with 515. Jerry Jones said his versatility was also impressive, and he was the back they wanted.

“We also really wanted to get specifically Barber,” Jerry Jones said. “There were about four backs there that we could have gone with, but Barber was highly preferred by everyone concerned. I felt we really had a need, and we had an opportunity to do it with Barber – specifically Barber.”

Marion Barber III was the first offensive player taken in the draft by the Cowboys and is the highest Gophers running back to be taken in the draft since Darrell Thompson was taken 19th overall by the Green Bay Packers in 1990.

And along with last year’s fifth-round pick, Thomas Tapeh, Marion Barber III is the second Gophers running back to be drafted in the last two years.

Domann said his client was happy with where he ended up.

“I think he’s excited to go to a team where the running game is an emphasis,” Domann said. “And I think that he’s going into a situation where there’s not a guy who’s a franchise guy. Julius Jones had a hell of a second half of his rookie season last year, Eddie George is gone, and not to say anything negative about the other guys, but no one’s distinguished themselves. So he’s going into an organization where he has an opportunity.”

Melander to be a Viking

Former Minnesota offensive tackle Rian Melander did not get taken in this year’s NFL Draft. But shortly after the conclusion of the draft, Melander signed a three-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent.

The Vikings only have three tackles on their current roster, meaning Melander has a good chance of making the team.

He will be making the rookie minimum of $230,000 per year and said he is elated to be a Viking.

“The Vikings were the team I just grew up loving,” Melander said. “It’s always been a dream as a little kid, to someday play for the Vikings.

“It’s absolutely the perfect scenario that could have worked out for me. I know my whole family was really pulling for me to go to the Vikings.”

Cornerback Uee Dozier and safety Justin Fraley also signed with the Vikings. Wide receiver Paris Hamilton signed with the Detroit Lions, kicker Rhys Lloyd signed with the Baltimore Ravens and defensive end Darrell Reid signed with the Indianapolis Colts.