It wasn’t that long ago that the Minnesota Vikings had one of the best running back in the NFL. However, it came time to move on from Adrian Peterson. Since then, the run game hasn’t been very successful. In Peterson’s final full year (2015), the Vikings had the No. 4 run game in the NFL. Since then, they lowered it in the following seasons, ranking at 32nd, 7th, and 30th.
Dalvin Cook was expected to be the next great Vikings running back when he was drafted in the second round back in 2017. Still, since then, he has only played in 15 of 32 regular season games, four during his rookie season and 11 last year. However, while he did play in 11 games, he was nursing a hamstring injury for most of the year.
When fully healthy, Cook could become the running back the Minnesota Vikings need. Nonetheless, the question the team has to figure out is whether he is going to be that guy sooner, rather than later. Right now, they are in a good position to be a Super Bowl contender. The defense is in good shape, they have two of the best receivers in the NFL, and they are paying Kirk Cousins $28 million in each of the next two seasons.
Most of the pieces are in place to strike now—if they can get their run game together. So, how can they do that?
Improving the offensive line will help, and there is a good chance they may address it in the first round of the draft. Cook may still develop into the guy they hoped he would be when they drafted him. But, as the first two seasons of his career have shown, they can’t count on him just yet.
They need a solid Plan B
According to the team’s official website, the Vikings currently have Cook, Latavius Murray, Roc Thomas, Mike Boone, and Ameer Abdullah on the roster.
Murray did an admirable job of filling in the last two seasons when Cook was injured. But then again, he is set to become a free agent and will likely go somewhere he can play more. Abdullah is going to be a free agent as well, but the former second-round pick of the Lions never carried the ball after signing with the Vikings. He will want to go somewhere that gives him another shot.
That leaves Roc Thomas and Mike Boone. Both were rookies last season and between the two had 19 carries for 77 yards (with 43 of it coming on two carries). So, for now, they need to be more of a Plan C rather than B.
But then what do they look for on a Plan B?
Re-signing Murray would be nice, though, at 29-years old, he is going to want to take another shot at a starting job—which he will not get in Minnesota. That leaves going after other free agent running backs. Some of the more likely free agent targets for the Vikings include:
• Mike Davis: He was unimpressive in San Francisco but in spot duty for the Seahawks last season he did well (112 carries for 514 yards and four touchdowns; 34 receptions for 214 yards and a touchdown). Seattle is going to roll with Chris Carson and will likely not try to bring Davis back.
• Mark Ingram: He has had a good career in New Orleans, but the Saints may be more interested in seeing Alvin Kamara carry the ball more. He’ll be more expensive than the average free agent running back but well worth it.
• Bilal Powell: He has been a decent second running back in New York and could certainly fill that role wherever he lands in 2019.
• T.J. Yeldon: The Jaguars could be looking to move on from after he failed to come through in the run game last season when Leonard Fournette was hurt. So, why should the Vikings consider him? He has been great in the passing game and could take that role in the offense. That way, Cook doesn’t take as much of a beating.
They could also look to pick up a rookie in the middle-to-late rounds of the draft. Teams have had a ton of success in recent years in the middle to late rounds. That may seem counter-productive with Cook just entering his third year. Although, if they are going to make the most of their defense, their well-paid wide receivers, and their $28 million quarterback, it may be the smart thing to do.