Do the Vikings Really Have an Expendable Running Back?
With just days to go before the 2022 NFL Trade Deadline, the Minnesota Vikings must decide whether they’ll make a splash or not. One of their most talked about assets, outside of draft capital, is undoubtedly running back Alexander Mattison. Should he be on the move, though?
Taken in the 3rd round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Alexander Mattison has played in 48 games for the Minnesota Vikings while drawing six starts. His lack of starting usage is not at all an indication of his ability but rather that he backs up one of the league’s best backs in Dalvin Cook.
When in the game, you could make a real argument that Mattison may be among the most talented backups in the entire league. When starting him, the Vikings have gone 3-3, but in the victories, he’s racked up 95, 112, and 113 yards. Mattison has also been a capable receiver in the passing game out of the backfield. Dual-threat running backs have become a must in this league, and he will certainly be considered one.
So, should the Vikings trade him? There’s a case to be made both ways.
Yes, They Should
As a third-round pick, Minnesota does not have a fifth-year option on Mattison. He is set to be an unrestricted free agent following the 2022 season, and he’s in line for a payday much greater than the sub-$1 million he’s earning in 2022 as a base salary. Given that Minnesota spent a draft pick on North Carolina running back Ty Chandler this season, and Kene Nwanwgu is at home out of the backfield, it’s understandable to consider the position one of depth.
On the season, Mattison has seen action in each of the Vikings six games but has carried the rock just 30 times. His 3.2 yards per carry is a career low, and he’s done relatively little with the opportunities presented to him. Rookie Ty Chandler also returned to practice from injury and could take over as the depth option.
Assuming Minnesota isn’t lining up to give Mattison the bag this offseason, cashing in on his value makes sense.
No, They Should Not
While the Vikings may have one of the best one-two punches in the NFL, the larger aspect is the man they employ as their bellcow back. Dalvin Cook is in the upper tier among running backs when looking across the league. The problem is that his most significant detriment may be availability.
Cook has been with the Vikings since he was taken in the 2nd round of the 2017 NFL Draft. In that time, he’s never played more than 14 games in a season and got in just 13 a year ago. Throughout his career, it hasn’t been a question of “if” but rather “when” he will miss time. Minnesota is rolling to the tune of a 5-1 record. Should Cook again miss time this season, it’d be beneficial if someone as familiar with stepping in as Mattison has become is there to perform.
The drop from Cook to Chandler or Nwangwu has to be the chief consideration when questioning if the Vikings trust their depth at running back enough to trade from it. Cook should remain locked in as the lead back until he cannot go.
Another wrinkle to this is what the Vikings could legitimately get in return. If Mattison lands a difference-maker at cornerback, maybe it makes sense. If he’s just a throw-in to acquiring something more, well, then there should be reason for pause.
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Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.