Have the Vikings Created a Running Back Factory?
Following their final preseason game, reports surfaced that multiple teams were interested in trading for Minnesota Vikings backup running back Alexander Mattison. It makes sense that he’d be coveted because he’s very good. It also stands to reason he’d only be available because Dalvin Cook exists. We’ve seen this situation multiple times in recent seasons.
It’s an entirely different discussion about whether the Vikings should trade Alexander Mattison. There are certainly reasons to do so, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the value would be worth making a move. On top of that, Dalvin Cook has become notorious for suffering injuries that shelved him at least for some duration throughout a season.
Even while not discussing a deal for Mattison, the bigger narrative here is just how rich Minnesota has regarded their stable of backs in recent seasons. While Adrian Peterson was in the backfield, it was largely a one-man wrecking crew. That said, Jerrick McKinnon emerged as a nice change-of-pace back. He parlayed his opportunity into a nice payday with the San Francisco 49ers. After suffering injuries, McKinnon showed up again with the Kansas City Chiefs and carved out a role in that offense.
Next in line would have been Latavius Murray. Willing to play second fiddle despite having drawn starts previously, Murray immediately became one of the best backups in the league. He was a dual-threat talent who could carry the rock and catch it out of the backfield. Time with the New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens was primarily a reflection of his abilities in Minnesota.
Mattison has all but proven his worth to those doing the Skol chant on Sundays, and it’s why he’d be in line to get a significant workload elsewhere. If Minnesota did find him to be expendable, it would only be because of the emergence of Kene Nwangwu and Ty Chandler. Drafted in the past two seasons, the former is a speedster that proved capable of being in the backfield last year, while the latter is a former Tar Heels standout that did nothing unimpressive during the preseason schedule.
It stands to reason that Minnesota will likely rely heavily on the passing game this season. Kevin O’Connell is a forward-thinking offensive coach whose goal will be to push the ball more often than not. Cook will be incorporated into the gameplan through new dynamic situations, and that same ability is something the Vikings will ask of their running backs. Maybe becoming less of a traditional ground and pound team, it’s fair to assume if touches will go down. That said, there’s no denying that Minnesota doesn’t have great players in line to receive them.
The Vikings went from a future Hall of Famer in Peterson to employing a rotation featuring some of the best tandems and backups across the entire league.
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.