Vikings Have ‘Embarrassment of Riches’ at One Position

Is the Middle Ground Between Zimmer and O’Connell?
Jul 29, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

If you’re pondering the Minnesota Vikings roster, wondering what depth-chart position is deepest, there is only one answer — running back.

The Vikings employ four men who could do damage as a starter on an NFL team: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Kene Nwangwu, and rookie Ty Chandler. For good measure, Minnesota also employs C.J. Ham at fullback.

And that foursome is so deep that The Draft Network highlighted the Vikings RB situation in a standalone tweet on Wednesday, “After getting closer looks at players like Kene Nwangwu & rookie Ty Chandler, it’s clear that the Vikings have an embarrassment of riches at RB.”

Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports.

The Draft Network and others already knew Cook was a tyrant — in a good way — as the Vikings uncontested RB1 ranks second in the NFL via yards from scrimmage in the last three seasons [behind Tennesse Titans RB Derrick Henry]. Plus, because Cook is nearly guaranteed to miss at least two or three games per season, folks are familiar with Mattison, who generally fills in admirably for Cook.

But the arrivals of Nwangwu and Chandler amid the last two seasons create newfound wealth. Plain and simple — the Vikings have “too many” talented running backs, an odd occurrence in a league ever evolving to widespread pass-happiness.

Nwangwu, one of the fastest players in the NFL, made headlines in 2021 by returning two kick returns for touchdowns as a rookie. While his speed is unquestioned, onlookers of the Vikings have wondered if Nwangwu can be utilized in Minnesota’s new offense led by head coach Kevin O’Connell.

If a preseason game versus the Las Vegas Raiders last weekend was a reasonable indicator, the answer is an emphatic yes. Nwangwu was used as a running back and wide receiver in Las Vegas, “looking the part” of a player who can indeed play tailback.

Jun 9, 2021; Minnesota Vikings running back Kene Nwangwu (26) catches a pass in drills at OTA at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

When it was Chandler’s turn, he performed even better than Nwangwu, albeit in a small preseason sample size. Chandler broke off 50 rushing yards on five carries for a sinful 10 yards per carry. He also returned a kick — that’s usually Nwangwu’s job — with highlights aplenty.

The other interesting aspect of affluence at running back? Roster cuts. Will the Vikings keep five running back (including Ham)? It’s a fervent top in Vikings social media circles. Some theorize Mattison, who is in the final year of his contract, could be traded or outright released. According to such theorists, the rise of Nwangwu and Chandler makes Mattison expendable.

Otherwise, Minnesota simply waltzes into O’Connell’s first year with “too many” offensive playmakers.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).