It’s Alexander Mattison Time.
All offseason, it seemed as though the Minnesota Vikings were set to part ways with their long-time running back, Dalvin Cook. From the moment he underwent shoulder surgery, it signaled a changing of employers and getting healthy for whoever cut his next paycheck. Now, the role is Alexander Mattison’s to hold, but is he ready to carry the load?
It’s Alexander Mattison Time.
Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Dalvin Cook gave the Minnesota Vikings a succession plan at running back that is often unseen in professional circles. Going from a Hall of Fame talent in Adrian Peterson to someone that would become as productive as Cook was is next to impossible. Former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman did just that, though, and Minnesota went from one bell cow to another. The hope at this point would be Alexander Mattison continuing that run.
Playing in 73 games for Minnesota across six seasons, Cook started all but one game and racked up four Pro Bowl appearances. Unlike Peterson, he was more of an elusive back and posed a receiving threat out of the backfield. It helped transition the Vikings running game into a more progressive style adopted by the NFL. Although his lone season under Kevin O’Connell ultimately was his least productive, 2022 was the only time in his career that Cook was available for every game.
Looking to get out from a bloated contract extension, the Vikings would’ve preferred to deal with Cook for assets, but a lack of restructure made that unlikely. His cut provides salary cap relief and gives Minnesota some pivot points for their overall roster construction, but make no mistake, it’s Alexander Mattison time.
While only 24 years old, Mattison already has four years of professional experience under his belt. The former third-round pick from Boise State has started six games across his career, and they have all come in the wake of Cook bowing out. It’s been in those instances that we have seen how talented Mattison looks to be, and like Latavius Murray before him, Minnesota has often been able to call their backup a starting-caliber player.
A season ago, Mattison saw his lowest usage as a pro. Generating just 74 carries, he was not called upon to replace Cook due to injury. His 15 receptions were also a stark dropoff from the 32 passes he caught the year prior. Now as the lead back in O’Connell’s backfield, however, it’s time to find out just how much the former Boise State Bronco back can handle.
We have seen that O’Connell doesn’t lean heavily on the running game, and that could actually benefit a player like Mattison. Whereas Cook often needed multiple runs to generate momentum required to break a big one, Mattison is a different type of runner. Going between the tackles is not foreign to him, and he has just enough elusiveness to make defenders miss. Used for something like 15 carries a game, Mattison will also allow talents like Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu to mix in.
Even while turning over the reigns to a new running back, it seems foolish to expect Peterson or Cook types of production. Mattison is a talented runner and can put up a 1,000-yard season in 2023, but it probably won’t be through a massive diet of rushing plays. Look for O’Connell to continue funneling through the arm of Kirk Cousins, and allowing Mattison to pick his spots could open plenty of doors for him.
This is the first time in his professional career that Alexander Mattison will be the guy on a team, and if the small glimpses we’ve seen are any indication of what is to come, then the Vikings will again be in good hands at the running back position.
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.