Vikings RB Group Earns Underwhelming Ranking

Year 1 of the O'Connell Era
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Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah released Dalvin Cook after six seasons with the organization. He is third in rushing yards in franchise history and fourth in touchdowns. It is now on his backup, Alexander Mattison, to take over as the top guy in the room.

Vikings RB Group Earns Underwhelming Ranking

Vikings RB Group Earns Underwhelming Ranking
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The Minnesota Vikings will enter a season for the first time in 17 years without Dalvin Cook or Adrian Peterson on the roster. Not having a star running back hurts the perception of the overall group. Mattison will be running the show with his backups Ty Chandler, Kene Nwangwu, and Dewayne McBride taking some snaps from him and adding different running styles. PFF’s Gordon McGuinness ranked all 32 running back rooms in the NFL, and the Vikings came in 29th.

The Vikings have moved on from Dalvin Cook, giving Alexander Mattison his opportunity to be the lead back in Minnesota. Through the first four years of his career, he has forced 92 missed tackles on 410 carries including the playoffs but has just five career games with 20-plus carries. The battle to be his backup will be an interesting one this summer, with Ty Chandler seeing just six carries as a fifth-round rookie last year and now trying to hold off seventh-round pick DeWayne McBride for snaps behind Mattison. McBride impressed in his time at UAB, earning PFF rushing grades of 90.0 or better in all three seasons.

Gordon McGuinness, PFF

Only the Buccaneers, Cardinals, and Rams rank lower than the Vikings, who may have intriguing fantasy football backfields but struggle in the real NFL.

The way head coach Kevin O’Connell talks about Mattison implies that he will take over as a true RB1 rather than having to share the touches in a committee. However, he is still somewhat unproven. Whether he can carry the workload of a bell-cow runner for a full season as he did in six career games without Cook is a mystery.

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His backups compete with each other for the RB2 job. McBride was featured back in college and was one of the most productive players in their college careers in this year’s draft. He is a powerful running back and ran for over 3,000 yards and 32 TDs in the last two seasons. His problem could be the passing game. UAB didn’t use RBs as receivers, and he only caught five passes in 31 games.

Nwangwu was not named in the article. In the first two seasons of his career, he showed outstanding speed on kick returns (a league lead three scores included) but has barely been featured in the offense. His stat sheet shows 22 rushes for 75 yards in addition to 6 receptions for 30 yards. In college at Iowa State, Nwangwu was the backup of David Montgomery and Breece Hall. He had a total of only 150 touches in four seasons.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Chandler’s career took off when he transferred from Tennessee to North Carolina in 2021, the fifth and final year of his college career. He rushed for over 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns, the same numbers of rushing scores he had in four seasons in the SEC. Chandler ran a 4.38 40-yard dash and is an excellent receiver. His 15 carries in the preseason were a tiny sample size against subpar competition but still promising.

The Vikings no longer have a star runner, which hurts them overall. Cook was a fantastic player for the organization. However, his departure opens the door for young and fresh players, and the team could be more versatile considering the different play styles of the RBs. Not employing an expensive running back has been a recipe for success in the NFL over the last decade.

An offense that was 29th in rush EPA/play and 28th in rush DVOA doesn’t lose that much if the top running back departs. The Vikings must improve the running attack, and there is more to it than only the players in the room. Play design, play calling, and blocking have to be better in the future.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt