Vikings Employ of NFL’s Top Breakout Candidates

Dec 31, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings cheer in the fourth quarter in a game between the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings severed ties with running back Dalvin Cook on June 9th after six seasons with the club.

Cook remains a free agent and will sign elsewhere before the start of the 2023 regular season.

Vikings Employ of NFL’s Top Breakout Candidates

In relief of Cook, tailback Alexander Mattison is all systems go for RB1 duty following four seasons as the RB2 to Cook’s RB1.

Top Breakout
Oct 10, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury (56) and running back Alexander Mattison (25) celebrate MattisonÕs run against the Detroit Lions during the second half at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.

And amid an offseason where the Vikings have garishly hinted at running the football more, Mattison seemed poised for a breakout season, according to national punditry. The 33rd Team’s Ari Meirov recently outlined seven players leaguewide with the ‘breakout’ adjective, and Mattison made the cut.

“Mattison re-signed this offseason on a two-year, $7 million contract and has filled in for Cook in the past. In five starts in 2021, he had 107 carries for 451 yards and added 22 receptions for 212 yards with five total touchdowns. This season will be the first time in Mattison’s career he’ll have the same play caller (Kevin O’Connell) and offensive coordinator (Wes Phillips) for consecutive seasons,” Meirov explained.

Sep 26, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (25) carries the ball during the fourth quarter against Seattle Seahawks at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

Mattison tabulated 374 yards from scrimmage and 6 touchdowns last year on 89 touches.

Meirov added about Mattison, citing O’Connell’s words from organized team activities, “O’Connell confirmed how high they are on Mattison last month when he told reporters: ‘It’s been really good to see Alex take a few more reps and really show that all three-down kinda ownership that he’s been capable of for a long time.'”

Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell at 2023 mandatory minicamp in Eagan. The Vikings won 13 games in O’Connell’s first season as head coach. He previously won a Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams as offensive coordinator in 2021.

Mattison said last month about re-signing in Minnesota, “I’m happy. I love it here. I always tell people I wouldn’t rather play anywhere else. It’s just an unbelievable organization, an unbelievable locker room, a team full of amazing guys, amazing coaches, and amazing staff, so I’m blessed to be back.”

Minnesota will also make running the football a point of emphasis in 2023. In O’Connell’s first season, the Vikings ran the ball third least per playcall percentage. Mattison confirmed the strategy, too, at OTAs, “We all knew the run game was an area of improvement we needed, so coming into this year, there’s more emphasis. Being in Year 1 in this offense, it was something that throughout the process is learning new things, so that’s a year of foundation that we have, can look back on that at what we need to correct and do well, what we don’t do as well and improve. It’s definitely been a little more emphasis.”

Sep 25, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) scores a touchdown over Detroit Lions linebacker Austin Bryant (2) and safety Will Harris (25) during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

For your Vikings offseason scorecards at home, that’s the subtraction of Cook, the re-addition of Mattison for two years, a commitment to running the rock more often, and Mattison’s 25th birthday two days ago. He’s in the prime of his career.

Meirov might be on to something.

Other NFL breakout candidates mentioned alongside Mattison? Greg Dulcich (TE, Broncos), Jevon Holland (S, Dolphins), Daniel Jones (QB, Giants), Kenny Pickett (QB, Steelers), Kyle Pitts (TE, Falcons), and Bernhard Raimann (OT, Colts).

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 Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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