Surprise RB2 Shows Up on Vikings Depth Chart

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

If you were pounding the table for Ty Chandler or rookie DeWayne McBride as the Minnesota Vikings RB2 in 2023, we’re not there.

Not yet, anyway.

Surprise RB2 Shows Up on Vikings Depth Chart

The Vikings released an ‘unofficial’ first depth chart Monday, and lo and behold, Kene Nwangwu earned the RB2 job, at least heading into Thursday night’s preseason game versus the Seattle Seahawks.

Surprise RB2 Shows
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

Nwangwu is the speed merchant in charge of returning kicks — in a furious way — tallying three kick returns for touchdowns in two seasons. Minnesota found the young playmaker in Round 4 of the 2021 NFL Draft, and the pick has proven well worth it.

Now, with the exodus of Dalvin Cook from the Vikings roster after six seasons, Nwangwu stands to become the RB2 with a productive preseason.

Vikings Overdue for Some Special Teams Magic at Home
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Here’s the RB lay of the land in purple per the first depth chart:

RB1: Alexander Mattison
RB2: Kene Nwangwu
RB3: Ty Chandler
RB4: DeWayne McBride
RB5: Abram Smith

And because Nwangwu has been labeled by some a ‘kick returner only,’ his placement at RB2 turned some heads. Many Vikings faithful foresaw Chandler or McBride snagging the job for 2023, and while either still could do just that, Nwangwu is the man to dethrone with two weeks of training camp in the books.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Vikings fans longed for Nwangwu’s inclusion in the team’s offense last year — because of, you guessed it, speed — but the wish was not granted. The Iowa State alumnus touched the ball 11 times on offense for 35 yards from scrimmage, not exactly a productive resume as a second-year speedster.

But that could change, especially as the Vikings have vowed to run the ball more in 2023. Minnesota ranked third least in rushing via playcalling percentage a season ago, creating a point of emphasis this offseason for change in September. Run-blocking tight end Josh Oliver joined the club in free agency, McBride was selected in Round 7 of April’s draft, and a handful of Vikings have mentioned running the rock more in interviews.

Nwangwu’s kick return touchdown on Thanksgiving night versus the New England Patriots last year was a game-saver for Minnesota. The Vikings forced no turnovers against Bill Belichick’s team, curiously couldn’t stop quarterback Mac Jones — he played like Tom Brady for a night — leaving Nwangwu’s heroics as the fulcrum that determined the game.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

At Vikings minicamp in June, Nwangwu appeared to take RB2 snaps, and that evidently wasn’t a mirage. He should receive the ball often this Thursday night in Seattle.

Nwangwu turned 25 back in February.

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).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by