New Pecking Order Hits Vikings RB Room Sans Dalvin Cook

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After six years with the organization, the Vikings plan to release longtime star running back Dalvin Cook, according to Tom Pelissero. He is the running back with the third-most rushing yards and fourth-most rushing touchdowns in Vikings franchise history. The Vikings save $9 million by releasing the soon-to-be 28-year-old. The move has been expected for months and there were good reasons for it.

New Pecking Order Hits Vikings RB Room Sans Dalvin Cook

New Pecking Order Hits Vikings RB Room Sans Dalvin Cook
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There might be one fewer running back in the room, but five remain. The Vikings currently have Alexander Mattison, Kene Nwangwu, Ty Chandler, DeWayne McBride, and fullback C.J. Ham under contract. It will be tough for a single player to fill the void left by Cook, but it should be possible in a committee.

Mattison is expected to slide into the starting lineup. He is the most experienced of the group, with 404 career rushing attempts in the NFL, and he turned those into 1,670 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Mattison added 70 catches for 526 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns in the passing game.

The former Boise State runner was a 2019 third-round selection and immediately became Cook’s backup, but he could never escape the star’s shadow. He’ll now get the golden opportunity to do that, and the Vikings appear to expect Mattison to step up, considering his contract.

Mattison signed a two-year deal for $7 million, but those numbers aren’t the significant part. $6.35 million became guaranteed at signing, a massive number for a backup running back. That money literally guarantees Mattison to be on the team in the next two seasons, and he’ll get all the opportunities from the team to prove the move right.

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However, he’ll have to fight off the two speedsters – Chandler and Nwangwu. Both offer 4.3 speed, a significant difference from the bigger Mattison, who entered the league with an underwhelming 4.67 40-yard dash. Mattison’s problem is the lack of big-play ability.

He didn’t have a single run for more than 15 yards in 2022, a disastrous statistic. Nwangwu’s elite kick returns prove that he has the ability to take the ball to the house on any given play. Chandler hasn’t really gotten the opportunity so far but has the skill set to be a home run hitter as well.

Ironically, the two are both older than the veteran, despite coming into the league two and three years after Mattison but obviously don’t have the same NFL wear and tear on their tires, which is important for running backs.

GM Adofo-Mensah also added a running back in the draft. 7th-rounder DeWayne McBride visited the Vikings pre-draft and was selected by them. He is a powerful runner, possessing prototypical running back size, comparable to Marshawn Lynch when he entered the league.

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The weakness in his game is the lack of catching ability. He caught five passes in his productive three-year career at UAB. That said, he is a talented runner once he has the ball in his hands and has proven his capability as a true workhorse in college. If it turns out that he can actually catch a football, he could even win the starting job at some point.

So far in OTAs, it has been the expected Mattison show without Cook’s presence. Behind him, the duo of Nwangwu and Chandler has been battling to be second on the depth chart while McBride was recovering from a nagging hamstring injury. He joined the team a few days ago.

The competition should last until late in training camp and the preseason. It will be one of the most fascinating stories in the Vikings’ orbit in the next few months and even during the season how the franchise will fare without its star runner on the roster for the first time since 2016. It’s now up to the other guys to step up and claim a meaningful role and replace him.

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