Vikings RBs Draw Pathetic Rankings
Ultimately, the 2023 season fell apart when Kirk Cousins got hurt, and Joshua Dobbs’ magic faded after his first pair of games in a Vikings uniform. It is hard to win games with backups under center and is only tougher to do when the offense is built around the passing game like Kevin O’Connell’s group. The rushing attack was a disaster all season long.
Vikings RBs Draw Pathetic Rankings
General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and his head coach O’Connell decided to make changes in their second offseason by releasing a trio of veterans: Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks, and Dalvin Cook.
Their dismissals were cruel to watch for fans, but they had bloated contracts and weren’t getting any younger. And while Kendricks and Thielen continued to produce in 2023, Cook appears to be just a shell of himself. He joined the Jets and later the Ravens and couldn’t get his motor going.
Minnesota, meanwhile, re-signed his longtime backup, Alexander Mattison, in free agency to be the new top guy in the backfield. He was supposed to be spelled by speedsters Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu, plus rookie DeWayne McBride. That plan failed. Even the addition of Cam Akers didn’t change things.
Throughout the 2023 season, the Vikings ranked 29th in rushing yards and 30th in rushing touchdowns. Their 4.0 average per carry ranked 24th in the league. Former NFL running back Maurice Jones-Drew ranked his 72 best running backs from the 2023 season, and the Vikings didn’t have a single starting-caliber player.
Veteran Mattison ranked 40th, a horrible spot for a starter.
The Vikings’ run game took an obvious back seat to a pass game loaded with talent in 2023. Mattison wasn’t up to snuff as a first-year starter, averaging fewer than 50 rushing yards per game and failing to score a single rushing touchdown.
Mattison failed to cash in on his $250,000 incentive for 750 rushing yards, and he could not reach the endzone on the ground, although he scored three times as a pass-catcher. He couldn’t cross the goal line despite having nine carries inside the opponent’s five-yard line. Seven hundred yards and 3.9 yards per carry were quite the disappointing result.
He was a decent backup for four seasons. Even when he had to replace the starter for a game or two, he had always played well. But his struggles in 2023 should be enough to push him back into the backup role in the upcoming season.
Later in the season, an injury opened the door for Chandler, and he recorded the only 100-yard rushing game of a Viking. The sophomore kept his starting gig in the season’s final three games. Jones-Drew has him ranked 43rd.
With Alexander Mattison battling injury late in the season, Chandler earned the first four starts of his career to close the season, including a 100-yard performance against the Bengals. Chandler provided a spark at times over the final month, but not enough to lift the waning offense.
Chandler showed a different level of speed compared to Mattison, and his explosiveness helped him to have some success. Throughout the season, he tabulated 459 rushing yards, three rushing scores, and an average of 4.5 yards per carry.
He is undoubtedly the splashiest runner on the roster and earned a spot in the rotation in 2023. For some reason, the coaching staff was hesitant to give him touches for the majority of the season and even traded for Akers after two games. Once Akers got hurt, his role increased, but he stayed in the secondary role until Mattison suffered a minor injury.
Akers was also ranked in MJD’s list at spot 63, two below the departed Cook.
A rocky relationship with the Rams led to Akers getting a fresh start in Minnesota in Week 3. Reunited with Kevin O’Connell, Akers provided a little juice to the Vikings’ backfield, but a season-ending Achilles injury cut his 2023 short in early November.
The Vikings acquired Akers in Week 3. At first, he received a couple of drives per game, but his carries increased towards the halfway point of the season. Unfortunately, a torn Achilles ended his season prematurely. Unlike Mattison and Chandler, he is not under contract for an additional season, and a second torn Achilles is a brutal blow to his free-agency outlook.
Long story short, the Vikings need someone else to take carries. Mattison can be a decent backup but shouldn’t start. Chandler has shown flashes, but is he an RB1 or a speedy RB2?
It is a loaded free-agency class, and the purple team could sign a star like Derrick Henry or Saquon Barkley to be the lead back, or they could sign someone who can be a part of a committee like Zack Moss or Devin Singletary.
Also possible is the selection of a running back in the middle parts of the draft. One of the top rushers in the drafts should still be on the board in the third round. Those guys include:
- Blake Corum, Michigan
- Trey Benson, Florida State
- Jonathon Brooks, Texas
- Braelon Allen, Wisconsin
- Mar’Keise Irving, Oregon
- Audric Estime, Notre Dame
- Will Shipley, Clemson
After having a one-dimensional attack in back-to-back seasons, O’Connell should realize that the running game can be a crucial part of the offense. The Vikes should address the position and at least add a staring-caliber player.
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