Vikings Have 1 Bad and 2 Good Options at RB in Offseason

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A multitude of problems led to Minnesota’s premature ending of the 2023 chapter. Injuries derailed the season, especially Kirk Cousins’ season-ending Achilles tear threw a monkey wrench into the plans of the emerging team. Turnovers were also piling up, directly leading to various losses, just like the collapsing defense at the end of the season.

But one aspect of the offense also needs an overhaul.

Vikings Have 1 Bad and 2 Good Options at RB in Offseason

The running attack was a disaster all season long, turning the offseason into a one-dimensional unit. While that might work out with Cousins in the game, it is disastrous with his backups under center. Those backups were forced to carry the offense, and that’s not how teams win games in the NFL.

Vikings Have 1 Bad and 2 Good Options at RB in Offseason
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The reasons for the unfit running game were multifaceted. Head coach Kevin O’Connell must re-work his scheme in the offseason after two years of having a subpar ground game. A pleasant surprise of the 2023 Vikes was the offensive line, a crucified part of the team for years, but they finally turned the corner and became a decent front. However, too often, someone messed up in the running game, allowing the defense to penetrate the play and wreak it. It only takes one player to miss his block, and that happens too frequently.

Last but certainly not least is the running back crew, mainly an insufficient trio of Alexander Mattison, Cam Akers, and Ty Chandler.

Running Game
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After Dalvin Cook’s departure, his longtime backup Mattison was supposed to take his role, backed up by a combination of Chandler, kick returner Kene Nwangwu, and DeWayne McBride. Chandler won that role, and after two games, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah added Cam Akers via trade.

Mattison kept the starting gig until an injury cost him the game in Cincinnati, and Chandler produced the team’s best rushing performance of the campaign. While Chandler has shown some flashes, Mattison and the injured Akers haven’t done enough to earn a starting role. The position room is due to be overhauled in the next few months, and the Vikings have three options: two decent ones, and one could be called malpractice.

1. Draft a Rookie Early

In each of the last three drafts, the Vikings selected one running back–Nwangwu, Chandler, McBride. But all three were picked on day three of the draft. None of them had the profile of a starting running back in the NFL.

Michigan running back Blake Corum (2) runs against Washington cornerback Elijah Jackson (25) during the second half of the national championship game at NRG Stadium in Houston on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024. © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK.

This year, the Vikings could fix their problems if they spend a pick in rounds two to four at the position to secure one of the top guys in the class. The Vikings employ general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, and his analytics might be why he is hesitant to spend valuable assets on a devalued position, but it is necessary.

The top running backs in this year’s class are:

  • Blake Corum, Michigan
  • Trey Benson, Florida State
  • Jonathon Brooks, Texas
  • Braelon Allen, Wisconsin
  • Mar’Keise Irving, Oregon
  • Audric Estime, Notre Dame
  • Will Shipley, Clemson

2. Sign a Veteran

Once again, having to spend capital, but this time in the form of cap space rather than draft picks, the Vikings could find the solution for their problems in a loaded free-agent pool filled with star running backs.

Vikings Can Face 4 Teams
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With the state of the running back position, there should be an affordable player available who can lead the team’s backfield.

  • Derrick Henry
  • Sawuon Barkley
  • D’Andre Swift
  • Josh Jacobs
  • Tony Pollard
  • Devin Singletary
  • Austin Ekeler

All seven have shown the ability to be the leading rushers of an offense. The Vikings must figure out which one has the most left in the tank and is cheap enough to deserve a contract from the organization. It might not be the preferred option for Adofo-Mensah to invest significant money into players bound to decline, but it could transform the offense to another level.

3. Don’t Make Changes

Keeping the band of Mattison/Chandler together would be quite the foolish decision considering the performance of the barely existent running game, but teams have done worse things.

Monitor Key Offensive
Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler (32) dives for the end zone as Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt (57) and Cincinnati Bengals safety Dax Hill (23) defend in the first quarter of a Week 15 NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati. © Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The Vikings ranked 29th in rushing yards and 30th in rushing touchdowns. Their 4.0 average per carry ranked 24th and was boosted by Joshua Dobbs. Chandler’s breakout performance in Cincinnati was the only time a player eclipsed 100 yards in a game.

Mattison failed to score a rushing touchdown despite having nine carries inside the five-yard line. Chandler will turn 26 in May, and while showing some flashes, he would still be an underwhelming starting running back. Akers is scheduled to be a free agent in March, and after a second torn Achilles, that might not be a bad thing for the Vikings.

Making no changes would be highly surprising and a huge disappointment. The franchise that employed Adrian Peterson and Dalvin Cook for 15 years needs a capable running back.

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