New Vikings Playmaker Draws High Ranking

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After Kirk Cousins’s and Danielle Hunter’s departures and the arrivals of many new contributors, the Minnesota Vikings will look much differently than in recent years. J.J. McCarthy and Sam Darnold will take the place under center; the rookie is the big investment for the future. To replace Hunter, the Vikings have most prominently added Jonathan Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel, and first-rounder Dallas Turner.

New Vikings Playmaker Draws High Ranking

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Another significant change will be the running back crew. Last year’s starter, Alexander Mattison, was released. He has since signed with the Las Vegas Raiders, perhaps to be part of a committee, which is undoubtedly better suited for him than his role as a lead back in Minnesota.

The Vikings, meanwhile, signed former Packers Pro Bowler Aaron Jones, who the rivals released after acquiring 2022 rushing leader Josh Jacobs. Jones, who is relatively old for a running back, is hoped to be able to revive the dead rushing attack from last season.

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Pro Football Focus, in the person of Thomas Valentine, ranked the top 32 RBs in the league, and Jones clocked in eighth, the highest in the NFC North. Lions sophomore Jahmyr Gibbs is ninth, and Jacobs tenth.

Jones has been one of the most underrated running backs in the NFL for some time now. In his final season with the Green Bay Packers, the former UTEP running back earned a 76.1 grade in an injury-plagued season, but when he was on the field, Jones rushed for 656 yards and two touchdowns at a clip of 4.6 yards per carry. The fact that that’s a career low for Jones is a testament to his efficiency.

Jones thrived at creating yards after contact, too. His 3.16 yards after contact per attempt number ranked 14th in the NFL, and he forced 26 missed tackles in just 11 games.

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) tosses the ball in the stands after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter of the wild card playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, January 14, 2024, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

At age 29, Jones is one of the older runners in the league. The good news is that he was effective in 2023 when he was on the field, and only injuries were problematic for him. Early in the year, a hamstring injury cost him a couple of games, and he sustained an MCL sprain that forced him to miss three weeks. After his return, he rushed for 100 yards in five straight games.

His most impressive stretch came in the postseason when he rushed for 226 yards and three touchdowns in just two contests against excellent defenses, including a dominant performance versus the Dallas Cowboys in the first round.

Jones is an explosive player with excellent receiving skills. He can be used on all three downs. The Vikings also employ Ty Chandler, who is entering his third season. Chandler took the job from Mattison last year, and in 2024, Chandler and Jones will likely work in a rotation.

Deep at One Specific
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Jones’s presence on the field will improve the rushing game unless injuries derail another campaign. He is a significant upgrade over Mattison and will make a difference. Considering the uncertainty at the quarterback position, the running game must be a more prominent element of the offense. Neither Darnold nor McCarthy should be asked to drop back on 70% of the plays because of the team’s inability to run the ball.

Jones’s first chance to see the field in a Vikings uniform will come in a Week 1 road game against the New York Giants.

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