One Vikings Playmaker Earns “Honorable Mention” from ESPN

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings’ regular season begins in less than nine weeks, and according to ESPN, the 2024 team will employ one of the best running backs in the business.

One Vikings Playmaker Earns “Honorable Mention” from ESPN

The road has been rocky since Dalvin Cook left town a year ago after Minnesota’s nomination of Alexander Mattison failed to produce an efficient running back, but with Aaron Jones in the saddle, operations might improve.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

ESPN named the NFL’s top running backs heading into 2024 this week, with Jones garnering an “honorable mention.” The ranking is noteworthy because the Vikings, under Kevin O’Connell, have not unlocked the ground game to its fullest potential. And for the O’Connell offense to thrive, that must eventually occur.

Jeremy Fowler wrote of Jones’ honorable mention, “Jones finished the 2023 season with five consecutive 100-yard games through the regular season and playoffs. He lost a tight battle with Etienne for the 10th spot.”

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports.

He also quoted an anonymous NFC coach, “Green Bay’s offense was completely different when he was healthy. He’s a difference-maker.”

Jones served as a true-blue dual-threat (rushing and receiving) in Green Bay for seven seasons, working with Aaron Rodgers most of the time and Jordan Love last year. Now, with a conglomerate of Sam Darnold and J.J. McCarthy at quarterback, he’ll hope to enhance Minnesota’s offense.

These were the Top 10 running backs per ESPN:

  1. Christian McCaffrey (San Francisco 49ers)
  2. Breece Hall (New York Jets)
  3. Nick Chubb (Cleveland Browns)
  4. Saquon Barkley (Philadelphia Eagles)
  5. Jonathan Taylor (Indianapolis Colts)
  6. Bijan Robinson (Atlanta Falcons)
  7. Josh Jacobs (Green Bay Packers)
  8. Jahmyr Gibbs (Detroit Lions)
  9. Derrick Henry (Baltimore Ravens)
  10. Travis Etienne (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Offensive coordinator Wes Phillips opined on Jones’ talents via last month, “And then obviously, the playmaking ability on the field. He can pass protect, he can run routes out of the backfield, and he can obviously run the football, so a really big pickup for us.”

In May, Pro Football Focus somewhat mimicked ESPN’s rankings, placing Jones at No. 8 in its RB rankings. PFF’s Thomas Valentine explained, “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.”

Please Step Up
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports.

If Minnesota decides to share the RB1 load at some point in 2024, Ty Chandler will be eagerly waiting after a few impressive performances in 2023.

Jones will turn 30 in December.

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