Vikings HC Teases Addition of a New Playmaker

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The draft is always the main event for roster-building purposes and it surely dominates the offseason in the NFL universe. On April 25, franchises will make moves that can change their future, and leading up to that event, it is all about gathering more information about the prospects. Many coaches headed to this week’s combined to do that.

Vikings HC Teases Addition of a New Playmaker

Head coach Kevin O’Connell is obviously heavily involved in the draft process and all personnel decisions, especially on the offensive side of the ball. He and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah have always emphasized their collaborative approach. The duo has some holes to fill with Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter potentially leaving. Also needed is a new left guard and some reinforcements on Brian Flores’ defense.

Vikings HC Teases Addition of a New Playmaker
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When O’Connell talked to the media on Tuesday, it sounded like a new running back is on his wishlist, although he made sure to give credit to Alexander Mattison and Ty Chandler in his best version of coach speak.

The way Ty (Chandler) finished the season was a real positive and going into year three will be a huge opportunity for him to continue his growth. I thought Alex (Mattison) did some good things in our system and ran hard. You see some of the individual performances, that maybe don’t always jump out on the stat sheet but it was a critical play here and there and then we have some young players in the room as well.

I think it’s always a position that I think, whether in free agency or the draft, you’re looking to continue to infuse talent and different skill sets into that room but I feel good about what those guys were able to do, and more importantly, hopefully, what we can build on from there specifically with Ty towards the end of the season.

Individual RB
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It should be clear that O’Connell can’t step in front of the media and rip his players apart. Praising them regardless of their performances is what most head coaches do. Everyone who watched the Vikings play in 2023 knows that the running game was a disaster.

Of course, not only the runners deserve to be blamed but also the blockers, and O’Connell also mentioned that he could’ve done some things better. Mattison was supposed to be the new starter after Dalvin Cook’s release but he couldn’t fill the void, rushing for 700 yards and failing to find the endzone on a running play.

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.

Later in the season, Mattison was replaced in the starting unit by Ty Chandler. He has shown flashes and is a much more explosive player. After two seasons, he should be expected to be the starter going forward unless, well, the Vikings sign or draft another player.

The decision-makers always look to infuse talent as O’Connell noted. Talent can be found in the free agency pool. Derrick Henry, Saquon Barkley, Tony Pollard, Austin Ekeler, and Josh Jacobs are all scheduled to hit free agency in March. In addition to those big names, Zack Moss, Devin Singletary, and D’Andre Swift could provide a spark without commanding a high salary.

In the draft, the best running backs usually fly off the board in the second round unless a phenomenal rusher is available like last when Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs were picked early. In 2017, the Vikings chose Cook in round two. The good news is that GM Adofo-Mensah doesn’t have to spend a ton of draft capital as good and explosive running backs can even be discovered in later rounds.

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.

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

Whether or not O’Connell views Chandler as the starter in 2024, the Vikings should still try to find another effective runner either in free agency or in the draft even if it is just one of the cheaper options. However, a splash move for one of the best available playmakers could make a huge difference in preventing the Vikings from having another one-dimensional offense next year.

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