Super Bowl Illustrates 1 Mistake the Vikings Shouldn’t Make

Running Game
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The Kansas City Chiefs have done it again. It turns out that whenever a team has the best quarterback of a generation paired with a Hall of Fame coach, they build a dynasty. The Patriots did it, and the Chiefs have been doing it. But other than “just draft the next Patrick Mahomes,” Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah should have a takeaway from the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl Illustrates 1 Mistake the Vikings Shouldn’t Make

Super Bowl Illustrates 1 Mistake the Vikings Shouldn't Make
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It is a critical offseason for the future of the Minnesota Vikings. With quarterback Kirk Cousins getting older and coming off an injury, it is fair to wonder how long he can and should be Minnesota’s solution at the most important position. Finding his successor is crucial.

The Chiefs traded up to get their new guy in 2017, and it has worked out. Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers tried the same in 2021 and ended up unloading Trey Lance to the Cowboys for a fourth-rounder just two years later, but they somehow discovered Brock Purdy in the seventh round.

Adofo-Mensah could very well spend his 11th overall pick, or more if he wants to move up the board, to find Cousins’ heir apparent. He also must fix some other spots, especially the defensive front. Also important will be to add someone to the running back group, but the Super Bowl shows what not to do.

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That position is controversial in NFL circles as the up-and-coming analytical movement emphasizes the unimportance of running backs. Every year, some excellent runners miss out on big paydays because teams shy away from paying a player falling off a cliff in his mid-to-late 20s and is easily replaceable in the draft.

While having a decent runner in the backfield is advantageous, Super Bowl winners in the last decade have one thing in common: Their running backs were cheap. Marcus Mosher, a podcaster and writer for various outlets, has posted an annual recurring list of championship teams’ top running backs and their respective cap hits:

Not to be found on this list are Saquon Barkley, Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, Ezekiel Elliott, Le’Veon Bell, or Alvin Kamara, the best backs in the last half-dozen years. The finest ones of the previous generation (besides Marshawn Lynch), Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore, Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Chris Johnson, and DeMarco Murray also didn’t make it.

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Christian McCaffrey came close but ultimately couldn’t quite snatch the win. He’s also a rare Hall of Fame talent who has been among the league’s top players for seven years and was placed in the best running scheme in the NFL. Still, the Chiefs found a way to stop the run for the most part, limiting him to a Vikings-esque 3.6 yards per carry.

Having a dynamic passing attack, a cheap running game, and a decent defense seems to be how one should try to build a Super Bowl champion. Having Mahomes or Tom Brady also helps.

Why is that noteworthy for the Vikings? Well, the rushing attack stinks, and the Vikings should strongly consider adding a running back in the offseason as the experiment Alexander Mattison/Ty Chandler has failed.

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The options are the free agent market, which is unusually strong at the RB position, or the draft. Pending free agents are the aforementioned Henry and Barkley, as well as Josh Jacobs, Tony Pollard, and Austin Ekeler.

Those five players should have a costly price tag despite some of them already losing a step or two. In general, it is unwise to hand out big second contracts to running backs as it mostly fails because of an age-related decline, and injuries begin to pile up at the high-contact position. The investments are unlikely to be returned.

Indianapolis Colts running back Zack Moss (21) leaves the field Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Different than signing them to a contract worth $10 million per season is the acquisition of a cheaper runner like Zack Moss, Devin Singletary, or J.K. Dobbins for a fraction of that salary. While they might not be the game-breakers Henry and Barkley are, they are the type of runners teams win Super Bowls with.

Another way to get a cheap running back in terms of cap hit, although they cost a different currency (draft picks), is the draft. The Vikings could address the position by selecting a rusher in the middle of the draft. They shouldn’t wait until the seventh round like year as Isiah Pacheco’s are still hard to find, but in rounds three or four, someone should be helpful to fix Minnesota’s atrocious rushing game.

Considered the top running back prospects 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
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It might be fun to sign Barkley, Jacobs, or Henry, but it doesn’t make sense in the context of winning a Super Bowl. A decade of data isn’t an outlier anymore.

The only reason to sign one of those expensive players is to take the load off a rookie quarterback so he doesn’t have to carry the offense by throwing 70% of the time. Other than that, if the objective is to win a title, Adofo-Mensah shouldn’t break the bank to acquire an aging RB.

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