A New Vikings RB Now Feels Inevitable

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Minnesota Vikings fans spent 15 years enjoying Adrian Peterson and Dalvin Cook at running back, a decade and a half of brilliance.

A New Vikings RB Now Feels Inevitable

In fact, the fanbase became spoiled and accustomed to a lofty style of living. Then, 2023 hit, and Minnesota embarked on an experiment with a promotion at RB2 when Alexander Mattison took the big job. A loyal move, the 2023 free-agent signing didn’t net results, and instead, second-year tailback Ty Chandler took over down the stretch last year.

RB Now Feels
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Fast forward to Thursday, just 11 days before the start of free agency, and the Vikings reportedly said goodbye to Mattison, who had lived on Minnesota’s depth chart for five years. He’ll hit free agency like hundreds of others, and the aforementioned Chandler appears in line for a promotion.

No matter what, though, a new running back — from free agency or the draft — feels inevitable. Head coach Kevin O’Connell said Tuesday at the NFL Combine about possibly adding new juice to his RB room, “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.”

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

And those comments were before Mattison’s release. O’Connell’s declaration should be interpreted as a signal for a new running back, only accelerated by Mattison’s departure.

These are the Vikings halfbacks under contract for 2024:

  • Ty Chandler
  • Kene Nwangwu
  • DeWayne McBride
  • Myles Gaskin

In theory, Chandler could set the world on fire and serve as “the new Dalvin Cook.” All would be right in the world. However, Chandler isn’t an efficient pass-blocker, and his skillset isn’t quite impressive enough to hide the blocking deficiency. Pairing him with a newcomer while leaning fully into a running back by committee seems like the likeliest scenario.

Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Have a look at the 2023 rushing statistics:

Vikings Rushing Stats,

Yards per Rush = 24th
Rush EPA = 25th
DVOA = 27th
Rushing Yards = 29th
Rush Play % = 30th
Rushing TDs = 30th

Those statistics stink. They really stink. Better offensive line personnel could help. O’Connell adapting his rushing scheme could, too. Yet, the most probable outcome is a new running back to join Chandler in 2024.

So, who it will be? These are the free-agent options, among others:

  • Saquon Barkley
  • JK Dobbins
  • Austin Ekeler
  • Antonio Gibson
  • Derrick Henry
  • Josh Jacobs
  • Zack Moss
  • Tony Pollard
  • D’Andre Swift

And some of the rookies who will be available in April from the draft:

  • Jonathon Brooks (Texas)
  • Blake Corum (Michigan)
  • Trey Benson (Florida State)
  • TreVeyon Henderson (Ohio State)
  • MarShawn Lloyd (USC)
  • Bucky Irving (Oregon)
  • Braelon Allen (Wisconsin)
Texas Longhorns running back Jonathon Brooks (24) celebrates after he runs into the end zone for a touchdown against TCU Horned Frogs in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, November. 11, 2023, at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas. © Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

On the whole, it’s unlikely for the Vikings to “call it good” with Chandler and a few RB3 types. Expect change — probably the infusion mentioned by O’Connell.

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 OverTheCap.com.