The Minnesota Vikings’ starting running back role hasn’t been questioned for a number of years now, but much like currently with the quarterbacks, the backup role has opened up for some questioning and consideration. There are two clear-cut favorites to be the RB2 moving forward, being Alexander Mattison and Kene Nwangwu. Both have shown flashes of being a strong second option, but who gets the nod?
New Kid Kene
Entering his second year with Minnesota out of Iowa State, Kene Nwangwu (pronounced ken-Ay wahn-goo) has only really been utilized as a kick returner. A strong kick returner at that, he had two return touchdowns in his rookie season. Nwangwu has only carried the ball 13 times in his regular season NFL career, but put together a nice showing in last week’s preseason matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders. He ran seven times for 41 yards, as well as catching both of his targets for another 18 yards. He also showed a lot of explosiveness in his runs, a welcome sight considering he was coming off of a minor soft-tissue leg injury. In terms of finances, the Vikings are only paying Nwangwu an average salary of around one million dollars and have him under contract through the 2024 season. All in all, Nwangwu is at the very least a young and intriguing developmental piece who has the stuff to become a major part of the Vikings’ season moving forward.
Since being drafted in 2019 after a 1,400-yard season at Boise State, Alexander Mattison has been the constant at backup running back. Because of Dalvin Cook’s elite level of play, the only times Mattison gets a sizable amount of snaps is when Cook is injured. In the four games he was injured, Mattison racked up 518 yards and three touchdowns on 105 carries. I’ve always believed that he could start for probably half of the teams in the NFL, a third of teams at least. Mattison is only two years older than Nwangwu, but is still considered a veteran with his four years of experience. In terms of cash impact, Mattison makes less than Nwangwu with an average salary of about $867,000. The biggest issue is that this year is the final year on his contract.
So which one should the Vikings stick with long-term? There’s been rumors circulating recently about Minnesota not wanting to extend Mattison, and to me that all depends on the number. If he’s only asking for a couple million per year, I don’t see any reason for the Vikings to not sign him. Realistically though, Mattison wants the most money possible. As good of a back he is, Minnesota really doesn’t have a use for him. I’m certain he’ll get a multi-year deal that offers far more than what would make sense for the team.I could see Mattison signing a six million dollar per year deal with a team like the Falcons or Cardinals. This would be a much more difficult decision if the Vikings had a really underwhelming running back group, but I don’t think the sparse play Mattison gets would be an issue for Nwangwu or maybe even Ty Chandler (the current RB4).