The Minnesota Vikings currently, on paper, appear to boast one of the league’s best running back rooms. Led by superstar Dalvin Cook, the Vikings boast four runners that could be NFL starter material. These players include Cook, downhill runner Alexander Mattison, speedster Kene Nwangnu, and fifth-round rookie Ty Chandler.
However, despite how great the Vikings may be at running back, it is still one of the most injury-prone positions, which also leaves it a position with a shorter than usual shelf life. The Vikings have four runners, and teams usually only keep three backs on the roster for the year.
Backup runner Mattison, drafted in 2019, is currently entering the final year of his contract. With a new head coach in Kevin O’Connell who will likely want to utilize Cook and Nwangnu the most out of his four runners, plus rookie Chandler showing flashes throughout both training camp and the preseason, Mattison could be the odd man out. If that’s the case, he will make a great trade piece for a team in a youth movement that still needs to fill holes. Today, NFC North Report presents why Mattison is the Vikings’ best trade piece.
Reason 1- Mattison Can Earn a Starting Gig Elsewhere
Unfortunately for Mattison, the Vikings having a superstar back in Cook during his time in Minnesota as the starting back has meant that the star has gotten a bulk of the carries. This has led to Mattison spending a lot of time on the bench for a majority of the time in the NFL.
On the flip side, Cook’s tendency to miss games has opened up some opportunities for Mattison in the past three years. After finishing his rookie year with 100 carries for 462 rushing yards and a score, an injury to Cook in his sophomore season opened the door for his first 100-yard rushing game as a pro as he posted 434 yards on the ground and two scores on 96 carries. Last year, he carried the ball 134 times for 491 yards and three touchdowns. Over the past two years in the receiving game, Mattison has posted at least 125 yards and a score through the air, highlighted by a 228-yard receiving year in 2021.
There are a few teams in the NFL right now who currently don’t have their running back situation settled at the moment, such as the Houston Texans, Las Vegas Raiders, Atlanta Falcons, and Washington Commanders. Mattison would be a welcome addition to any of these teams. Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah should be on the phone with these aforementioned teams to get as much as he can for a talent like Mattison.
Reason 2 – Cook and Nwangnu Are Too Valuable to the Running Back Room
Simply put, Cook and Nwangnu are simply too valuable to the Vikings’ running back room at the moment. Despite the occasional injury that sidelines him for 2-3 games a year, we know that Cook is a superstar at his position. If he can stay healthy for around 85% of the year, Cook is locked in for around 1,100 yards on the ground per year. Let’s not forget that coach O’Connell, who often utilizes the receiving skills of running backs more frequently, will want to use Cook in the receiving game a lot in his system.
Although he played primarily as the team’s starting kick returner last year, Nwangnu made his presence known with his blazing speed, as evidenced by two kick return TDs of at least 98 yards. There is a good chance that in addition to his return duties, O’Connell will want to utilize Nwangnu more as an actual running back, both on the ground and through the air, in his system. This is evidenced by the fact that Nwangnu carried the ball seven times for 41 yards, totaling nearly six yards per carry. If he’s used correctly, Nwangnu can be a valuable asset to the Vikings due to his speed.
The value that Cook and Nwangnu carry to the Vikings could leave either Mattison or Chandler as the odd man out. I’ll bet you that the Vikings will likely choose the fresh rookie over the seasoned vet that has already racked up some miles on those tires.
Reason 3 – Kwesi Adofo-Mensah Shouldn’t Let Mattison Walk For Nothing
As the article title states, Mattison is likely the Vikings’ most valuable trade asset at the moment. With Mattison set to hit free agency after this upcoming season, there is a chance that he could walk for nothing. I mean, yeah, Minnesota could get a small compensatory pick as a result of his departure, but that means nothing if you can’t draft well. I’m not saying that Adofo-Mensah can’t draft, but a late round pick only has a small chance of hitting. As we all know, not every late round pick can become Tom Brady.
There have been reports of the team searching for a quality backup QB and an upgrade at the center position. Why not send Mattison and a mid-round draft pick to a team for either position? That would be a win-win for both the Vikings and the team they trade with.
Reason 4 – Ty Chandler’s Impressive Flashes Could Force Mattison Out of Minnesota
In training camp and the preseason, we got a glimpse of how good Vikings rookie running back Ty Chandler could become. In addition to having 99th percentile speed and 98th percentile burst and agility, Chandler also has a very physical running style to go along with his speed and flashiness.
Against the Raiders in the preseason, Chandler was fourth on the depth chart at running back. Despite this, his first carry went for 14 yards, and he was also utilized as a kick returner, with his lone kick return going 56 yards. Combine this with a game where Chandler carried the ball five times for 50 yards, Chandler finished the game with over 100 yards from scrimmage. Now, he only totaled 19 yards rushing on five carries in the following game against the 49ers, but he also did score a touchdown. Despite the lackluster performance against the 49ers, that first game marked a strong introduction to the NFL for Chandler.
If he continues his strong play, Chandler could move up on the depth chart, which could force the Vikings’ hand with Mattison.
Things just simply aren’t looking up right now for Mattison’s future with the Vikings organization. Cook’s greatness and the versatility of Nwangnu and Chandler could leave Mattison as the odd back out. Unless the Vikings choose to keep four backs on the roster, I don’t see a way that the Vikings keep him past the day that rosters must be cut down to 53.
If the Vikings choose not to keep Mattison, hopefully Adofo-Mensah realizes what a great trade piece he has on his hands and deals him to the right team for the right piece. There will be a team desperate at running back, and with Mattison deserving of a starting gig at this point in his career, they will pay up for his services. The Vikings need to get something for an asset as valuable as Mattison, as it would hurt to possibly lose him for nothing if they let him hit free agency in 2023.