Alexander Mattison was a star in the Mountain West just five years ago. Now the former Boise State running back has a chance to enjoy a breakout season in the NFL.
News broke on Thursday that the Vikings intend on releasing Dalvin Cook, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the past four seasons. And that’s every year Mattison has been in the league, as he was drafted by Minnesota in 2019.
So how does that impact the Vikings’ backfield? Could Mattison take over, or might they come up with a committee approach?
Reasons To Draft Alexander Mattison
Mattison is the clear No. 2 on the Vikings’ depth chart. And with his talent and experience, he should expect to at least see a few starts at the beginning of the season.
The Vikings clearly believed in Mattison and wanted him involved in their offense, even when Cook was there. Mattison averaged 101 carries per season in his first four years in the league, and he was always a leading waiver wire target if Cook wasn’t available. Mattison should see an even bigger workload in 2023, which obviously boosts his fantasy value.
The Vikings have also drastically improved their offensive line over the past few years. They were fourth in the run blocking grades from Pro Football Focus in 2022.
Each of their projected starters, all drafted by the Vikings in the first two rounds within the past five years, have made strides. That includes left tackle Christian Darrisaw, a first-round selection in 2021.
All of this is good for Mattison. If the Vikings trust their O-line to create more running lanes, perhaps they could rely on the ground game more than they have in the past.
As far as Mattison’s receiving potential, he hasn’t been very involved with the Vikings’ passing game. He’s averaged 21 targets per season since he was drafted.
But Cook was thrown to 56 times last year, which means there will be running back targets left over. Plus, Kirk Cousins threw 59% of his passes 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage or less in 2022, so Mattison should be catching a few checkdown throws.
And Mattison has taken advantage of throws his way. He’s averaged 6.3 yards per target while catching 83% of his targets as he’s dropped just five passes as a pro.
Avoid Alexander Mattison?
Alexander’s opportunities might be limited for several reasons.
First, the Vikings didn’t rush the ball much in the first place. They ran the ball the fifth-fewest times in the NFL in 2022, which is just under 24 carries per game. It’s reasonable to believe that won’t change much with Cook gone.
That would be plenty of touches for Mattison alone, but he probably won’t be the only one running the ball as the Vikings just drafted DeWayne McBride out of UAB in March. The Vikings could also bring in free agents who could eat into that workload.
Another reason to not draft Mattison: He hasn’t been overly efficient. He’s averaged less than 4 yards per carry the past two seasons. He totaled 774 yards on 208 attempts during that time.
Mattison is 25 years old, and time windows for running backs are slim. But that shouldn’t be overly concerning considering he hasn’t been a feature back and hasn’t taken as many hits as some star running backs.
DeWayne McBride’s Fantasy Outlook
The Vikings drafted McBride, another former standout Group of Five running back, in the seventh round this year. That’s not a huge investment in terms of draft capital, but he is talented and could be involved in this offense somehow.
As a rookie, McBride could expect to take over that secondary role and would likely be just as productive as Mattison was.
Alexander Mattison Fantasy Projection
Mattison could be taken by the fifth round of fantasy drafts, as he now appears to be an RB2 if he maintains a lead role.
Mattison may not be quite as productive as Cook was in 2022, but he’ll be close. It’s fair to expect about 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground as well as 200 yards and a couple touchdowns on 30 catches.