Cook’s release in June was months in the making as Mattison had already taken the first-team reps in spring OTAs and mandatory minicamps.
But the decision to make Mattison the primary back in a committee has come under question by Player Profiler’s Matt Kelley, who argues that Mattison won’t be the No. 1 bell cow by midseason.
“Alexander Mattison is a cardboard cutout, average at everything running back that’s just good enough to put in for a couple games and not embarrass the coaches. That is what he is,” Kelley said, adding that he expects Ty Chandler to emerge as a more productive option in the backfield.
Vikings Tip Their Hat to Alexander Mattison This Offseason
While Kelley has a point that Mattison’s largely a running back that will take what’s given to him, the Vikings appear content with that to start the season with head coach Kevin O’Connell tipping his hat to Mattison during offseason training.
“It’s been really good to see Alex Mattison take a few more reps and really show that all three-down kinda ownership that he’s been capable of for a long time,” O’Connell in a May 31 media conference during OTAs.
Mattison signed a two-year, $7 million contract with Minnesota in March that includes $6.4 million in guarantees. His second contract with the Vikings slates his career earnings to nearly $11 million, per Over the Cap.
Mattison for six years equates to about how much Cook would have cost just for the 2023 season. However, Cook’s explosiveness offers an upside that Mattison cannot match.
The graph below shows both running backs rushing yards over expected (RYOE) — a metric that grades every run on whether they gained more, less or what was expected compared to an average running back in the NFL.
The Vikings are hoping that Mattison can gain small chunks frequently to create more favorable situations on later downs. If that is achieved, the offense will be much harder to read with a stable of diverse running backs to deploy on third-and-short.
Vikings’ Ty Chandler Poised for Breakout Season
While Mattison will be given the early down work to start the season, Chandler is a candidate to earn a large share of work in the backfield.
A 2022 fifth-round pick, Chandler ran a 4.38 40-yard dash and is equally explosive in the passing game. Chandler was a standout in the 2022 preseason as a rookie, taking 15 carries for 113 rushing yards and a touchdown in three games.
Chandler is competing for backup snaps alongside Kene Nwangwu and Dewayne Mcbride, but Chandler appears to have the fast lane to becoming a contributor in the offense based on his dual-threat ability.
“Ty’s obviously a great athlete — it’s the reason why we brought him here, but he’s a real pro. He’s been working really hard at it, as has that whole [running back] group,” offensive coordinator Wes Phillips said on June 7, via Vikings.com. “It’s a really special group of guys as far as Alex [Mattison], Kene [Nwangwu] and Ty, and then of course [fullback] C.J. [Ham] being involved with that, as well.
“Ty’s a guy where we’re continuing to give him opportunities both in the run game and the pass game because of some of the things he can do coming out of the backfield catching the football,” he added. “He’s getting better every day.”