Let’s take a look at his game.
Powerful and Elusive Bell-Cow
Mattison is a 5’11”, 221lbs. running back that showed the ability to dominate games at Boise State. Mattison has the power to break tackles - and does just about every run - while also showing some good vision and cuts along the way. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, but he does have leg drive and elusiveness. He seems to get better as the game wears on.
At Boise State, you get the feeling he was their main weapon on offense - he had 40 carries in the Mountain West Championship Game - and often seemed a man among boys in the that conference. He showed power, a slashing style, vision and even leaping ability - sometimes all in the same carry. He is clearly a punishing ball-carrier, not afraid to lower his shoulder, but also showed a little more athleticism than perhaps his agility drills revealed.
Mattison’s best event at the Combine was the broad jump and that shows on tape in his powerful legs - and leaping ability. He looks faster than his 4.67” Combine 40 time on tape, but that may be a reflection of the competition around him too. He did run a 4.55” 40 at his pro day as well. In any case, Mattison shows a lot of natural talent along with refined running skills as Matt Waldman details by analyzing one of his rushing attempts:
You notice that Waldman mentions Mattison’s ball security at various stages of that run. That shows up throughout his career. His PFF fumble grade (92.4) was the highest of any college running back last season. He had only one fumble his entire college career.
The other thing mentioned a few times in that clip is Mattison’s body lean and keeping his pads over his knees to help drive through contact. That, along with his powerful legs, shows up on tape when he powers his way for a first down (as he did there) or touchdown, as he does here:
PFF named him the best red-zone running back in college football last season, having scored 15 touchdowns and forced 15 mis-tackles in 53 red zone attempts. He also had the most runs for a first-down or touchdown among draft-eligible backs from the Mountain West conference (84), along with the most forced mis-tackles (68).
Nice Complement to Dalvin Cook
Mattison’s more powerful, between the tackles running style serves as a nice compliment to Dalvin Cook’s more explosive, elusive style. He’s also a durable back that can handle a lot of carries. And he’s also a good short yardage back too. So, between the two backs, the Vikings should offer both big play ability, along with the power to wear down a defense over the course of a game.
Mattison was primarily an inside zone runner at Boise State, and I could see the Vikings varying his use between inside and outside zone runs, and even some power in short yardage situations, where he has a knack for powering forward through the line to gain. Mattison also has some receiving ability out of the backfield, with good hands. He had no dropped passes last season. He also has good ability as a blocker, but could stand to improve in this area - like most college running backs.
Bottom line, the Vikings were looking for a Latavius Murray replacement with this pick, and they may have got an upgrade in the process. Mattison can do everything Murray did for the Vikings, but also brings greater balance, elusiveness and speed as a younger back entering the league after a nice run at Boise State.
Here are a couple scouting report summaries on Mattison:
Alexander Mattison is an intriguing all-around threat out of the backfield. Mattison runs with good power, terrific violence/urgency, shows some admirable vision pressing the line of scrimmage and offers some modest pass receiving skills. Mattison isn’t going to be a player who wins a lot of footraces, but that isn’t his game anyway. He’s much more effective and dynamic between the tackles and slashing through the point of attack. Potential starting RB. - Kyle Crabbs, TDN
Mattison has been a standout for Boise State across the last two seasons and he projects nicely as a versatile power back at the next level. While his bread and butter will always be his bruising style and power, Mattison has upside in pass protection and his hands are reliable to contribute as a receiver. Mattison’s lack of speed and modest agility do present some restrictions, but he is a nuanced between the tackles runner. Mattison has the upside of a top 2/3 back for an NFL offense who has at least some appeal on every down. - Joe Marino
I included Mattison’s highlight reels to showcase what he can do as a runner, along with the MWC championship game, where he had 40 carries and reminds you of how Adrian Peterson used to dominate games as a back.
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