It’s no secret that the Minnesota Vikings want to run the football more in 2019. It also wouldn’t take much in order to make that happen. After all, there were only two teams that had fewer rushing yards than the Vikings did in 2018, and only five teams that had fewer rushing attempts than Minnesota’s 357.
Even with that being the case, however, it doesn’t appear that expectations for Alexander Mattison, the running back that the Vikings selected in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, are very high. At least, that’s the impression that one could get from a recent ESPN fantasy football projection.
Behind the great E$PN paywall, Mike Clay has projected the top fantasy addition for each NFL team, and he selected Mattison (and not tight end Irv Smith, Jr.) for the Vikings. He must be expecting next to nothing from Smith, because the projections for Mattison are pretty low. Clay is projecting 66 carries, 264 yards, and two rushing touchdowns from Mattison to go along with eight receptions for 63 yards.
If you’re in the business of stashing high-upside handcuffs, Mattison should be on your radar in the late stages of your draft. The third-round pick is set to replace Latavius Murray as Dalvin Cook’s primary backup. Cook is the unquestioned starter and workhorse, but the third-year back has played only 15 games in his first two seasons. Mattison lacks speed but is a big, between-the-tackles hammer with solid receiving and blocking chops. He’ll be an RB2 option in the event of another Cook injury.
Murray was an incredibly productive back for the Vikings over the past two years, but that production was a direct result of Cook being injured. Cook has played in just 15 of 34 possible games (counting Vikings’ playoff appearances) since he’s been drafted, but the team would clearly like him to be a focal point of the offense. If he can stay on the field, it’s very possible that Mattison isn’t going to see the field that much.
From a fantasy football perspective, though, I think that if you use an early round selection on Cook, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to grab Mattison at some point in the later rounds. Even if Cook does get hurt, Mike Zimmer, Kevin Stefanski, and Gary Kubiak are going to want this team to remain committed to the run, and that’s when Mattison could get his opportunity to shine.
I am a bit surprised that Smith wasn’t named as the biggest addition, to be honest. With the offense the Vikings want to run, there are going to be a lot of two-tight end sets, and that should give Smith plenty of opportunities. I wouldn’t tab him as a TE1 or anything like that for fantasy purposes, but if I had to take a guess, I’d wager that he’d be a more productive fantasy asset as a rookie than Mattison would be.
In fantasy football terms, which Vikings’ rookie will have a bigger impact in 2019?
This poll is closed
RB Alexander Mattison
TE Irv Smith, Jr.