Vikings Training Camp Predictions: A Surprise Cut at Running Back

Dalvin Cook / Alexander Mattison
May 26, 2021; Eagan, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) and running back Alexander Mattison (25) participate in drills at OTA at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Training camp for the Minnesota Vikings is officially three weeks away. Rookies will report to camp on July 24th while the rest of the roster will join them on July 26th. There will also be 14 practices open to the public, beginning on July 30th. With that, it’s time to start making some training camp predictions for Minnesota. Leading off is a surprise cut at the Vikings running back position.

Currently, there are seven players listed at running back for Minnesota, including Jake Bargas and CJ Ham who are both more traditional fullbacks. The other five include Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Kene Nwangwu, Ty Chandler, and Bryant Koback. All of these players are talented in their own right and could likely make a different NFL roster.

The quartet of Cook, Ham, Mattison, and Nwangwu have all proven that they can hang at the NFL level, and Nwangwu looks poised to take a leap in 2022. I’ve predicted that Ham’s production will take a step forward in Kevin O’Connell’s system as well. Ty Chandler exploded onto the scene for the University of North Carolina this past year, and after rushing for 1092 yards and 13 touchdowns, he was selected in the fifth round by Minnesota.

Even Bryant Koback, the UDFA of the bunch, brings an impressive resume to the table. Playing his college ball with the Toledo Rockets, he rushed for 1000+ yards and 10+ TDs in three of his four seasons. The only year he didn’t eclipse these marks was 2020 when Toledo played just six games. His 45 rushing TDs rank above Kareem Hunt in school rankings. Most recently, Koback piled up 1400 yards and 18 total touchdowns in 2021. Most importantly, he’s a three-down back with proven skills as a receiver. In 2020 and 2021, he recorded 54 receptions, 562 receiving yards and five touchdowns.

Spoiler alert, Minnesota will not be keeping seven players in its backfield. With need for depth at other positions, the Vikings simply don’t have room for all these running backs. So, who’s the odd man out?

Every year there are surprise cuts from NFL rosters. This year, I believe the Vikings unexpected cut will be Alexander Mattison. The running back had his worst year as a Viking in 2021, recording a mere 3.7 yards per carry. Of the backs behind Cook, he does not have the talent as a receiver like any of Nwangwu, Chandler, or Koback either. He is the prototypical power, “straight-line” back. This is something that, in Minnesota’s new “pass-first” offense, doesn’t provide as much value as it used to.

This may be the best-case scenario for Mattison as well. 2022 is a contract year for Mattison and playing behind Dalvin Cook likely won’t do much to improve his value in free agency. Should the Vikings let him go, Mattison has time to catch on with another team that has a bigger need for a back of his style, and he can maximize his payday next offseason.

This is all still speculation, but if I were running the Minnesota Vikings, this is the direction I would move towards. The Vikings have a surplus of talent in the backfield, and someone is going to have to go. We shall see what happens when training camp actually begins in three weeks.