If this is it for C.J. Ham, Then it has Been a Heck of a Vikings Career

C.J. Ham
Nov 8, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings fullback C.J. Ham. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Coming into the season, I (wrongly) predicted that Kevin O’Connell would move on from C.J. Ham, Minnesota’s long-time fullback.

The veteran proved me wrong. He has been doing so his entire career (not me specifically, people more generally).

An undrafted free agent who made it into the NFL in 2016 but only got onto the field in 2017, Ham has ascended into being one of Minnesota’s captains. He has mostly cleared lanes for Dalvin Cook, someone who has also had some wonderfully productive seasons in a purple uniform.

At only 5’11”, Ham looks somewhat diminutive, at least if we’re only looking at height. However, the FB comes in at 250 pounds, allowing him to bring a massive wallop with his blocking. Watch #30 come across the formation:

At various points in his career, C.J. Ham demonstrated surprisingly silky mitts for a man his size. Not many fullbacks are able to haul in the passes that he can:

He has the capacity to keep his legs churning so he can get the football across the line:

Sometimes, he combined the skills, partnering his great hands with power:

Truth be told, I love watching C.J. Ham play. I’d be thrilled if every NFL football team employed super tough, versatile fullbacks, but it’s becoming a bit of a lost art.

Part of the concern, of course, is that Minnesota looks like they could move on from the veteran FB. He’s carrying a $3.8 million cap hit into 2023. The team can get more than $3 million of that back on the cap with a simple cut.

Last season, the Vikings ranked 27th in the NFL in terms of rushing attempts. O’Connell threw the ball a ton, shifting away from the run-first mentality that sometimes characterized the previous coaching regime.

Sep 23, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back CJ Ham (30) during a game between the Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Ham played in all 17 games, but he was only in for 15% of the offensive snaps. The previous three seasons, Ham had been involved in 35%, 40%, and 33% of the snaps on offense. In fairness, his special teams involvement has never been higher, but the diminished role on offense, age, and contract make a return seem unlikely.

During the playoffs, Ham didn’t get onto the stat sheet. However, he did play 11 snaps on offense and 16 on special teams.

If this is indeed the end, then C.J. Ham should be remembered as a tremendous Viking, someone who mirrored Jim Kleinsasser by being a tough, rugged, versatile player who allowed the offense to succeed.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference, StatMuse, and Over the Cap helped with this piece.