8 Bold Predictions for ‘the Who’ of Vikings RB1 Next Season

Please Note: This article originally appeared on our flagship site VikingsTerritory.com.

VikingsTerritory and PurplePTSD writers were asked to provide one prediction apiece for the identity of the Minnesota Vikings RB1 in 2023.

The franchise lost to the New York Giants on Wildcard Weekend, vamoosing the postseason tournament after winning the NFC North by a handsome margin. Accordingly, a change-filled offseason is afoot, and VikingsTerritory’s writers have prognostications.

8 Bold Predictions for Vikings RB1 in 2023 — Who Will It Be?

Ten VikingsTerritory and PurplePTSD writers weighed in with eight different candidates for the RB1 job.

1. Tank Bigsby (Auburn)

8 Bold Predictions for
Nov 19, 2022; Auburn, Alabama, USA; Western Kentucky Hilltoppers defensive back Rome Weber (5) grabs Auburn Tigers running back Tank Bigsby (4) during the first quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports.

Prediction Maker = Adam New

Should the Vikings wish to move on from Dalvin Cook, there is a lot of depth in this year’s running back draft class. The Vikings could find a very good starting running back in the 3rd or 4th Round.

I predict the Vikings will draft Auburn RB Tank Bigsby, and he will become the starting running back in Minnesota — a tough runner with good balance and the vision to find running lanes. He also has a track background that allows him to break off 40- and 50-yard runs once he breaks into the open field. Bigsby can lead the rushing attack in Minnesota from day one.

2. Devon Achane (Texas A&M)

Nov 26, 2022; College Station, Texas, USA; Texas A&M Aggies running back Devon Achane (6) in action during the game between the Texas A&M Aggies and the LSU Tigers at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.

Prediction Maker = Ali Siddiqui

With the Vikings expected to be $24 million over the salary cap, they will need to say goodbye to some key players.

One of them will be Dalvin Cook.

Cook, while still productive, did not look quite the same this year. They would save nearly $8 million by releasing him. Alexander Mattison is a free agent and, too, may be out of their price range.

There’s an excellent chance the Vikings will draft a back. Who will it be? If Texas A&M’s Devon Achane is available in the 3rd Round, they will take him. Nwangwu could see a decent amount of carries, too.

3. Ty Chandler (Vikings)

Thoughts on Vikings 2022 Draft Picks in Preseason Opener & Outstanding Rookie Class of 2020
Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler (32) carries the ball against the Las Vegas Raiders during a preseason game at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports.

Prediction Maker = Cole Smith

I predict the next Vikings RB1 is already on the roster but isn’t one of the usual suspects.

2022 5th-round pick Ty Chandler will take the role once Dalvin Cook is traded or released, and Alexander Mattison leaves via free agency. Having said this, expect a running-back-by-committee approach in 2023 and beyond. But the main guy in 2023 will be Chandler, who impressed during his rookie preseason.

4. Alexander Mattison (Vikings)

Alexander Mattison Lost
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) celebrates after an NFL International Series game against the New Orleans Saints at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Saints 28-25. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction Maker = Dustin Baker

While Dalvin Cook may be too expensive to keep aboard at his current salary, Mattison is not.

We tend to say out loud that Mattison will get some fat contract on the open market, but that is probably false. Spotrac.com estimates his “calculated market value” for 2023 at $2.2 million. The Vikings can afford that, especially for a running back entering his prime.

The 2023 RB room will consist of Alexander Mattison (RB1), Ty Chandler (RB2), and Kene Nwangwu (RB3).

5. D’Ernest Johnson (Browns)

Browns running back D’Ernest Johnson runs for a second-half first down past Bengals cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, in Cleveland. © Jeff Lange / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Prediction Maker = Janik Eckardt

The Vikings will sign D’Ernest Johnson, a free agent from the Cleveland Browns. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah knows Johnson from his time in Cleveland.

The man spent most of his time with the Browns behind star running back Nick Chubb and top backup Kareem Hunt, so his touches were extremely limited. However, when both missed time in 2021, Johnson starred with 245 rushing yards on 41 carries in his only two starts. He also added 80 receiving yards and can be used as a weapon in the passing game.

The Vikings will sign the free agent and pair him with 2022 rookie Ty Chandler in a cheap but effective committee. Chandler showed enough promise in the 2022 preseason to get his chance in an unproven-but-effective backfield.

6. Samaje Perine (Bengals)

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) flips the ball to Cincinnati Bengals running back Samaje Perine (34) in the first quarter during a Week 15 NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. © Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Prediction Maker = Ted Schwerzler

The Vikings are almost certainly going to move on from Dalvin Cook in a salary-cap savings measure. Alexander Mattison, too, could be on his way out, and that leaves just Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu.

I don’t think using a 1st-Round pick on Bijan Robinson makes sense for Minnesota, so a solid but inexpensive veteran could be a good bridge to Chandler down the stretch.

7. A Cheap Veteran

mn Vikings news, vikes news, vikings news
Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott (35) and Minnesota Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports.

Prediction Maker = Will Goodwin

A hefty price for a declining once-star player means Dalvin Cook will not suit up in purple for a seventh season. The Vikings will not employ a traditional bell-cow running back for the first time since Adrian Peterson was selected 7th overall in the 2007 NFL Draft.

Minnesota will join the ranks of many other NFL teams sporting the running-back-by-committee approach. Adofo-Mensah will sign a cheap, veteran free agent — such as Alexander Mattison, Samaje Perine, or Boston Scott — to pair with Ty Chandler and a sprinkling of Kene Nwangwu.

t8. Dalvin Cook (Vikings)

Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs the ball and is tackled by Chicago Bears defensive tackle Justin Jones (93) during the first quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction Maker = Kyle Joudry

The RB1 keeps his purple uniform for 2023. Cook and the team agree to a restructured deal that makes his 2023 cap hit more manageable.

t8. Dalvin Cook (Vikings)

Blueprint to Beat the
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; New York Giants defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence (97) tackles Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Prediction Maker = Josh Frey

I’m glad I’m not the one being forced to make this decision in real life because it’s a tough one. On the one hand, Dalvin Cook is only getting older and is one of the more expensive backs in the league.

However, the Vikings really don’t know what they truly have in Ty Chandler yet, and without another proven RB (unless Mattison comes back), in addition to no guarantee that Bradbury sticks around on the offensive line, I lean towards Cook being brought back for at least one more year.

t8. Dalvin Cook (Vikings)

The Vikings -- Recipients of Atonement?
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) looks on after the game against the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium. With the win, the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Prediction Maker = Mitch Massman

While Cook has seemingly slowed down a bit as he has aged, the Vikings don’t necessarily need to cut or trade him.

They will make some calls to see his trade value around the league. However, they fail to get any interest that matches what they want in return. A simple restructure is completed to save approximately $7.9 million in cap space for 2023, and Cook returns as RB1.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.