Vikings Look to Increase RB Competition, Reportedly Add an XFL Runner

NFL: Minnesota Vikings Training Camp
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For several months, the Vikings have proclaimed their confidence in the new-look running back situation. Gone is longtime stalwart Dalvin Cook. Taking the lead is Alexander Mattison, a 3rd-round pick from the 2019 NFL Draft who have mostly been a backup.

While confidence in Mattison remains high, the Vikings truly don’t know what they have beyond their RB1 since none of Ty Chandler, DeWayne McBride, nor Kene Nwangwu have extensive experience playing running back in the NFL. As a result, the recent report from KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson isn’t altogether surprising.

Vikings Look to Increase RB Competition

Per Wilson, the Minnesota Vikings brought a trio of runners into the building. Take a look at the word: “Running back Abram Smith @XFLDefenders had successful workout for #Vikings today and team is still determining if they’re signing him. Has not signed or agreed to terms at this point. Team also worked out RBs Jacques Patrick and Aaron Dykes.”

Elsewhere on Twitter, Kevin Seifert of ESPN relays the report from the XFL that the Vikings have actually added Abram Smith at running back: “Per the @XFL2023, RB Abram Smith has agreed to terms with the Vikings. Smith led the league in rushing with 791 yards in 10 games.”

So, some competing thoughts on Smith and the Vikings. Keep an eye on the official communication from the team itself and/or some of the plugged-in insiders for firm confirmation.

Vikings Had the Worst Draft
Jul 27, 2022; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings aren’t looking to Abram Smith to be the lead back in their offense. Instead, the goal rests in creating more security at the position by upping the competition among the depth players.

We think of Mattison recently stepping out of practice due to an injury. Thankfully, the RB1 looks to be ready to roll (shout out to Andrew Krammer) but his temporary absence does underscore how the position is an injury away from being in a bad spot. Some added doubt enters the equation when we remember that Chandler had to miss a significant portion of 2022 due to injury.

Sep 25, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) reacts with tight end Irv Smith Jr. (84) after scoring a touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Abram Smith played his college ball at Baylor. He’s 5’11”, 221, so he has pretty good size. For reference, Cook comes in at 5’10”, 210 and Mattison is at 5’11’, 215.

In his senior season, Smith had 257 carries, 1601 yards, and 12 TDs. He added 13 catches and 75 yards. He has had a shot in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints but was waived.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers
Aug 19, 2022; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Abram Smith (33) catches a pass in front of Green Bay Packers linebacker Ray Wilborn (57) during the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Coming over from the XFL to join the Vikings roster isn’t totally unprecedented. Lucky Jackson, a wide receiver, made the jump and has been impressing the coaching staff. Earlier in the week, Matt Daniels was fairly outgoing in his praise for the WR. “He’s really starting to really put in some really, really good work,” Daniels notes about Jackson, “and a lot of good things on tape. And I’m excited about watching him play.”

The Vikings are sitting on more than $10 million in cap space. A deal for the depth RB likely falls below the 51-man cutoff for the offseason salary cap. As a result, signing a RB won’t impact how much cap space Minnesota has.

Keep an eye on how things continue developing in Eagan. The Vikings are displaying plenty of interest in continuing to add talent to their roster. The team kicks off their preseason next week when they travel to Seattle to take on Pete Carroll’s Seahawks.

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