Is USC’s Explosive RB1 a Potential Fit for The Minnesota Vikings?

Oct 14, 2023; South Bend, Indiana, USA; USC Trojans running back MarShawn Lloyd (0) runs for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

MarShawn Lloyd excelled in a year that USC underperformed. USC had the reigning Heisman winner, Caleb Williams, but it wasn’t because of a lack of talent in the skill positions. Each of their starting receivers, running backs, and quarterbacks have impressed throughout the draft process.

The Vikings recently parted ways with Alexander Mattison. No matter how the quarterback question is answered, the Vikings need to address the running back room. The Vikings also return Ty Chandler, their 2022 5th-round draft pick, who performed admirably down the stretch in 2023. However, Chandler will need a running mate going forward.

There is a robust free agent and draft market, with great values in the second half of the draft. With the depressed running back market, there will be options in the draft that wouldn’t be available regularly in the past. USC’s MarShawn Lloyd is one of the more explosive running backs in the class, and on today’s Vikings Draft Thermometer, we will gauge how likely it is he’ll be a Minnesota Viking.

MarShawn Lloyd Overview

Marshawn Lloyd
Nov 18, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; USC Trojans running back MarShawn Lloyd (0) runs during the second quarter against the UCLA Bruins at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports
  • Height: 5’9″
  • Weight: 220 pounds
  • Arm Length: 30 3/8″
  • Hand Size: 8 3/4″
  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.46 seconds
  • 10-Yard Split: 1.56 seconds
  • Vertical Jump: 36″
  • Broad Jump: 9’10″
  • School: USC
  • Games Watched: Kentucky (2022), Georgia (2022), Charlotte (2022), Texas A&M (2022), Arizona St (2023), Arizona (2023), Colorado (2023), Cal (2023), Oregon (2023), UCLA (2023)

MarShawn Lloyd traveled four hours daily, specifically to play for DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland – a school known for producing NFL athletes like Chase Young, Lloyd’s former teammate. Lloyd, the RB5 of his class and a 4-star recruit by 247 Sports, would commit to South Carolina over Clemson, Penn State, Maryland, and Georgia.

After spring training in 2020, Lloyd tore his ACL in practice, thus ending the season for South Carolina’s top offensive recruit. In nine games in 2022, Lloyd racked up 749 offensive yards and eleven touchdowns. At points, he was their best offensive player.

After the 2022 season, Lloyd entered the transfer portal and headed to the West Coast as USC’s new starting running back. 2023 was disappointing across the board for USC, as they suffered from horrific offensive line play. Lloyd recorded a career-high of 949 offensive yards, but he still only recorded 116 attempts and 13 targets, both very close to his previous career highs.

However, per PFF, amongst running backs with 100+ attempts, Lloyd was first in breakaway percentage and second in yards per attempt.


Oct 7, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans running back MarShawn Lloyd (0) is brought down by Arizona Wildcats linebacker Jacob Manu (5) and linebacker Taylor Upshaw (11) during the second half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports


  • 2021: 64 attempts, 228 rushing yards, 3.6 yards per carry, one rushing touchdown (12 games)
  • 2022: 111 attempts, 573 rushing yards, 5.2 yards per carry, nine rushing touchdowns (9 games)
  • 2023: 116 attempts, 820 rushing yards, 7.1 yards per carry, nine rushing touchdowns (11 games)


  • 2021: 3 receptions, 44 yards, 14.7 yards per reception, zero touchdowns (12 games)
  • 2022: 18 receptions, 176 yards, 9.8 yards per reception, two touchdowns (9 games)
  • 2023: 13 receptions, 232 yards, 17.8 yards per reception, zero touchdowns (11 games)


Nov 18, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; USC Trojans running back MarShawn Lloyd (0) runs against UCLA Bruins defensive back Alex Johnson (36) during the third quarter at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

MarShawn Lloyd is an athlete who can turn any negative play into a positive one. He gets to the edge quickly and has the necessary speed to be successful. Lloyd has a great burst and can shift gears seamlessly, closing open space at the second level with ease. He possesses quick and controlled lateral movement, making him an athletic and agile runner. 

Lloyd is also a capable pass-protector who displays aggression and commitment to his assignments throughout the play. When tasked with chipping the free blitzer, he exhibits excellent blocking form. Although he doesn’t get targeted often, Lloyd shows off his good hands when he does. NFL teams will see his potential in the passing game. It’s worth noting that Lloyd’s potential was not fully utilized by either USC teams, and he did not undergo much wear and tear during his college football career.


Oct 28, 2023; Berkeley, California, USA; USC Trojans running back MarShawn Lloyd (0) rushes for a touchdown against the California Golden Bears during the fourth quarter at California Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

MarShawn Lloyd could improve his gameplay by focusing more on pushing upfield instead of being behind the line of scrimmage and constantly deciding where to attack. Lloyd’s athletic abilities could have been better utilized if he had better consistency with his vision, as he left many yards on the field. Additionally, Lloyd needs to work on his fumbling issue, as he has eight fumbles on 360 career carries. 

Furthermore, there are concerns about Lloyd’s volume and ability to lock down a feature-back role in school. Despite having a decent build, he lacks dominant power in his gameplay, making him vulnerable to being held or driven back by contact.

NFL Projection

Sep 30, 2023; Boulder, Colorado, USA; USC Trojans running back MarShawn Lloyd (0) turns it up field on the way for a touchdown in the first quarter against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: John Leyba-USA TODAY Sports
  • Draft Stock: Day 2 Late – Day 3 Early (75-130)
  • Immediate Role: Early Down RB
  • NFL Comp: Kenneth Walker
  • Vikings Draft Thermometer (1-100): 79

MarShawn Lloyd has all the qualities of a top-100 pick, but the reduced value of running backs means he will likely be drafted in the fourth round or later.

The Vikings, who do not have a third-round pick, will be interested in adding a running back late in the draft. Entering free agency, they only have Chandler, Kene Nwangwu, Myles Gaskin, and DeWayne McBride in the running back room.

Suppose General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah applies the Moneyball approach. In that case, he will aim to get a large workload from a cap-friendly four-year contract, particularly for a currently undervalued position like running back. MarShawn Lloyd would fill Alexander Mattison’s void and more, adding an explosive blocking and receiving asset for third downs.

Editor’s Note: Statistics for this article were found via 247 SportsPro Football Focusand Sports Reference CFB.

Cody Spears‘ passion lies in evaluating NFL prospects and following their stories. He is currently an HVAC Apprentice attending school to be an HVAC Technician. Cody enjoys spending his time on road trips with his wife, Amanda, and son, Bentley. Cody and his family are super fans of the show “Survivor” on CBS. He is a future Sole Survivor. You can find his socials and rookie rankings on his website, The Rookie Rush.