We are reaching that time of year. No, not the time for the playoff push nor plotting out your starting lineup for the playoffs. What you’ve been doing the last several weeks has been with that in mind. We’ve reached handcuff theft season. There are several different worthwhile darts to throw and the priority is Alexander Mattison.
He’s a rookie 3rd round pick from Boise State. The Vikings method to acquire him was certainly an interesting one too. They began day two of the draft with pick #80 and traded back four separate times before finally picking Mattison with the night’s final pick – #102. Was this because Darrell Henderson, David Montgomery, and Devin Singletary all went about 10 picks before them in round three? Was this a predetermined course of action? Did they have intel that indicated Mattison was not on anyone else’s board until sometime in the draft’s third day? More questions than answers about what exactly motivated the Vikings moves that night, but in the end the acquisition was deliberate and that’s my main takeaway on his situation.
The Vikings were not going into the season with just Ameer Abdullah and Mike Boone backing up oft-injured Dalvin Cook, so a running back acquisition that night was inevitable. The 5’11 220 pound Mattison offers a lot of the same traits as Dalvin Cook. He’s no workout warrior (4.67 40, 35″ vertical, 127″ broad jump, etc.) but he runs with tremendous burst, vision, and elusiveness. Watching him play I think it’s quite obvious how he caught the eye of Head Coach Mike Zimmer – it is the way he finishes his runs. That combination of balance and violence most assuredly got the attention of a hard-nosed grinder like Zimmer. Those traits have translated to his rookie season in Minnesota to the tune of 348 total yards (4.7 yards per carry) and one touchdown. Now, those numbers present a fair question – why am I suggesting adding someone that’s not even a top 50 running back in some formats?
It’s not about what you can do for my team next week; it’s about what you can do for me if the situation changes. There have been piles of running back injuries this season and there will be more. The Vikings have made no attempt to hide who they intend to be this season which is a run first team. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has only attempted more than 30 passes in one of their six wins this season. Which is why Mattison’s had as much run as he’s had, but it’s also a sign of what’s to come should something happen to Cook. If another team’s starting running back gets injured then their backup may be a worthwhile flex, give or take. If Cook were to get injured then Mattison instantly enters the RB1 conversation, which is why I think he’s a top priority at this stage of the game.
From a practicality perspective you probably still have bye weeks or injuries to navigate; your opponents also have those same hurdles to clear though. Give your bench an honest look and grade them out in a best-case scenario. There are running backs and wide receivers on there you never want to start – they’re weeds. There will be new weeds on the waiver wire next week to pick from should the need arise. Should you drop them and an opponent picks them up, they are in the same position with a roster full of weeds, as we approach the home stretch the focus is on maximizing your starting lineup and the upside of your bench and you’re only hurting your opponent by dropping a weed.
This week’s Flavor of the Week is: leftover cold pizza. Sure, it has little use right now. If circumstances unexpectedly change you don’t want to rummage around the fridge deciding between bland but effective chicken & rice or macaroni & cheese. You want to open the fridge and have that quiet but satisfying dish on standby ready to be heated at a moments notice.