It’s been a rumor during the 2023 offseason that the Vikings and Dalvin Cook would be parting ways. Many believe it would be via trade, but the Vikings announced they will release Dalvin Cook. Cook would hit 8 million dollars dead cap for the Vikings but open up nine million of cap space for them. Now we have questions that need to be answered for our dynasty season. What does Minnesota’s backfield look like now, and who should be the lead back? What to do with Dalvin Cook now that he is released?
The Rise of Mattison
The biggest winner from Dalvin Cook being released is Alexander Mattison, the fifth-year running back who had been an essential handcuff over his dynasty career. When you first look at Mattison’s value, it will jump in dynasty to a top 24 running back. He is still only 25 years old, which are the prime years of a running back on a two-year deal that will only make him 27 as he hits free agency again. We’ve seen the starting running back in Minnesota usually be fantasy gold for an owner with Adrian Peterson, Jerick McKinnon, Latavius Murray, and Dalvin Cook. Is this fool’s gold with Mattison, or does he possess the value his coach thinks he can have as a three-down back?
Mattison has started six games in his NFL career, with Cook missing time with an injury. Those six games averaged 20 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He has averaged five targets with four receptions in the air for another 36 yards. That average gives him 19.6 fantasy points per game played as a starter. While on paper, those numbers look elite, in four of six starts, he has played the Lions three times and Seattle, who were the top three worst run defenses during those years. Take those games away games away, and you are looking at a player who averaged just 50 total yards in a game.
Not all of Mattison’s great games have come from bottom defenses, but it should be factored in. Mattison is a product of opportunity; he needs the touches to be an efficient fantasy running back. Any time Mattison had had ten-plus carries, he averaged 98 yards and a touchdown per game. Mattison has the experience and talent to easily lead this backfield.
One struggle Mattison could face is big breakaway runs; Mattison has just nine runs of 20-plus yards in his NFL career. It’s just not 20-plus yard runs; it’s big gains in general. Dalvin Cook would see at least a 12-plus yard runs every week; Mattison may not have the same talent level to do that consistently. Mattison is an in-between tackle runner who will attempt to fight for every yard but will be the most effective on short yardage and goalline. Mattison is a solid player and should be an RB2 in fantasy for a team, but there is a tier-down in talent between him and Cook.
Some recent trades with Mattison as of June 8th:
- Alexander Mattison for a 2025 1st
- Isash Pacheco & Mattison for Nick Chubb & 2023 3rd
- Two 2024 2nds for Mattison
- 2024 1st for Mattison
If you are a contender, you are probably thankful to get another RB2 as depth for your championship run. Mattison should see at least 60% of the rushing attempts and north of 40 targets on the season. As a rebuilding team, sell Mattison as fast as possible because his value is at an all-time high. If you look at those trades, that’s a solid price to move Mattison off your team for future draft capital. While Mattison could turn into a solid RB2, if he fails, you’ll lose out on his value if you don’t sell now. Mattison’s value right now is RB2 numbers, and I don’t see his value going higher than what it is.
Those Who Remain
Mattison isn’t the only running back on the Vikings, and his new backups could make some noise. Ty Chandler and DeWayne McBride are two players that should probably be rostered in every dynasty league. McBride was an elite two-down back from UAB, but he was limited in showing off any passing threat value. He is someone to monitor if Mattison struggles. Ty Chandler will likely be the backup and a good change of pace back who can work on third downs. Chandler was a solid pass blocker coming in from college that could help him get on the field. He didn’t see much involvement as a rookie, so he’ll be interesting to watch. Kene Nwangwu is also on the depth chart but better suited for a special team role.
Dalvin Cooks’ value now
Dalvin Cook is coming off four straight 1100-yard seasons after missing early time in his career to injuries. Also, Cook has been a solid pass catcher, seeing 50 targets each of the last four seasons. Cook has been rumored to land with the Dolphins or Broncos. As a fantasy owner, I’d hold on to him and wait until we see where he lands. As a contender, I’d throw a late second-round pick at Cook now before he lands. If Cooks land in a solid spot, his value for trades may rise for an owner. Cook’s upside is a mid-range RB2, but his dynasty value is RB3 due to his age and injury history.