Player Spotlight: Alex Mattison, Minnesota Vikings
Alex Mattison, the Minnesota Vikings’ number two running back, is set to contribute to one of the NFL’s most effective run games in 2020.
Minnesota drafted Mattison out of Boise State in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. In his third and final year of college football, Mattison put up an impressive 1,415 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns in 13 games for the Broncos. The Vikings selected him to back up star running back Dalvin Cook.
2019 marked Cook’s first full season since tearing his ACL as a rookie in 2017, and he came through with 1,135 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in 14 starts. Mattison complemented him well, accumulating 462 rushing yards and one touchdown on 100 carries off the bench.
The Vikings had a solid season last year, finishing with a 10-6 record and placing second in the NFC North. They ranked eighth in points scored and fifth in points allowed thanks to a run-first offensive scheme and a defense that has punished opponents for most of the 2010s.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins had a career year, throwing for 3,603 yards and 26 touchdowns in 15 starts. Stephon Diggs, who’s now on the Bills, caught 63 passes for 1,130 yards and six touchdowns. Talented players like Eric Kendricks, Harrison Smith, and Anthony Barr anchored Minnesota’s defense.
The Vikings pulled off a stunning upset in the NFC Wild Card Round, taking down the Saints 26-20 in New Orleans. Cousins connected with tight end Kyle Rudolph in the end zone in overtime to seal the victory. However, Minnesota fell to the 49ers 27-10 in the Divisional Round, failing to gain offensive momentum against a dominant San Francisco front line.
Though they lost their number one receiver in Diggs, the Vikings drafted a potential star in LSU’s Justin Jefferson with the 22nd pick in this year’s draft. They also snagged cornerback Jeff Gladley with the 31st overall pick. The TCU product could help fill the open spot left by Xavier Rhodes, who failed to record an interception for the first time since his rookie year in 2019.
Diggs’ departure will likely lead Minnesota to lean even more on their run game, though Head Coach Mike Zimmer already favors that approach. A fully healthy Cook and a rapidly improving Mattison should tear apart opposing defensive fronts and open up the rest of the field for Cousins to operate.
The Vikings will once again face stiff competition in the NFC North this season. The Bears could potentially open the season with Nick Foles as their starting quarterback, and Aaron Rodgers is poised to lead the Packers to another division title. But if Mattison, Cook, and Cousins continue to mesh and make each other better, the Vikings could easily win the division and make another postseason run.