Dalvin Cook Injury Update: How long will Alexander Mattison be an RB1?

What does Dalvin Cook's shoulder injury mean for the Vikings' backfield, and how should fantasy managers react going forward?

Injuries are, without question, the worst part of football. If we could turn injuries off like in Madden, we would. Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook is no stranger to injury. During the second half of Vikings’ Week 12 loss to the 49ers, Cook hurt his shoulder and was carted off the field. Obviously, the top priority is Cook’s health, and we all hope he fully recovers as quickly as possible. From a fantasy football perspective, let’s look at the implications of Cook’s injury and what it means for Minnesota’s backfield.

Dalvin Cook suffers shoulder injury in Week 12

Whenever the cart comes out for a player, everyone always fears the worst. I must say that a player being carted off for an upper-body injury that isn’t a head/neck issue isn’t something I’ve seen before. 

On Sunday, Cook took a big shot to the chest area and immediately reached for his side. Tests later revealed Cook dislocated his shoulder on the play. As of the time of this writing, the extent of the damage is unknown. Cook has an MRI scheduled for sometime on Monday. The results will provide better insight into the severity of the injury and when we can expect Cook to return.

Dalvin Cook has a history of shoulder injuries

In 2019, Cook injured both shoulders, but only the left one cost him playing time. He missed two games with a left shoulder sprain.

Shoulder injuries are problematic, especially dislocations, because each time it happens, the shoulder becomes more susceptible to similar injuries. Whenever Cook returns, he will come with a high risk of reinjury.

How much time will Cook miss?

Depending on the severity of the damage, Cook could miss a game or the rest of the season. I don’t want to send fantasy managers into a panic, but the reality is we just don’t know right now. Once we have the results of Cook’s MRI, I will update this section with a more concrete timeline, if available.

The Vikings remain very much in playoff contention, so they will not be incentivized to shut Cook down. He is also notorious for wanting to play through injuries. As a result, whenever he is healthy enough to play, except him back on the field.

Monday afternoon update: According to Ian Rapoport, Cook’s MRI revealed a torn labrum in addition to the dislocated shoulder. He is going to miss multiple weeks, but his season is not believed to be over. Fantasy managers should expect to be without Cook for at least the remainder of the fantasy regular season.

Monday evening update: According to Chris Tomasson, head coach Mike Zimmer contradicted earlier reports of a torn labrum for Cook. Zimmer said Cook did not tear his labrum and wouldn’t even confirm Cook’s shoulder dislocation. He described Cook as day-to-day.

Monday night update: Adam Schefter reported that Cook is expected to miss the next two games. The hope is he’ll be able to return in Week 15.

What does Cook’s injury mean for Alexander Mattison?

Fantasy managers have already seen this story play out. Whenever Cook misses time, Alexander Mattison is an RB1. It will be no different this time around.

Cook didn’t play in Weeks 3 and 5 of this season. Mattison played 67% of the offensive snaps in each of those games and posted 23 and 26 PPR fantasy points.

Mattison’s status as one of the most valuable handcuffs in all of fantasy football is no secret. It’s why despite having zero value while Cook is healthy, Mattison remained on half of fantasy rosters. Fantasy managers are aware of Mattison’s matchup-winning potential — he’s a guaranteed RB1 if anything were to happen to Cook.

With just two weeks remaining in the fantasy regular season, Mattison is poised to start at least a couple of games. He could certainly swing playoff positioning in many leagues.

Kene Nwangwu is also a name to monitor

Kene Nwangwu’s name is as difficult to write as he is to tackle. The fourth-round rookie has 2 kick-return touchdowns this year. He has 4.37 speed and elite athletic measurables across the board. At 6’0″ and 210 pounds, he has the size and athleticism to be a primary back in the NFL. Depending on how long Cook is expected to be out, Nwangwu might be worth stashing as the primary beneficiary of a potential Mattison injury. 

Last week was just the second time Nwangwu played any offensive snaps. He’s been exclusively a special teamer. However, he has the potential to be a difference-maker if thrust into a starting role. It’s certainly not out of the realm of possibilities. This late in the season, true home run lottery tickets are nearly impossible to find. Nwangwu has that upside and — depending on Cook’s timeline — is worth stashing if you’re locked into a playoff spot and have the space.

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