Dalvin Cook Released: What Can Fantasy Managers Expect From Alexander Mattison in 2023?

    With Dalvin Cook's time with the Vikings coming to a close, what is longtime handcuff Alexander Mattison's fantasy outlook for 2023?

    In recent weeks, many eyes have been on the constantly evolving situation surrounding the Minnesota Vikings, where Dalvin Cook’s future has been in doubt. With a release or trade reportedly imminent, what is the 2023 fantasy football outlook for longtime RB handcuff Alexander Mattison?

    Alexander Mattison: One of the Top Handcuffs

    As longtime readers know, each of the last few summers I’ve pushed the same three guys as must-draft running backs based on their consistently too-low ADPs: Tony Pollard, AJ Dillon, and Mattison.

    The reasons should be clear. All three have had monster ceilings when given the chance to start. Investing a middle-round draft pick on a high-payoff lottery ticket is money well spent.

    Of the three, Mattison has had the most muted career thus far. Pollard proved last season that longtime bell cow Ezekiel Elliott was beyond expendable, finishing as the overall RB8.

    While he’s racked up 615.3 fantasy points in four seasons, Dillon has a respectable 393.5 in three campaigns, with stand-alone streaming value in both 2021 and 2022.

    What about Mattison? Well, a mostly healthy Cook — combined with Minnesota’s top-heavy offensive approach — has stunted Mattison’s development. He’s accrued only 369.6 fantasy points in four seasons.

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    But those numbers don’t reflect how good he is. The final pick in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Mattison has frequently shined when given the chance. In six career starts, he’s put together a 117-477-3 rushing line and a 23-216-2 receiving line.

    Additionally, heading into last season, he was the only NFL running back to finish in the top eight in broken-tackle rate in each of these previous three seasons. Last year, he finished just a bit outside the top 12.

    As a workhorse-capable RB (he hit 20+ carries 13 times while at Boise State, including a 40-carry effort) in a plus offense with good hands, Mattison has always been on the verge of fantasy greatness. He’s simply needed the opportunity.

    Mattison’s 2023 Fantasy Value

    As Cook’s illustrious tenure in Minnesota comes to a close, fantasy managers need to know where to draft Mattison. There are three primary factors to consider.

    First, to what extent do the Vikings trust Mattison as their new bell cow? I believe the answer is “a lot.” Knowing Cook’s time in Minnesota might be ending, this franchise nevertheless held pretty firm this offseason with their existing backfield talent.

    Behind Mattison are 2022 fifth-rounder Ty Chandler and 2021 fourth-rounder Kene Nwangwu. Both are solid depth pieces. Neither are fierce challengers for toppling Mattison atop the depth chart.

    In this year’s draft, the Vikes opted to bypass a number of NFL-ready RBs, choosing DeWayne McBride in the seventh round instead. It might prove to be a brilliant pick (McBride was a bit of a steal at that spot), and while the rookie might eventually earn the handcuff role, he’s a more two-dimensional version of Mattison. In other words, while McBride might pick up a few carries per game, Mattison remains the more talented and versatile option.

    Second, will Mattison earn goal-line looks? This is key to his fantasy value. A 12-TD bell cow versus a five-TD bell cow? You don’t need to be a mathematician to appreciate the difference. To be a certifiable top-10 RB, Mattison needs to earn his team’s trust near the end zone.

    In Week 18 last year, he scored twice from the 1-yard line — a possible preview of how he’ll be utilized this season. In fact, 11 of Mattison’s 14 career scores have come from inside the 10-yard line.

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    Last season, only two running backs earned more carries than Cook inside the 5-yard line. If this holds for his replacement, then Mattison should be just fine.

    Third, to what extent will Minnesota feed Mattison early each game? As fantasy managers know, your star RB exiting the first quarter with three carries for 14 scoreless yards can cause minor heartburn. Many teams try to establish the run. Not all are successful, and sometimes they bail early.

    In five of Cook’s six NFL seasons, he earned more carries in the opening frame than in any other. This was an unheralded key to his fantasy prowess. By running early and often, there was less risk of an overly positive or overly negative game script sabotaging his fantasy day.

    If Mattison is a top-three offensive weapon in the opening quarter, then he should consistently have 4-8 fantasy points heading into the second frame. That might not seem like much, but it could mean the difference between a weekly must-start RB and a weekly streamer.

    I’m bullish about Mattison in 2023 because I believe all three factors will bend his way. He should be ranked as a top-10 fantasy RB.

    B.J. Rudell is a betting and fantasy analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read all of BJ’s work here and follow him on Twitter: @BJRudell.

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