Fantasy Riser: Alexander Mattison has Massive Upside if Dalvin Cooks Holds Out

Vikings running back Alexander Mattison may already be fantasy football’s most targeted handcuff in drafts. SI Fantasy analyst Matt De Lima says if Dalvin Cook holds out, Mattison could be one of the premier backs in 2020.
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Back on June 8, it was reported that Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook would not participate in any team activities until he received a new contract. Cook is in the final year of his rookie contract and the 32nd-highest-paid RB in the league ($4,932,500). He’s also the second-highest-paid RB on the Vikings behind Ameer Abdullah ($4.966,127).

In the meantime, backup second-year RB Alexander Mattison has shot up draft boards a full round. I imagine the longer this holdout goes on, the more we will see Mattison’s ADP trickle upward.

In his 2019 rookie season, given limited action, Mattison had some nice moments. He rushed 100 times for 462 yards and a score while adding 10 receptions for 82 yards. The concern here is that Cook took up such a large share of the touches (303) that there really isn’t much left of the pie to share with Mattison. However, Cook missed two games last year, five games in 2018, and 12 games in his 2017 rookie season (torn ACL). With those injuries in mind, Mattison is a great handcuff or a nice player to hold onto should Cook’s potential holdout carry on into the season.

What I really like about Mattison’s skillset is he always takes what is there and doesn’t seem too preoccupied with jukes or the appearance of being shifty. He’s a downhill runner and flows well with a zone-blocking scheme. A lot of backs will do what Le’Veon Bell often does, which is to move up to the line, pause and try to use vision and short-area agility to find and burst through the hole.

Problem is, most players don’t have the patience or quickness to do it as well. Mattison is the opposite. He’s pouring downfield on every play. He is a prototypical north-south runner and adds a nice mix of balance, speed, and power to eat up yards.

I feel Mattison has that goldilocks, “just right” amount of value where you don’t have to grab him too early as a handcuff. 

mattisonadp

For example, if you wanted to handcuff Kareem Hunt (ADP 53) to Nick Chubb (14), that would cost you an early second and a fifth (possibly a first for Chubb). On the other hand, Cook costs a first (ADP 5) and eighth (93). Every round you can wait on a handcuff helps. This is also near Mattison’s max value which has blown up after Cook’s potential holdout news. If there’s positive news on contract negotiations, Mattison’s ADP will shrink down a bit, and meanwhile, he’s still a handcuff to one of the more injury-prone backs in that first round. On the flip side, if a holdout looks imminent, Mattison will fly up almost four rounds up to around pick 50.

Will Ragatz from Inside the Vikings had this to say when evaluation Mattison when writing about which NFC North teams had the best running backs:

"What locks the Vikings into this top spot is the presence of Mattison as Cook's backup. The 2019 third-rounder out of Boise State totaled 544 yards from scrimmage on 110 touches last season. He was seen by many as a pure power back coming out of college, but showed impressive burst and elusiveness during his rookie season. He's also the best hurdler in the NFL, though the Vikings may want him doing that less frequently because of the injury risks. Mattison is probably already better than Latavius Murray, the Vikings' backup in 2017 and 2018."

If you’re drafting in these mid-summer months, you definitely want to pepper Mattison onto a few of your teams since you’ll be getting a RB2 at a flex price. As we dig into August, we’ll learn enough about a possible holdout to get a better feel for how this backfield will shake out.