EAGAN, Minn. — Less than two months after losing a running back in free agency, the Vikings added a versatile piece to their backfield Friday night.
Minnesota used the 102nd overall pick — the final selection of the third round — on Alexander Mattison, a Boise State junior running back who led the Mountain West Conference in rushing in 2018.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman believes the 5-foot-11, 221-pound Mattison will bring a blend of power and speed to Minnesota’s backfield.
“One of the areas we thought we needed to make sure we covered was at running back, and a different type since we lost Latavius Murray [in free agency],” Spielman said. “Alexander Mattison is a big back that is very productive, can catch the ball very well out of the backfield.
“I know his ability to go forward on contact, a lot like Latavius did for us. I know his ability to catch the ball. I know his ability in pass protection, and I know we have to have multiple backs in this offense,” Spielman later added. “We wanted something that was similar to a Murray type, and we felt that Alexander can definitely do that.”
Mattison chatted with the Twin Cities media shortly after learning he was a Viking, and said his mindset on the field is to be “fast and physical.”
“I think my versatility [is key]. I also think I’m a smart football player, and I make great decisions when I’m on the field and am very instinctive,” Mattison said. “Along with that, [my] versatility kind of pays off, and that makes me the back that I am.”
View images of Vikings new RB Alexander Mattison who was selected in the third round.
Moments after Mattison was drafted by Minnesota, NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah have his take on the Boise State product.
“Boise State has had some running backs come into the league,” Jeremiah said. “He’s a north-south runner when he’s lined up in the backfield, everything is downhill. He has a slithery style to him. They also put him out in the slot and use him on some of those fly sweeps, and I thought he caught the ball pretty well when he had the opportunities. You could see him catch balls outside of his frame.”
Mattison led the Mountain West Conference with 1,415 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns in 2018, becoming the first Boise State player to claim a conference rushing crown in school history.
But it was the final four games of the 2018 season that helped Mattison get on the map. He had 127 carries for 689 yards and seven touchdowns in four games to cap his college career.
That stretch included back-to-back 200-yard games in the final two games of the season against Utah State and Fresno State, respectively.
“It was just the right timing. We needed some things to happen, and I was able to put myself in a position to step up to the plate,” Mattison said. “I told my coaches that I’d never shy away from anything, and I’m so grateful they were able to tell me they’d put the team on my back and give me these carries.
“Obviously, half the time I didn’t realize how many carries I had during those games. It was amazing to get out there and play with my brothers and lay it all out on the line,” Mattison added. “In order for us to be successful, I was going to have to do that.”
A multi-sport athlete in high school, Mattison grew up in Southern California and was a league-champion wrestler as well as 110-meter hurdler in addition to starring on the gridiron.
He produced 2,829 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns in three seasons for Boise State, and now finds himself in Purple, and in a backfield that includes Dalvin Cook.
“I’m just looking forward to the opportunity to come in and go ahead and be anything the team needs me to be … special teams, offense … I’m willing to work and put in the work and am willing to contribute anyway that I can,” Mattison said. “I’m just going to work my butt off. I’m looking forward to playing with Dalvin.
“I’ve watched him play, and I look up to how he runs and how he carries himself,” Mattison added. “I can’t wait to get in there and collaborate and make that backfield a dynamic duo.”
Added Spielman: “We felt Mattison was just a unique back and a back that fit all our traits we were looking for, especially with the run game that we’re going to have and the workhorse that he can be.”