Alexander Mattison's Fantasy Outlook vs. Lions after Dalvin Cook's Injury

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVDecember 3, 2021

Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison participates on a play against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
AP Photo/Julio Cortez

The spotlight is again on Alexander Mattison in the Minnesota Vikings' backfield.

Minnesota announced on Friday that Dalvin Cook has been ruled out for this week's game against the Detroit Lions with a shoulder injury, which positions Mattison as the temporary starter.

Fantasy football managers have seen plenty of the 2019 third-round draft pick as Minnesota's primary ball-carrier. Most recently, he filled in while Cook recovered from a torn labrum.

Mattison has carried the ball 88 times for 315 yards and one touchdown in 2021. He has also caught 21 passes for 149 yards and one score.

While Cook obviously cast a big shadow in the running game, Mattison's breakout wasn't entirely unexpected because he had two solid seasons as a backup in 2019 and 2020. Over that span, he ran for 896 yards and three touchdowns in 26 games and averaged 4.6 yards per carry.

There was a point at which Mattison represented an undervalued commodity on the waiver wire:

Matthew Berry @MatthewBerryTMR

Alexander Mattison - somehow still available in over 75% of ESPN leagues - is a locked in top 10 RB for at least the next two weeks. <a href="https://t.co/U2L2KFhmaJ">https://t.co/U2L2KFhmaJ</a>

After Cook's shoulder injury, the secret was out and the race to add Mattison was on, and the uncertainty over Cook's status going forward meant fantasy managers weren't going to jettison him after a game or two. 

Detroit's defense has allowed the fourth-most rushing yards in the NFL (1,473) and is tied for ninth in rushing touchdowns allowed (11). 

Per Pro Football Reference, opposing running backs are combining to score 23.2 fantasy points per game against the Lions. That's the third-highest mark in the NFL, behind only the New York Jets (28.5) and Seattle Seahawks (24.2). 

For those who were quick enough to hop on the Mattison bandwagon, he's a must-start in any format. 

Kirk Cousins is making $31 million, but that didn't stop the Vikings from putting Cook in a position to be a fantasy standout. Mattison should get more than enough touches to warrant RB1 or RB2 status, especially with a favorable matchup against a winless Lions team.