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Price, Production & Profile: The 2019 Zero RB Sleeper You’re Missing Out On

What if I told you that one of 2019’s best Zero RB candidates is currently available in the 13th and 14th rounds of fantasy football drafts?

He’s a player who racked up nearly 3,000 total yards over his final two years of college and now plays on a team that projects to be amongst the run-heaviest offenses in the league.

All this while being second on a barren depth chart behind a back who’s struggled with injuries.

Figure it out yet? If not, let me introduce you to the free ZRB candidate who could well be a league winner in 2019.

Alexander Mattison is Far Too Cheap

I’m surprised by the complete lack of heat that Minnesota Vikings RB Alexander Mattison is getting compared to other “handcuffs” around the league.

Guys like Ito Smith and Jaylen Samuels are going 70 to 80 picks ahead of Mattison when they are all essentially all in the same fantasy boat.

And it’s not like we’re talking about some UDFA scrub here. Mattison went in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft (higher than all three of these other backs beating him in ADP), the seventh RB off the board.

His production profile is excellent. The Boise State Bronco ran for 2,501 yards after taking over from Jeremy McNichols as the starter while tacking on 55 receptions.

Year G Ru ATT Ru Yds Ru TD Rec Rec YDS Rec AVG Rec TD
2016 11 67 328 4 5 54 10.8 0
2017 14 212 1086 12 28 284 10.1 1
2018 13 302 1415 17 27 173 6.4 0

Mattison likely would have been selected even higher in April had he not bombed the combine. His 40-yard dash time of 4.67 in Indy was slow, even for someone tipping the scales at 5-foot-11 and 221 pounds.

That performance led to worries that he might plummet in the draft, or perhaps even go undrafted. But the Vikings, apparently aware that production trumps athleticism, jumped at the chance to draft Dalvin Cook’s new backup in the third.

Here at RotoViz, the only thing we love more than a great production profile one that’s combined with extreme youth. At a rookie age of 21.5 years, Mattison is the second-youngest RB in this class. Blair Andrews has shown why that number is key, as rookie backs who play at 21 years old hit RB2 numbers almost 40% of the time.

So, here we have a young and productive rookie RB, factors which on their own make Mattison an undervalued dynasty target and someone that I clearly whiffed on when I looked at the RBs to target in rookie drafts.

But Mattison has the potential to be a league winner in redraft and bestball leagues this season.

Embracing Antifragility

The idea behind the Zero RB strategy is to look for unstable situations where we can benefit from “volatility, randomness, and disorder.”

That’s an apt way to describe Dalvin Cook, who’s suffered some kind of significant injury in every season going back to 2014, including a torn ACL in his rookie season, and last year, a string of soft-tissue issues that limited him to 11 games of varying effectiveness. If Cook somehow suits up 16 times in 2019, it’ll be a first.

Sports Injury Predictor gives him an ominous 57.6% chance of being injured yet again in 2019.

Meanwhile, the only other backs behind Cook and Mattison on the depth chart are Michael Boone, a 2018 UDFA rookie with 11 career rush attempts, and Ameer Abdullah.

And this is on a team showing clear indications it wants to run more in 2019. Leading up to the Vikings’ Week 14 firing of offensive coordinator John DeFilippo last year, there were multiple reports that coach Mike Zimmer wanted to run the ball more. After DeFilippo was dismissed, Zimmer got his way, as the Vikings passed the ball 32.2% less often and jacking up the rush attempts by 31.3%.

They followed that up by hiring run-game/play-action guru Gary Kubiak as their new OC in the offseason before beefing up the offensive line by spending a first-round pick on center Garrett Bradbury.

All arrows point to a run-first offense in Minnesota this season, and that could mean a huge season for Cook … if he can stay healthy.

But in the more likely event that he continues to battle injuries, the man who will benefit most is Mattison.

Conclusion

Mattison is:

  • Young
  • Productive
  • Playing in a what’s likely a run-heavy offense
  • Playing behind an RB who hasn’t been able to stay healthy
  • Basically free

I’m not sure what else you’d want in a ZRB candidate. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone with a better combination of upside and price in fantasy drafts than Mattison.

Image Credit: Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Alexander Mattison.

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