There is a whole load of optimism surrounding Dalvin Cook ahead of the 2019 season. Gary Kubiak’s influence on the Vikings offense has long thought to be of benefit to Cook, relying as it does on zone blocking principles. The hiring of Kubiak, not to mention the overall desire to be a more run-based offense, has contributed to the overall high hopes for Cook in 2019. He’s currently the RB8 in our redraft rankings.
The Vikings also spent a third-round draft selection this spring on Boise State back Alexander Mattison. Mattison is not exactly an explosive playmaker but enjoyed a solid college career as both a rusher and receiver. Mattison’s 19 rushing attempts through two preseason games have seen him amass 71 yards. He also has two receptions for five yards. His draft capital, however, indicates that he will be the main backup to Cook.
But another Vikings RB has been quietly going about his business this preseason, and has been nothing but productive in the two preseason games the Vikings have played. That player is Mike Boone. The likelihood of his earning serious playing time in 2019 should not be cast aside flippantly.
Boone enjoyed a productive collegiate career at Cincinnati, without ever establishing himself as the lead back.
His nose for the end zone stands out, as does his reliability when handling the ball (just one fumble). Boone also was a more than useful receiver out of the backfield, with 44 receptions in his last two years in college.
Boone went undrafted after leaving college. He signed for the Vikings prior to the 2018 season. He played sparingly as a rookie, appearing in eight games. These games saw him carry the ball 11 times for 47 yards. His two receptions brought him a solitary yard.
As an athlete, Boone is by far superior to Mattison among the Vikings RBs. He boasted upper percentile speed and burst at his pro day, after not gaining an invite to the NFL combine. His athleticism speaks to his ability to deliver big plays, which is something that Mattison hasn’t really looked like he can offer.
Boone has certainly been entrusted with a decent workload by the Vikings this preseason. Nick Brossette of the Patriots is the only player with more rushing attempts than Boone. He has carried the ball 25 times in two preseason games. However, no player has amassed more rushing yards than Boone. He leads the way with 136. This includes a 64-yard touchdown run against the Saints.
Some have drawn comparisons between the running styles of Cook and Boone. This would suggest that should Cook miss time, Boone would be a nice plug-and-play replacement. However, the Vikings investment in Mattison suggests that he would get the first crack should Cook go down. Boone is also in something of a battle with Ameer Abdullah for a roster spot. Abdullah may have the edge at present, given his skills as a kick returner. His 10 returns last season garnered 258 yards, which went some way towards making up for his complete lack of a role on offense. However, Boone did average 20.4 yards as a kick returner in college. He also played on 50% of the Vikings’ special teams snaps in Week 17 last season. Don’t write him off just yet.