Dalvin Cook’s Injury Opens The Door For A Massive Opportunity

The quickest way to fall behind in a fantasy football league is to become complacent and rely on the team you drafted, neglecting the all-important waiver wire. As managers make numerous waiver claims for Week 4, hoping to strengthen their roster, should Minnesota Vikings RB Alexander Mattison be a priority addition ahead of his game against the New Orleans Saints?

Alexander Mattison continues to be a top-ranked fantasy football handcuff

Every single preseason we hear the same thing: Alexander Mattison is the best backup/handcuff you can draft in fantasy football. Well, it looks as if we might see that narrative put to use again this week, meaning Mattison could be one of the most important waiver wire selections for Week 4.

Subbing in for an injured Dalvin Cook, Mattison took over and ran the ball seven times for 28 yards and a touchdown in Week 3. It’s not the first time Mattison has taken over when Cook was unavailable. In the four games that Cook missed last year, Mattison finished as the RB7, RB6, RB8, and RB13 in those four games.

It is worth noting he was a bit lucky with the strength of schedule over that stretch, facing the Seattle Seahawks once and Detroit Lions twice. That said, Mattison consistently exceeded expectations, something even the best players fail to do more often than we would like.

In his three 2021 starts against Seattle and Detroit, Mattison averaged 24.3 rushes, 6.0 targets, and 149.3 total yards per game. He also found the end zone twice. Compiling all six of his career starts, Mattison has averaged 23.3 touches, 115.5 total yards, and 20.1 fantasy points.

If there is any positive to come out of this for Cook managers, it is that by the time the injury occurred, Cook had already put together a decent game. In Week 3, he was the RB18 in PPR formats, scoring 13.6 points thanks to 17 rushes for 98 yards and a touchdown.

While the Vikings are more aggressive vertically under Kevin O’Connell, when you have a running back like Cook or even Mattison, you can never write off the running game.

Dalvin Cook’s status is up in the air for Week 4

Complicating matters is that Cook is not guaranteed to miss Week 4, making it hard to gauge how much fantasy managers should invest in Mattison on the waiver wire.

Cook suffered a dislocated shoulder on Sunday, which is not uncommon for him. Cook has been dealing with shoulder injuries since high school. Last season, Cook dislocated his shoulder and tore his labrum in a contest against the San Francisco 49ers. It was reported that Cook played with his labrum still unrepaired.

It’s expected that Cook will wear a specially designed brace that helps keep his shoulder safer, something he did last year after sitting out just one game. There is a chance he doesn’t even miss time, as the Vikings are leaving open the possibility of Cook suiting up on Sunday against the Saints.

“He’s pretty sore today, but obviously something he’s familiar with. He’s tough, he’s ready to try to get back out there and go, but we’ll take it day-to-day,” O’Connell said to media members on Monday.

Take caution in using too much FAAB on Alexander Mattison

By no means am I saying not to take a swing at Mattison. If he is out there, you need to at least put in a claim for him, as he has a well-established track record of success when taking over the Minnesota backfield.

What I am saying is to use some caution and not drop 100% of your FAAB on him, as there is a chance Cook starts. If he does, it’d be tough to justify starting Mattison, as we don’t know what the snap share would be. If Cook sits, then it’s wheels up, and we ride Mattison as a premium RB2.

With all that said, we likely won’t have clarity on Cook’s situation until later in the week, meaning you need to make a gut call now. Mattison is a top-five waiver wire claim for Week 4, but he is not No. 1. That distinction most likely goes to Bears RB Khalil Herbert. Browns TE David Njoku is also on the shortlist given how devoid the tight end position is of difference-making options.

Even if Cook plays, Mattison and the Vikings have a difficult matchup. New Orleans is allowing the sixth-fewest points to the position through three games (16.1) and has allowed only one touchdown so far. They did give up over 100 yards to both Cordarrelle Patterson (120) and Christian McCaffrey (108), but it took over 20 carries for each to hit that total. If Cook is active, it’s likely that neither Cook nor Mattison will see similar volume.

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