CJ Ham’s Role has Shrunk & Expanded


Sep 23, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back CJ Ham (30) during a game between the Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

During the offseason, I thought that CJ Ham would be cut by the Vikings. My rationale was mostly based on the dollars and cents. Sure, Ham can still be a great fullback, but his $3.45 million cap hit would be too rich for the Vikings. Alas, I ended up being wrong; Ham is still leading the way for Dalvin Cook.

That being said, it’s notable that he’s been leading the charge less and less. In fact, he’s on pace for his smallest offensive role in a little while. From 2019-21, Ham never dipped below 33% of the offense’s snaps. Currently, he has played 16% of the offense’s snaps.

Indeed, his most significant impact so far has been on special teams. Ham has been included in 68% of the special teams snaps. If that trend continues, it’ll be his highest percentage of snaps in his career, which is no small feat. Ham has long been a strong player on special teams.

What we have, then, is less of a role on offense and more of a role on special teams.

By no means am I trying to suggest that CJ Ham isn’t an important player. On the contrary, I think he’s among the most significant players on the team. He is, after all, one of the captains. What has been obvious, though, is that he isn’t being relied upon as much on offense.

The tight ends have been featured more than I would have anticipated. We’ve seen plenty of Irv Smith Jr., a reality that isn’t super surprising. What’s perhaps a touch more surprising is that Johnny Mundt has been seeing so many snaps (45% of the offenses snaps). The former Rams TE has been relied on as an occasional pass catcher – he has 11 catches for 75 yards – and then to provide some extra muscle when the team is looking for more blocking.

Cook had a poor game last Sunday. His stats were looking pretty rough until he took a carry to the end zone from 53 yards him away. Take a peak at who was in front of him:

It’s fascinating to see Miami’s linebackers flow aggressively to where Ham is leading them. In so doing, Cook has the room to cut back toward some green grass. Once he gets a bit of room, Cook is able to pull away from any Dolphins defender who has even a small chance of catching up to him.

Currently, CJ Ham is the 10th ranked fullback on PFF, a discouraging position given that only 10 are considered. Upon considering his snap breakdown, perhaps the first thing to jump out is the aforementioned role on special teams. He doesn’t have too many snaps on offense – his 19 in Week 6 were the most for the season – but he has been one of the central players on kickoff, kickoff return, punt, and punt return.

At the end of the day, the goal isn’t to feature the fullback prominently. Rather, the goal is to have an effective offense, one that scores plenty of points so that the team can win plenty of games. If Ham shows he can be still help the team accomplish that goal, then we’ll start seeing him on offense more as the season progresses. In the meantime, keep an eye on the fullback when the special teams are on the field.


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