For the past decade, the Minnesota Vikings’ backfield was synonymous with one name: Adrian Peterson. However, ‘All Day’ is now in the Big Easy, leaving a vacancy behind. One of the most polarizing prospects in this year’s rookie class, Dalvin Cook, joins a Vikings team desperate for a consistent running game. Could he be the heir to AP’s throne? Let’s dig a little deeper to find out.
An All-American during his time at Miami Central High School, Cook was a 5-star recruit according to Rivals.com. After receiving offers from powerhouse programs throughout the country, Cook decided to attend Florida State University. Cook wasted no time making a name for himself in Tallahassee as he rushed for 1,000+ yards and 8 TD’s as a freshman.
After a promising freshman campaign, things took a turn for the worse. In July 2015, Cook was suspended indefinitely from FSU after being charged with battery after an incident outside a Tallahassee bar. Cook allegedly punched a female in the face after an argument broke out. However, later that summer, Cook was found not guilty and rejoined the Seminoles prior to his Sophomore campaign.
Over the next two seasons, Cook set the college football world on fire, breaking Warrick Dunn’s school records for single-season and career rushing yards. A highly productive college back, Cook proved that he had all the tools to be an NFL RB – speed, power, agility, big play ability, the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, etc. He was a near lock for a first-round pick in the NFL Draft. Then, the combine…
NFL Combine and Draft
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Despite an outstanding college career filled with production and sustainability, Cook had a horrific performance at the NFL Combine. Personally, I don’t like to read too much into the combine, as I feel its use is limited in being able to predict NFL success. Yes, it displays an athlete’s athleticism and skill, but there are no defenders, no pads, and at times, no cleats. Cook’s NFL draft stock took a hit after his poor performance at the combine. It is likely this, in combination with his off-field concerns, caused him to drop to the 2nd round, where he was selected by the Minnesota Vikings with the 41st overall pick. To me, the truth is on the tape, and what the tape shows is a prolific player who can do it all at the RB position.
Redraft – Cook joins a crowded Minnesota backfield, joining newly-signed free agent, Latavius Murray and incumbent, Jerick McKinnon. McKinnon was given his chance as the lead back last year, after AP went down with an injury, and failed to take control of the job, leading to the signing of Murray and the drafting of Cook. However, I do think McKinnon will still have a role on this team, likely in a change of pace, 3rd down type of role. Murray figures to get intermittent early down work and, with his 6’3” 230 lb. frame and 12 TDs from a year ago, I expect him to see the majority of the goal line carries. Early on, I expect Cook’s workload to be relatively light. However, if Murray fails to impress, an injury occurs, or Cook flashes early, I could see a scenario where he gets the majority of the work as the season progresses. As the season opens I see Murray and Cook each getting 10-15 touches per game and McKinnon in the 6-8 touch range. This, combined with running behind one of the league’s worst O-lines in 2016 (though revamped a bit), is one reason I’m not taking Cook before the 10th round.
Dynasty – Cook’s dynasty value is another story. Worthy of a top 5 pick in dynasty rookie drafts, Cook joins the conversation with the likes of Fournette, Mixon, and McCaffery as the top RBs in this year’s rookie class. The FSU product has all the tools you want in a dynasty RB, especially for those playing in PPR. He’s proven he can catch the ball out of the backfield. I see Cook’s true value coming to fruition next season when he is likely handed the keys to the kingdom in Minnesota. Latavius Murray’s 3-year contract is heavily front-loaded, giving the Vikings the opportunity to move on from him after year one or year two. It’s obvious with this signing that Murray is not the long-term answer in Minnesota. The Vikings spent high draft capital on Cook to be ‘the guy,’ and with a defensive-minded coach in Mike Zimmer, they’re going to want to run the ball – a lot. Given a full workload, Cook has the tools and ability to be an RB1 for multiple years.
*I chose not to address Cook’s injury history in this piece. Interested in finding out more about it, and other rookies like Mike Williams, Corey Davis, and Leonard Fournette? Check out my article here.