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2018 Rewind Study: Dalvin Cook (Was My 2017 Scouting Negativity Justified?)
-- Our offseason 'Rewind' reports are where we look at an individual player's previous season(s) of work--analyzing and researching it for clues on whether it was a 'blip' performance, or signs of future greatness...or signs of a mega-bust approaching. --
Let me just start this Rewind Report by being upfront – I don’t like Dalvin Cook as a high-end NFL prospect going into this. I didn’t like the measurables/the analytics pre-draft and I never saw what the big deal was when analysts tried to push him as THE top RB draft prospect back in January 2017 (before running away from it after his pre-Draft workouts). I wasn’t ‘wowed’ by his tape study either. He’s not a bust or a joke, just not someone that should have a red carpet rolled out for him. D’Onta Foreman and Samaje Perine are far superior talents, in my book, than Cook…but they were drafted well after Cook (who was pick #41) in 2017 – all the way to #41 because Cook fell radically in the draft from expectations…because I think a lot of football people saw the on-field and off-field issues.
So, note, I go into this disliking Cook…but that’s why I am doing this Rewind Report. I like to re-examine positions that have markers that I could be wrong. In this case…EVERYONE loves Cook, he had a nice splash onto the NFL scene in 2017, and Minnesota jammed Cook in as ‘the man’ opening day while benching superior talents Latavius Murray (who they had just spent millions on bringing in) and Jerick McKinnon (who SF just spent millions on acquiring). So, what if I’m wrong on Cook on the Vikings are ‘right’? That’s the type of question I like to study to see what I see. So, here we are…
I just watched/studied all four games of Cooks from 2017, before he got hurt and lost for the season with an ACL…and then the 2-2 Vikings won eight in a row and 11 of 12 without Cook, but ‘whatever’…I digress.
I watched these 4 games looking for clues, looking for where I might be wrong. I didn’t go in to reinforce what I already thought. I try to go in to a Rewind study to defeat my own self, to defeat my previous beliefs.
In the case of me versus me on Dalvin Cook, after looking at the 2017 evidence again and knowing what I know from his college work – I render the decision that I’m right. The me that didn’t like Cook going in is still the winner.
I know what you (long time FFMers) are thinking…”Yeah, you’re ‘right’ like with Devonta Freeman and Melvin Gordon.” And you mean that with respect, I think. Devonta Freeman and Melvin Gordon are not two of the top 50 RB talents in the NFL, in my book…and throw Cook in there as well, but when it comes to fantasy talent doesn’t always matter. So, you’re right – this is Freeman and Gordon all over again. Flimsy/mediocre running backs getting Walter Payton pushes by their flawed coaches/organizations.
The same system that worshipped Jameis Winston as the best QB prospect ever, etc., they are definitely worth questioning and mocking on scouting. I think they are wrong on Cook, but they’re convinced they’re right and only an injury (like in 2017) can stop the madness.
When I watched Cook in his four 2017 games, I was wholly unimpressed…again. He is a sound, ‘C’ grade NFL RB. He’s not a bust, or a joke like Rob Kelley or Ka’Deem Carey or Jeremy Langford, etc. He’s just ‘Jeremy Hill good’…he’ll go as far as the blocking and work volume takes him. He’s not a gifted runner, athletically. He’s tough. He has enough juice to get through an open hole, but when the hole is plugged – Cook is going down for little or no gain. He’s going to be a perpetually low yards per carry guy like Melvin Gordon.
Some of you Smart Alec’s probably stopped and looked to see Dalvin Cook had a robust 4.78 ypc in 2017. Here’s the potential issue with that: He had four runs of 20+ yards and they were unimpressive runs -- plays where he had a ton of open space and/or was in the part of a game where the contest was getting out of hand/effectively over. He ran through open space and was caught from behind quickly downfield. On his other 70 carries in 2017, minus those four 20-40 yard runs, Cook averaged just 3.4 yards per carry and was 10 yards or less on every one of those totes.
Cook is not a breakaway runner. He is the classic straight-ahead runner…very little wiggle, and no ability to stop at the sight of congested traffic, plant his feet, change direction swiftly and dart to the outside and make a shocking play out of nothing. Cook gives you what the line gives him, and you could find 100+ running backs with solid/limited speed like Cook to do the same, and a lot of them bigger RBs to move a pile at least. Cook isn’t a ‘pile mover’ at 205-210 pounds.
And I’d add that Cook has average hands in the passing game. He’s not a hidden WR talent in an RB’s body. He’ll catch your screens and swings OK, but he’s not ultra-smooth as a receiver or good running medium and deep patterns.
Not a power runner. Poor agility (and as tested pre-draft). No breakaway speed. So-so hands.
What am I supposed to love here, again?
Oh, yeah…the fact that Mike Zimmer is going to jam him 20+ touches a game.
I think I’m watching Devonta Freeman all over again when I watch Cook, but I’d argue Freeman is better than Cook…and I’m not a Freeman fan either. You can have Cook, I’ll draft any number of other players around his wildly overcooked top 10-15 overall ADP. I realize he may live up to the top 10-15 billing because of touches – but it’s going to be without me because I won’t touch him. No upside unless jammed a ton of underserved volume.
I got coming off an ACL risk. I got a talent problem. I got talented Latavius Murray sitting there. I got Cook with a very troubling off-field resume. People are paying a top price for a mediocre, inflated asset. Good luck if you invest in Cook, but I will not have one fantasy team with him…and if I inherited one with him, I’d make trading him hot my first priority of business.
*Our 2018 Draft Guide package of reports and ever-updating projections/rankings are now available from the FFM home page. Fantasy Football Metrics