Dalvin Cook Pre-Draft Fantasy Profile
Last November, I sat in a quickly emptying Carrier Dome in Syracuse N.Y. and pondered the 4 TD and 225-yard performance that Dalvin Cook
had just accomplished for his Florida State Seminoles against a vastly overmatched Syracuse Orange. Among the few remaining people left there was a gentleman with an FSU shirt sitting with his wife and two children. I leaned back and asked, “So just how good is this Dalvin Cook?” He replied, “He is the best back we have ever had at Florida State and may be the best back in ACC history.” The latter might be a bit of a reach but the first part is probably accurate. So it was not a huge surprise when Cook declared for the draft in January, and conventional wisdom seemed to be that he or LSU’s Leonard Fournette
would be the first running back selected. But in the past couple of months, Fournette has ascended to the top of the running back charts and Cook’s character, a weak performance at the NFL
Combine and some questions about past shoulder injuries have caused him to drop on many draft boards.
First, let’s take a brief look at the off the field issues that are making some teams concerned about taking Cook in the draft. He was arrested in 2009 for robbery and 2010 for firing and possessing a weapon on school property. Cook was then involved in an alleged incident involving BB-guns in 2014. He was one of a handful of players involved in an alleged bb-gun shooting that caused property damage that exceeded $200 and was less than $1,000.
Cook was charged with criminal mischief and given pre-trial intervention. In 2015 he was cited for animal cruelty. An animal control officer observed three puppies tethered directly around the neck by a heavy chain. The dogs were unable to move and the smaller puppies were choking. The animal control officer removed them for their safety. In 2014, Cook was charged with misdemeanor battery. However, Cook was acquitted after the jury took 25 minutes to reach their verdict. It was determined Cook was trying to de-escalate the situation and didn’t punch anyone. Not exactly Al Capone-like incidents, but enough to cause teams to give pause and think about where Cook goes in the draft.
Now for his on the field skills. Cook is 21 years old and sports a 5-foot-10, 210-pound frame. The films on him show that he’s an elusive back who is dominant after initial contact (2.6 YAC in 2016) and big enough to work at the goal line. Cook is also a more than adequate pass-catcher, averaging 14.8 yards per reception on 33 catches last year. Cook has shown the ability to create in confined space, and that’s key for any NFL runner. He’s a loose-hipped, change-of-direction runner with quick, active, live feet. He’s a slasher and a darter who has explosive short-area burst with subtle shiftiness, very good balance and body control with his stop-and-start quickness. Unfortunately, Cook’s performance at the combine was not a good one. He tested in the top 10 among running backs in only one event (bench press, 22 reps). Cook redeemed himself a bit at Florida State’s pro day, running the 40-yard dash at an unofficial 4.49, and looking sharp in pass-catching drills.
Given all of this information, Cook has been all over the place on mock draft boards. Some have him going at the end of the top ten picks. Others have him slipping to early in the second round. Somewhere in the middle of these seems likely as Cook has been often linked to Philadelphia (which picks 14th), Indianapolis (15th) and Tampa Bay (19th), where he would be reunited with Jameis Winston in the Buccaneers’ backfield. All three of these teams should provide Cook with significant playing time and give him plenty of opportunities to be fantasy relevant. Many experts have compared Cook to Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman. Freeman had 227 carries and 54 catches last season. Freeman can hit big plays in the running game and passing game. If Cook develops into a Freeman-type player, he would be a viable NFL and fantasy option for teams. The Cleveland Browns could be an interesting option as they not only hold the first pick of the draft, they also hold the 12th pick, and the first pick in the second round if Cook should slip down that far. Fantasy impact would be a little less here as the Browns do not yet possess a team that makes many players fantasy relevant. Slipping late into the first round could make him a good fantasy option if he ends up with the Green Bay Packers or Kansas City Chiefs. The Packers lost Eddy Lacy to free agency and the Chiefs released Jamaal Charles. Many pundits have also compared Cook’s running style to Charles, who when healthy was a fantasy stud. The Baltimore Ravens would also make an interesting fantasy option for Cook in this section of the draft. At this point, it’s easy to see why Cook is one of the bigger wildcards in this year’s NFL draft and next fall’s fantasy drafts.