Rookie Spotlight: Dalvin Cook, Florida State University
Height: 5’ 10 3/8”
Weight: 210 lbs
Hands: 9 1/4”
Arm: 32 3/8”
40 yard dash: 4.49 (combine)
NFL Comparison: Upside – LeSean McCoy, Downside – Mike Gillislee
– elusive; constant big play threat
– lightning-fast acceleration functionally
– quick feet, short stride
– always gets yards after contact
– great balance
– patient runner
– multiple arrests
– other character concerns
– bottom 10% athletic profile at the combine
– not prototypical NFL feature back size
Scouting Notes: Dalvin Cook may be the best running back to come out of Florida State – many would argue that it’s a matter of fact. This is no small feat with guys like Warrick Dunn and Devonta Freeman having donned the scarlet and gold in the past. It’s hard to argue with his proponents when you watch the young man on tape. Cook is electric with the ball in his hands, constantly churning his feet whether he’s making a lateral move or bursting upfield. You find yourself holding your breath almost every time he touches the ball in anticipation of him seeing daylight through his line and taking it down for 6, whether he’s in his opponent’s red-zone or his own.
The perfect combo of speed and power, Cook plays beyond what would seem capable for his slighter frame, amassing almost 5,400 all-purpose yards and 48 TDs over three years at FSU. He can beat you to the corner or grind through you with his shoulder – either way, first contact is likely to fail. His strength is for real. Only three backs benched more than him at the Combine, and they all outweighed Cook by at least 10 lbs – two of the guys had at least 20 lbs on him.
The rest of his Combine was disappointing to say the least. He ran a fast (4.49) but not blistering 40, and his drills paled in comparison to what we’ve seen on Saturdays out of him. Cook has never been one to shrink on the big stage when it comes to football games, though. He craves the opportunity to produce when the stakes are highest, and he seldom disappoints to that end. You can’t over-exaggerate Cook’s ability to make defenders miss on every level. He’s got superb vision and he knows what moves – head and feet – to make to fake a tackler out and how to react to sudden movements even more suddenly.
It’s not all sunshine and lollipops when it comes to Cook, though. He’s had multiple arrests (no convictions), and though some say they had more to do with the company he keeps than the man himself, it’s still a red flag for any would-be suitors. On the field, Cook has had trouble holding onto the ball over his career (13 fumbles), and if there’s something that will keep a great back out of the huddle on Sundays it’s an issue with ball control. That issue extends to his hands, which aren’t natural, though he’s improved as a pass catcher over his career. His pass protection is not much better – he’s just not reliable enough, though he’s willing, and that’s a start. One would expect Cook to have more wiggle in his hips for a smaller back too. He’s kind of stiff in that area, though it doesn’t seem to affect his elusiveness in any noticeable way.
Fantasy Outlook: Cook is arguably the most talented back in the draft, and he can thrive in any scheme and out of any formation, so he’s going to be taken early on – at least in the first round despite horrible physical testing outcomes this draft season. He is not likely to be the first back taken in the draft, though, and probably won’t even be the second given the growing buzz around Christian McCaffrey.
Fournette has the speed and the bulk to physically dismiss tacklers in the NFL whereas Cook will have to rely mainly on his speed and agility at the next level. And though Cook has had his off-field troubles, his coaches can’t stop lauding his yeoman-like effort on the field and his ability to spur on his teammates to greater things. He’s a plug-and-play back who can start on day 1 of the NFL regular season. For that reason, he should be a top three selection in any dynasty draft format and a top three-to-five round pick in redrafts depending on where he lands, though there are few spots where he wouldn’t be a 15-to-18-touch “starter” right away.