Dalvin Cook showed up to the NFL combine in a battle with Leonard Fournette to be the first running back off the board in the 2017 draft. With Ezekiel Elliott’s rookie success re-establishing enthusiasm for runners in both reality and fantasy formats, Cook was a near lock for the first round and a potential top-10 pick.
Then the combine happened.
He ran the 40-yard dash in a solid 4.49, not an elite time for a 210-pound back, but nothing that was going to torpedo his stock. Unfortunately, his 30.5-inch vertical, 7.27 three-cone, and 4.53 short shuttle paint the picture of a poor athlete at a position where athleticism is paramount.
We asked the RotoViz crew for their reactions to Cook’s performance.
Just Wait Until the Draft
Cook becoming a quality RB and fantasy asset is not something I question. He met the most important benchmark for RB success based on Kevin Cole’s model by running a 4.49 in the 40 yard dash and was a true workhorse at Florida State. After testing downright awful in the explosion and agility drills, it is possible that he isn’t a truly elite talent, but talent, shmalent. If he goes in the first round, or to the right team, he’s going to see volume, which is really all I care about at the RB position.
Production + Projected Opportunity = Still Really Good
I’m not overly worried about Cook’s combine numbers. His production at Florida State is arguably the best of any RB in the class. He ranks third overall in the class in career rushing yards and second in career rushing TDs. Only Donnel Pumphrey outproduced Cook as a rusher. Cook remains a likely first-round pick despite a poor combine and with that comes early opportunity. Cook’s poor numbers may have solidified Fournette as the top RB in the class, but projected opportunity and production maintain Cook’s status.
Dalvin Cook? More like Calvin Dook
Cook has a three-cone time and speed score that one might expect from an offensive lineman. In a vacuum, I don’t really care. In fact, it might be a good thing. If the bad teams with early draft picks let him slip, he’s going to land on a good team, which is basically all that matters. It’s Rob Kelley’s world now, fellas.
Willing to Bet on Production
Cook’s production at Florida State — one of just eight players since 2000 to exceed 4,000 yards rushing, 900 yards receiving, and 45 rushing TDs in a career — is massive. Before the combine, some analysts pegged him as the top RB in the 2017 class. Now, he’s likely to be dinged a bit because of his poor agility drill results. Falling into the 21 percent success node in Cole’s aforementioned regression tree isn’t great, but I’m still partial to his 0.65 career msRUYDS in the talent-laden ACC. He may not be the consensus RB1 in rookie drafts, but it’s likely a mistake to let him slip much further.
It Doesn’t Look Good
There’s no denying Cook’s college production, and the list of similarly productive players is interesting.
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference
But I can’t really make a strong case for him translating to the NFL without listing a bunch of excuses. Smaller backs that make it tend to either be extremely agile or explosive, and Cook has neither trait going for him.
Mark Ingram is the only RB I could find under 220 pounds to post similar numbers and still have a 1,000-yard season (one in six seasons).
|Player Name||Player Weight||Speed Score||Burst Score||Agility Score|
Can Cook be the next? Maybe, but I’m not banking on it.
Opportunity Isn’t Everything
How my thinking has evolved on Cook over time:
- Worry because he’s a boom-or-bust rusher.
- Convince myself those qualms are unfounded because he’s a freak athlete.
- Worry greatly once I realize he’s actually kind of a bad athlete.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think Cook should be a top-four pick in rookie drafts, but his outlook has suffered a lot. While it’s true he’ll likely be a high reality draft pick who gets immediate opportunity, dynasty is a long game. Only the most talented backs get significant opportunity for years upon years. I’m far from convinced that Cook is one of those backs now, whereas he might have been my pick at 1.01 if he had run something like a 4.4 flat while posting solid numbers in the other drills.
Devonta Freeman, Anybody?
A medium-sized Florida State running back with good pass-catching skills and maybe an inflated rushing average just sucked at the combine. Also, it’s 2014, and that runner’s name is Devonta Freeman. I prefer running backs who are big and/or athletic. Dalvin Cook is not big and not athletic … but some players similar to him have still had NFL success. It helps that Cook is a strong receiver out of the backfield and seems to be – according to people who watch tape and/or practice sorcery – good at football. If he gets drafted with a top-100 pick and a team gives him a chance to contribute as a rookie, he’ll still have a decent chance to be a starting fantasy player. Not on my team, but on someone’s team. If anything, his horrible combine will make him easier to acquire, which is probably a positive development.
The Final Tally
We have four votes anticipating that Cook’s production and solid 40 time will keep him in position to earn the all-important opportunity. We have two votes expressing real concern, and we have The Oracle prophesying that Cook will contribute to a future loss of his.
My preference at RB is for multi-faceted runners with big time production and electric agility. Last fall I traded for Cook in a devy league blockbuster, and in November I ranked him as an immediate top-15 player in dynasty. The combine offered a swift and brutal reminder that truly elite athleticism is rare, even among game-changing college players.
While I still expect Cook to be a successful NFL player, I’m no longer looking to add him to rosters. Once the psychological effect of the combine recedes, I’ll attempt to trade Cook. In this particular league, my ideal package would be Cook for Corey Davis and Jeremy McNichols.1 A week ago the proposal probably would have been accepted. I doubt that is the case any longer.
For more, check out an excellent edition of RotoViz Radio where Graham Barfield reflects on the combine and explains his Yards Created metric.
- I would definitely trade Cook to the Christian McCaffrey owner in a straight swap. (back)