In three seasons at Florida State, running back Dalvin Cook demonstrated his electric game breaking ability on a weekly basis. A two-time first team All-American, he is a surefire first round pick and genuine playmaker.
Cook’s strengths include elite speed, excellent vision, incredible balance, devastating change of direction ability and a unique ability to make lateral cuts without slowing down. His two primary weaknesses are issues with ball security and a concerning history of minor injuries.
A product of Miami Central High School and consensus top-15 prospect nationally, the Seminoles managed to flip Cook from their rival Gators late in the recruiting cycle. As a freshman, Cook played behind former Buffalo Bills tailback Karlos Williams as FSU attempted to defend their 2013 National Championship.
After getting his feet wet in September, Cook broke out against Syracuse for 122 yards on 22 carries. Then Dalvin cracked 100-yards against Louisville on only nine carries, and claimed much of the workload from Williams towards the end of the season, with 144 rushing yards against Florida and 177 rushing yards against Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game. Even though he eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards on 5.8 yards per carry as a true freshman, his season ended on a down note with a pair of costly fumbles against Oregon in the College Football Playoffs.
Cook assumed the role of workhorse back as a sophomore, accumulating 229 carries in 2015. Dalvin erupted for 266 rushing yards and three touchdowns against South Florida, 269 total yards and three touchdowns against Miami, 194 rushing yards against Clemson and 183 rushing yards against Florida. Defenses were certainly keying on Cook, as FSU struggled with mediocre quarterback play after Jameis Winston’s early departure, but they were still unable to contain Cook and his explosive ability. Making his 2015 campaign even more impressive, Dalvin played through a strained hamstring throughout the second half of the year, he tumbled down after beating the entire defense with nothing but grass in front of him multiple times, and still produced 20 total touchdowns.
Despite some bad publicity resulting from a battery charge against a female that he was acquitted of after a mere 20 minute jury deliberation, Cook entered last season with considerable Heisman trophy buzz. Catching the ball out of the backfield was an offseason point of emphasis, and Cook showed his improvement in that area right out of the gate in Week 1 against Mississippi, posting seven catches for 101 receiving yards. He also posted over 100 receiving yards, along with 140 rushing yards and three touchdowns, against North Carolina.
Cook’s junior season flew under the national radar since he began the year at less than full strength due to offseason shoulder surgery, and the Seminoles suffered a disappointing blowout loss to Louisville in Week 3. Still, Cook was nearly unstoppable behind an average at best offensive line. His most memorable performances were a 169 yard, two touchdown rushing output versus Clemson, 153 rushing yards against Florida and 145 yards on the ground at 7.3 yards per carry in the Orange Bowl against Michigan’s stout front. Cook finished his junior campaign with 2,253 yards from scrimmage on the year, 48 career touchdowns and a collegiate average of 6.5 yards per rushing attempt.
Cook is a fierce competitor and a positive locker room influence. Not a rah-rah personality type, Dalvin is strictly business, a quiet leader. He pushed himself through injuries on multiple occasions as a Seminole. Cook is also a prime time player, producing many of his best games against FSU’s toughest competition. Furthermore, he was the only top rated 2017 running back to suit up for his final bowl game. Both Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey sat out their final college bowl games to protect themselves for the NFL.
While not a power back, Cook has a well developed build. He measures in at 5’11” 210 pounds. Dalvin is effective running between the tackles to convert short yardage situations due to his vision and quickness. Cook also has a strong nose for the end zone. His short, choppy stride and darting style allow him to maximize yards gained when the blocking breaks down.
His rushing ability out wide is truly exceptional. Cook combines the ankle breaking elusiveness of a young Jamaal Charles with the ridiculous straight line speed of Chris Johnson. If he gets the edge, it almost always results in chunk play, if not a score.
Cook has also drawn comparisons to Edgerrin James and Marshal Faulk. His cut back ability is superb, he knows how to set up blocks and consistently hits the hole without dancing. Cook is comfortable with or without a fullback, he is tailor made for a zone blocking scheme. FSU was deadly running the ‘Counter Trey’ last season.
Cook’s fumbles are a legitimate concern, he put the ball on the turf 13 times at FSU. His durability at the next level is another cause for concern. In addition to dealing with recurring hamstring issues, Cook has undergone three shoulder surgeries.
Running back is a devalued position in the NFL these days, but Cook is considered a top-15 overall prospect on most expert’s big boards at this stage of the draft evaluation process. Opinions are mixed on whether Cook or Fournette from LSU is the best running back in the class, but almost everyone agrees that both should be selected in the top-20 and are among the best backs to enter the NFL in recent memory. Cook was smart to forego his senior season of college eligibility and maximize his earnings potential since the average longevity of the position diminishes the value of all running backs.
The team that selects Cook may decide to save his body from unnecessary hits by pairing him with a bruising runner to employ in power running situations, but he does possess the versatility to be a three down back. Cook is solid in pass protection and has the ability to line up as a slot receiver occasionally in creative packages. Dalvin is talented enough to be the centerpiece of his team’s offensive game plan every week. It would be surprising if Cook does not lead the NFL in explosive plays out of the backfield as a rookie.
It is always difficult to project a player’s ability when they step up in competition to the NFL, but Cook is pretty close to a sure thing. His speed, balance and elusiveness in college should translate into placement within the top echelon of athleticism at the professional level. It is also worth noting he did not have the benefit of a dominant offensive line at FSU, but was able to consistently overcome stacked boxes from top rated ACC and SEC defenses.
While many recent running back prospects who were drafted early, including Derrick Henry, Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon, ran behind mauling offensive lines in college, with game plans predicated on wearing the opposition down through talented running back committees, Cook was successful mostly on his own accord.
However, despite this glowing prospect overview, the Baltimore Ravens still should not select Dalvin Cook in the first round. He would constitute a luxury pick, and the Ravens simply have too many other pressing positional needs this offseason to choose a running back early if they hope to contend for the Super Bowl next season.
Nevertheless, Cook is truly a generational talent. No matter which team lands Dalvin Cook, he should be near the top of your fantasy football draft cheat sheet next August.