With the initial craze of free agency now behind us, it is time to look forward to the 2022 NFL Draft that is now only days away. The Baltimore Ravens currently have 10 picks, including the No. 14 overall pick — their highest since drafting All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley with the No. 6 overall pick in 2016.
In addition to pressing needs at cornerback and offensive tackle, among others, another position where the Ravens could add depth is running back.
With J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards coming off torn ACLs and Justice Hill returning from a torn Achilles injury, as well heading into the last year of his rookie deal, adding a young piece to the backfield via the draft will likely be in the cards.
This year’s incoming class is loaded with prospects at the position that can fit specific roles or possess diverse skillsets. One such prospect that can likely be had in the middle rounds and fill a defined role is James Cook from the University of Georgia.
He is the younger brother of Dalvin Cook, a three-time Pro Bowl running back for the Minnesota Vikings. While the younger of the two Cooks isn’t the complete package and may never be considered among the league’s elite at the position like his older brother, he can be a more than serviceable situational contributor to a backfield-by-committee rotation.
#UGA RB James Cook (#4) doesn't light up the stat sheet and yet he's one of the more consistent runners in the SEC.— Nick Price (@PriceCheck3) November 15, 2021
Here, Cook shows great burst through the gap, using his speed to weave around defenders for a touchdown. Cook has impressed me significantly this year. pic.twitter.com/ENpQxlx7qf
His best season in college came in his senior year during the Bulldogs’ championship run where he paired with fellow 2022 prospect, Zamir White, to form quite the potent tandem. Cook averaged over six yards per carry every year and nearly eclipsed his combined career total in rushing yards through three years in his fourth with a career-high 728 on the ground. He recorded over 1,000 yards from scrimmage by adding 284 receiving yards to his total and scored a combined 11 touchdowns in 2021.
The Ravens need a change of pace back that possesses the speed to rip off long runs since they already have the bruising power back in Edwards and a dynamic talent in Dobbins who could offer the best of both worlds.
JAMES COOK LOOKING LIKE HIS OLDER BROTHER DALVIN pic.twitter.com/fnJ8xociYI— PFF (@PFF) January 11, 2022
Cook can fill that role that Hill was never able to seize in Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman’s system. He is a one-cut, no-nonsense, north/south runner with the explosive breakaway speed to score from anywhere on the field, although he likely won’t see many goal-line carries given the lack of ability to run through contact that he showed in college.
He can make second and third-level defenders miss by setting them up with hard decisive cuts and possess the quick feet and vision to find rushing lanes. As explosive as he is, Cook will still exhibit the patience to let his lead blocker pave the way before he erupts off tackle or up the middle.
His ability to be a threat in the passing game out of the backfield is one of his best traits and likely one of the main reasons the Ravens brought him in for an official top 30 visit earlier this month. He can create mismatches in coverage against linebackers and can run crisp routes as well.
Dalvin Cook has a younger brother— PFF (@PFF) January 1, 2022
James Cook will be in the NFL soon pic.twitter.com/Z9lb4PIPXh
Cook could go as high as the third round but if he falls to the fourth round, where Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta is in possession of five selections, he could hear his name called early on day three. His contributions on third down will likely be limited to just catching passes until he proves he can pick up blitzes more effectively than he did in college but his promising playmaking ability both as a runner and receiver should make him an enticing mid-round option.