When former Florida State running back Dalvin Cook announced that he was "the best" running back in the 2017 NFL Draft, there were few reasons to disagree with him. Cook rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons at FSU, including a ridiculous 2016 season in which he went for 1,765 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground along with 488 receiving yards.
And yet, Cook's performance at the NFL Combine left a lot to be desired. He posted a Vertical Jump of just 30.5 inches, one of the lowest among running backs at the Combine, along with a fairly pedestrian 116-inch Broad Jump. He also finished toward the bottom of the running backs in both the 3-Cone Drill and the 20-Yard Shuttle. And though his 40-Yard Dash time of 4.49 was respectable (in the top half of running backs), that number is skewed a bit when you consider that Cook weighs just 210 pounds. LSU's Leonard Fournette ran his 40 just .02 seconds slower, and he is 30 pounds heavier than Cook.
And therein lies the rub. Cook has long been described as a "home run hitter," which is a highly overused code word that means his abilities have a tendency to shine on the field rather than in a controlled environment like the Combine. For instance, check out this run against Michigan in the Orange Bowl.
FSU RB Dalvin Cook. 3rd and 22 carry vs. Michigan in the Orange Bowl. That's a nice luxury! pic.twitter.com/K7pabZ37Qb
— Todd McShay (@McShay13) April 13, 2017
Cook is patient as he searches for a gap on a counter run, breaks a few tackles, then bursts up the sideline with the type of acceleration that's difficult to emulate in drills at the Combine.
Still, questions about Cook's athleticism, or lack thereof, are legit. His Combine performance, together with a few off-field incidents, gave teams enough pause to allow him to slip to the second round of the NFL Draft, where the Vikings finally selected the Miami native with the 41st overall pick. Did the Vikings come away with a steal, getting incredible value where they were able to select Cook? Or will his disappointing Combine performance be replicated on Sundays? Judging by Cook's performance at Vikings rookie mini-camp, it's leaning toward the former.
Over the three-day training session for all Vikings rookies, Cook showed off his best attribute time and time again: his ability to identify a gap in the defense, hit them with a one-cut and accelerate through.
Dalvin Cook still doesn't care about your agility drills. pic.twitter.com/8cud1geWbN
— Fusue Vue (@lifesyourcup) May 6, 2017
Cook's ability to stop on a dime and immediately accelerate the other way is vicious. In the video below, he actually makes one of his fellow rookies fall to the ground and slide almost completely out of the screen. That's elite stuff.
— J.R. (@JReidDraftScout) May 11, 2017
There is precedent for running backs having poor Combines and still flourishing in the NFL. RAS.com compiles something called "relative athletic score," which combines a player's physical measurements (height, weight, etc.) with the numbers he produced at the Combine.
Cook's numbers earned him a 3.35 RAS. Arian Foster, who ran for over 1,000 yards in four of his seven seasons with the Houston Texans, produced a 3.43 RAS. Cedric Benson earned a 3.42 RAS, then ran for over 1,000 in three straight seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. If those comparisons hold, Cook will certainly have NFL success to look forward to. Then again, the closest RAS to Cook's comes from former Lafayette running back Ross Schuerman (3.34 RAS), and Schuerman is currently playing in the Canadian Football League. So you never know.
Whatever ends up happening in Cook's career, he will be a fascinating case study for NFL teams as they continue to evaluate the running back position.
- How Leonard Fournette's Heavier Weight Helped His NFL Combine Performance
- Why the 40-Yard Dash is Overrated as a Test For Running Backs
- Kentucky RB Boom Williams Ran a 4.28 40-Yard Dash in 9th Grade