Running back is the hardest position to draft in fantasy football. Frequent injuries combined with most teams using a multi-back system equates to some tough forecasting for fantasy football league participants. Certain rookies go off: See Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys and Jordan Howard of the Chicago Bears. Others flounder: See Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans. Just how high is the ceiling for incoming rookie from Florida State Dalvin Cook?
Dalvin Cook at this point (before running backs take part in the NFL Combine) looks to be the second running back taken in the upcoming draft, just after LSU’s Leonard Fournette. In comparison Fournette is more physically imposing- he’d rather run defensive backs and linebackers over than try to run around them. Cook had significantly better numbers than Fournette, primarily because Cook was able to stay on the field and wasn’t injured often as Fournette.
Average yards per touch for RBs in 2016 (min. 200):
Joe Mixon 8.1
Aaron Jones 7.8
I'Tavius Mathers 7.4
Anthony Wales 7.3
Dalvin Cook 7.0
— Travis May (@FF_TravisM) February 28, 2017
A running back’s fantasy projection has to take into account the team around that player along with the coaching scheme. In a player like Derrick Henry’s case with the Titans, he had all of the tools and right mindset to be a starter in the NFL, he was just sitting behind a veteran who had a monstrous bounce-back season in DeMarco Murray. Projecting Dalvin Cook’s statistics is nearly impossible without knowing which team he will be on and the depth chart he has to work with once he finds his new NFL home.
Dalvin Cook is a cerebral, versatile back. He is able to do much more than Leonard Fournette for instance, particularly in the passing game. Cook’s soft hands and vision in the way he was used in Florida State’s screen game is likely how he will be used in the NFL. Cook had just under 500 yards receiving in 2016 on just 33 receptions, scoring one touchdown through the air. Each year he was at Florida State, head coach Jimbo Fisher involved Cook more and more in the passing game- it was simply a case of trying to get the best player the ball in his hands in open space.
Keep an eye on Cook in the NFL Combine to see how his measurables stack up to the rest of the field, particularly to Leonard Fournette. It’s the first step of many before Cook is eventually drafted to an NFL team and eventually to a fantasy football team in August.
Michael Berns is Editor in Chief of Endzonescore.com. He also contributes to college football writing: particularly covering the Illinois Fighting Illini and all things BigTen. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter –@MichaelBerms.