2017 NFL draft prospect countdown, No. 8: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
What you need to know: In his three seasons with the Seminoles, Cook averaged just shy of 1,800 yards from scrimmage per year and scored 48 total touchdowns (46 rushing, two receiving). He topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark as a true freshman in 2014, then followed that showing up with 1,691 yards and 1,765 yards, respectively, the next two seasons. Cook was a first-team All-America in ’16, as well as a finalist for the Doak Walker Award (top running back) and a top-10 finisher in Heisman voting. He capped his Florida State stay with Orange Bowl MVP honors against Michigan: 20 carries, 145 yards and one TD, plus three catches for 62 yards. Cook topped 100 yards rushing in nine of his final 10 college games.
Strengths: The best running backs always seem like they’re operating on another level, like a chess grandmaster thinking one move ahead of even the best competition. That’s how it has been with Cook, who can turn the smallest of openings into huge gains. He has exceptional vision to the outside and in the open field, coupled with the cutback ability to leave defenders grasping at air.
There is no situation in which Cook looks uncomfortable, either. He can run whether the QB lines up in shotgun, pistol or under center, and he can be trusted as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Perhaps fittingly, he said at the combine that he has modeled his game after Jamaal Charles.
“(He’s) been banged up a lot, but when he was healthy and when he was full-go I definitely patterned my game behind him,” Cook said. “The things he did ... not a big back, shifty, ain’t afraid to run downhill, just an every-down back. So that’s who I pattern my game behind.”
Cook is shifty when he has defenders in one-on-one spots, but he does not waste a lot of energy in the backfield. When a play calls for him to run between the tackles, he’ll find his spot and start pushing forward for yardage as soon as he possibly can.
Cook's feel for the position also makes it so that he can improvise on the fly. If his initial gap closes up, he’ll find an alternate route without backpedaling or hesitating. Cook is a special talent and a three-down NFL back.
Weaknesses: Off the field, Cook has been involved in multiple legal situations, dating back to high school. The most high-profile was in 2015 when he was charged with misdemeanor battery. He was found not guilty on that charge, but he also was cited in ’14 for animal cruelty and had incidents in ’09 (robbery, charges dropped) and ’10 (firing a weapon and possessing a weapon on school property, charges dropped).
There also is the injury history—Cook’s shoulders could be a lingering concern, and he required surgery in 2016 to repair a torn labrum on his right side. There also is the matter of ball security—he fumbled a dozen times as a Seminole.
Cook (5' 10", 210 pounds) has enough size to drive through tackles, but his apparent desire to do so comes and goes. The past shoulder issues might be a contributing factor. It’ll be interesting to see if teams trust him to run between the tackles, or if he gets vultured in red-zone spots by a bigger back.
NFL player comparison: Doug Martin