I am going through and scouting the Vikings' draft picks this year. I figured I'd share my findings.
This is my first post, on Dalvin Cook. It is also likely going to be the most extensive, as he was the Vikings' first pick and has the most information out on him.
Just to give a basic rundown of the structure, it's a scouting report where I start with biographical information, then evaluate traits on the player relevant to the position and come to a conclusion. I will also add in other important information, and then I have links to other scouting reports that I've seen and recommend reading to get multiple opinions. Finally, if you're interested, I have the notes I took in a slack conversation that I'm in.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings (#33)
School: Florida State (#4)
Date of Birth: August 10, 1995 (age 21)
Drafted: 2017, Round 2, Pick 48 (Minnesota Vikings)
Games studied at Draft Breakdown:
2015 - vs. USF, vs. Miami (FL), vs. Louisville, @ Georgia Tech, @ Clemson, @Florida, Houston (neutral)
2016 - @ Louisville, vs. North Carolina, @ Miami, vs. Wake Forest, vs. Clemson, vs. Boston College, vs. Florida, Michigan (neutral)
|40 Yard Dash||4.49s||70|
|20 Yard Shuttle||4.53s||6|
|Bench Press||22 reps||71|
- Solid burst. Able to get himself through holes and to the edge very effectively but it's more the result of savvy running than natural explosion. Has moments where he surprises with nice burst through tight creases.
- Good change of direction. Will consistently make defenders miss with jump cut.
- Solid long speed. Can maintain separation from defenders but will not outrun the fastest DBs.
Patience to find hole and then burst to get through it.
More gifs in later categories.
- Very good integration of vision and movement.
- Sees the field well and is able to react quickly to defenders in the backfield.
- Shows nuance to vary pacing and bait defenders in order to gain an edge.
- Understands blocking schemes well and consistently sets up blockers for success.
- Displays awareness of the down-and-distance situation and the location of the first down marker.
- Marginal ability to identify assignment in pass protection.
Shows patience and intelligence to get back to line of scrimmage.
Can get carried away and try to do too much.
Understands how to set up his own holes by pressing the line of scrimmage and then cutting off his linemen.
Uses stutter step to make defender hesitate and look slow.
- Played through a hamstring injury for multiple games in 2015. Ran for 385 yards in the next two games with the injury clearly bothering him.
- Missed just one game in his college career, due to the 2015 ankle injury. Ran for 194 yards the next game.
- Had multiple shoulder surgeries during his career at Florida State.
- Tenacious runner. Will run through defenders instead of taking easy path out of bounds.
- Not a big back and doesn't play like one.
- Inconsistent pad level will get in the way of gaining additional yardage. Runs high and will sometimes fail to lower shoulder into defenders.
- Strong leg drive.
- With good pad level, will overpower defensive backs on the second level.
- Tenacious runner who fights hard for extra yardage in all situations.
- Struggles with functional strength as a blocker. Has poor technique and will get overpowered by all defenders but DBs.
- Beating a DB in pass protection is a 50/50 proposition for him.
- Good, quick reaction to initial backfield penetration, changes course quickly to often make defenders miss.
- Strong mental processing whether behind the line of scrimmage or in the open field leads to hitting holes fast and out-angling defenders.
- Play speed outpaces his timed speeds.
- Adequate long speed to maintain edge on long runs.
- Good burst through line of scrimmage.
- Very good integration of vision and movement. Sees the field well and is able to react quickly to defenders in the backfield.
- Shows nuance to vary pacing and bait defenders in order to gain an edge.
- Understands blocking schemes well and consistently sets up blockers for success.
- Patient behind the line of scrimmage and effective at identifying cutback lanes.
- Very good vision on the second level.
- Is one step ahead of defenses and consistently turns long runs into touchdowns by finding additional creases once he gets into the third level.
- Usually good at recognizing when to turn the ball up the field.
- Successfully reads both man and zone schemes.
- Has instances where he will unnecessarily try to bounce the ball outside.
Second Level Vision
Good job following blocks and turning the run upfield with a sweet jump cut.
Presses the hole and uses it to his advantage to get to the edge.
Makes a bad read and it leads to a 3rd and short failure.
- Elite balance when facing indirect hits.
- Consistently able to maintain stride through contact and defenders bouncing off of him without losing a step.
- Solid ability to sustain direct hits.
- Will not overpower defenders but will roll off them and forward for extra yardage after sustaining a direct hit.
- Shows a balance touch.
Making the game look like flag football
Amazing he stays on his feet and comes so close to staying in here.
Great balance once again.
Dalvin is dangerous with the ball in his hands.
I'm serious guys he's so good it's not fair.
- Excellent hip flexibility leads to very good change of direction.
- Transitions from North-South to East-West and vice-versa very quickly and seamlessly.
- Weaves through tight spaces and between defenders.
- Has a good jump cut that will make defenders miss tackles in the open field.
- Able to string multiple elusive moves together against all three levels of defenders.
- Very good lateral agility behind the line of scrimmage to press holes and then move over a gap or two to the open space.
- Can get carried away and try to make a defender miss when he should run through him for the extra yard.
Super smooth transition from north-south to east-west and back.
I really don't think this is fair.
Nasty spin move.
Nice little dip and transition to make a defender miss.
Multiple jump cuts on the same play and also strong second level vision.
- Marginal technique as a standup blocker.
- Fails to square up consistently, will often just throw a shoulder into a defender.
- When squared up, unable to effectively time punch consistently.
- Fails to remain engaged with defenders.
- Has flashes of good moments that allow him to be effective against DBs.
- Nothing more than a speedbump against DL/LBs.
- Fails to consistently identify where he needs to help as a blocker. Will be late to the spot and miss assignments.
- Adequate helping chip defenders; generally effective but can get in the way of his lineman.
- Cut blocking also poor.
- Flashes of good technique once again, but too often fails to keep his head up and will end up at the feet of defenders. Will attack wrong hip.
- Solid as a lead blocker. Uses vision to lead runner to correct spot and can effectively box out defenders. Shows strong effort blocking.
He will sometimes effectively chip defenders.
I think he makes a poor decision here and it leads to his QB getting smashed.
Poor technique and loses on initial contact.
Poor cut block attempt. Fires too early.
Pushes a DB around the arc to help the QB.
Terrible technique, catching with his shoulder.
Seems to perform significantly better run blocking than pass blocking.
- Shows good awareness to carry ball under correct arm.
- Had consistent fumble problems throughout career at Florida State (one fumble every 63.8 touches).
- Route tree at Florida State mostly consistent of dump off routes, whether screens, flat routes, or quick angle/checkdown routes.
- Occasionally split out wide.
- Not a nuanced route runner but is a mismatch against linebackers.
- Shows good technique with soft hands but will suffer focus drops because he is trying to set up defenders in the area before catching the ball.
- Uses his strengths with quickness and open field vision effectively when given the ball in open space
- Can break big runs after the catch.
Overall Cook is an extremely effective runner who wins with nuance. Once handed the ball, he will effectively recognize and deal with any backfield penetration. He uses strong vision to find creases and cutback lanes, and shows the patience, stride variation, and aggressiveness to create holes for himself. He showcases strong burst through the hole, the hip flexibility to change direction quickly, and the ability to bounce off indirect blows without breaking stride. In the open field, he can make defenders miss with a strong jump cut and use his hip flexibility to weave through traffic.
He has strong second level vision to find open spots to turn long gains into TDs. His long speed enables him to maintain initial separation. When finishing runs, he is sometimes prone to dancing. His pad level is not consistent and it hinders his ability to finish runs. He will show good leg drive and the ability to drive forward through contact but lacks consistency in this area. Has ball security issues with a high fumble rate.
In the passing game, was primarily used out of the backfield. Showcased good catch technique but had focused drops. Is dangerous in the open field and that carried over to his runs after the catch. Split out wide a few times but did not show an advanced route tree or nuanced route running. Did win with speed on a wheel and a fade route.
Generally abysmal in pass protection. Has trouble recognizing assignments and fails to follow through with good technique on stand up or chip blocks. Fails to square up when standing, fails to deliver a strong punch and struggles to anchor. Can drive defenders on arc past QB. On cut blocks, lowers head and often goes to the ground too soon or at a bad angle of approach. Shows flashes of good technique both on stand up and cut blocks but failures are more consistent and notable.
RB is one of, if not the easiest position to translate from college to the NFL. Being highly polished and having played against top competition in school should lead to Cook being able to make an immediate impact.
Comparison to Recently Drafted RBs
Personally, I love to watch RBs. I did a significant amount of tape study for the 2015 and 2016 draft classes at the RB position. Due to other constraints, I didn't get the opportunity to watch RBs for the 2017 class (which is why I only scouted Dalvin after the draft). So, while I don't have the baseline to compare him to Fournette/McCaffery/Mixon, I will slot him in with the 2015 and 2016 draft classes.
Looking through that context I'd put him in with the 2nd tier of RBs, a line of demarcation below Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott. As a runner, Cook approaches their stratosphere, but his issues with pad level put him clearly below them, and that makes no mention of his fumbles.
I'd say he's probably the third best runner of the bunch, but I don't think he's all that separate from the other guys who would be in my second tier: Kenneth Dixon, Ameer Abdullah, Derrick Henry, and Melvin Gordon. Of that group, Cook is near the top of the list for me but I'm not quite sure I'd put him at #3 after Zeke and Gurley, mainly because his pass protection is concerning to me. I loved Kenneth Dixon and am tempted to put him over Cook because he showed more as a receiver and was a much better blocker, but it's close.
Overall, I wouldn't quibble with him at 3rd or 4th if you put him in the mix with the 2015 and 2016 guys.
Dalvin's character concerns are important to bring up when profiling him because they have a possibility to lead to a failed NFL career. Many talented athletes fail in the NFL because of reasons off the football field. If you can't play, you can't play, whether it's because you're bad, injured, or suspended.
I'm also not here to judge someone's character from afar. That's a really bad idea because I have very limited access to information surround Dalvin's (or any other NFL player's) situation.
Dalvin's record is not perfect. He has had several charges and citations. Prior to the draft, it was floating around that some teams considered him more of a character risk than Joe Mixon. For any fan, that should raise a red flag.
At the same time, being charged does not mean Cook was necessarily in the wrong or a bad person. He had an assault charge similar to Mixon's that he was acquitted of. He also had a rough upbringing, which tends to lead to bad influences run-ins with the law even if someone is a good person at heart.
This MMQB story details Cooks personal life and his troubles with the law. It paints him in a very positive light, and helps alleviate some concerns about his legal issues. I'm a bit skeptical and don't take that article 100% at face value because it pretty clearly has an agent's touch, but it's an important piece of the puzzle of Dalvin's character if you're trying to make a determination from afar.
I'm not going to tell you what to think on Dalvin's character. You can make that decision for yourself. Personally, I believe that people deserve a second chance, and hope that Dalvin has grown as a person and not only stay on the right path but also help bring others to that path.
Other Scouting Reports:
Matt Waldman, the Rookie Scouting Portfolio - Buy the RSP here.
Dalvin Cook, FSU (5-10, 210)
This placement of Cook will disappoint many and it’s why rankings suck. Solely as a runner of the football—even with troublesome ball security issues—Cook is arguably the best back in the class.
To get to the fantasy advice immediately, which also dovetails with how I’d view him as an NFL decision maker, I’d feel okay about making Cook the first back off the board if he fit my offense—even with the increased risk that he’ll fumble the ball enough that it could cost my team four victories a year.
How did I arrive at this number? Cook’s college fumble rate is 1 per 63.8 touches. I’m projecting Cook will earn a minimum of 15 touches per game when he becomes a trusted cog in an offense. If he continues fumbling at this college rate, he’ll fumble approximately every fourth or fifth game.
As we know, fumbles don’t happen in this predictable fashion. Whether it happens once every four games, twice in one game every eight weeks or have three consecutive games with better ball security until another fumble during a pivotal December game, it will still be a troubling issue.
I’ve already projected that Cook will improve this issue, but his baseline tier is low enough in this area that it removes him from consideration as the top back in this class in a list-style ranking. And I’m okay with that, because ball security issues have delayed the development, and even ruined the careers of talented runners.
If a fantasy owner or team is okay with the risk that Cook won’t improve his ball security between now and September, and he won’t fumble the ball too much for a coach’s tolerance level, wind up on the bench, and not deliver short-term return on investment, there are enough compelling reasons why Cook is the correct decision as the top back.
Vision is the foundation for Cook’s game. He has strong facility with gap and zone schemes, and his athletic ability makes him a good fit for either. He has excellent initial burst, a strong second gear, and good change of direction that helps him follow his lead blockers, set up angles, and hit even smaller creases with authority. That last quality is a key component that cannot be understated. Just as a quarterback must have the anticipation and confidence to identify the open route and deliver the ball without unnecessary hesitation, a running back must anticipate creases as they open and hit them without hesitation.
There are countless examples of quick, fast, and shifty backs that failed to reach their NFL potential because they lack execution at the speed of instinct—or what I’ve often referred to as the IT (Integrated Technique) Factor. Cook sees the field well and has strong enough command of his footwork to make the right decisions at the speed of instinct.
This includes recognition of defenders penetrating behind the line of scrimmage, knowing when to attack with a stiff-arm, and when to take evasive measures. His recognition and decision-making are routinely smooth, disciplined, and efficient.
Some will get hung up and reactionary about Cook’s placement based on his performances at the NFL Combine and Pro Day. His 4.53-second 20-Shuttle and 7.27-second 3-Cone at the NFL Combine confused and dismayed those who give more weight to drills than the tape.
I am not the least bit concerned about these performances. I detailed why in the Acceleration section of the Stack Scores earlier in this chapter, including how an analytics professional with multiple NFL clients has been reassuring a few teams that were initially concerned with Cook’s performance.
Cook’s acceleration on film at Florida State is far more indicative of the 4.18-second 20-Shuttle that he ran at the Nike Camp while a high school student. Watch him accelerate past top athletes at linebacker and safety within the first 5-15 yards of a run, and you should feel better about trusting three years of Cook’s film over drills run in March at an event notorious for asking its athletes to run cold.
Cook can break a play wide open from anywhere on the field. Where characterizations of his game are untrue is the false equivalency drawn between his game and Jamaal Charles. I love Cook’s game, but he is not Charles—a back that I appreciate, if not revere, for his moments of physical and conceptual genius agility and functional power.
Cook does not make the caliber of jump cuts and powerful change of direction that Charles or LeSean McCoy exhibited in their primes. While stronger than Charles, Cook’s pad level needs improvement. Charles understands pad level and leverage with an execution at the speed of instinct that Cook doesn’t.
For example, Charles’ film portfolio had multiple examples of him working downhill at oncoming defensive tackles and middle linebackers where he attacks first with his pads low, delivers a stiff-arm or forearm to the body, and spins off the first blush of contact to leave the defender motionless or grasping at air. Cook has good balance, but he doesn’t attack first with the leverage to win enough direct collisions.
Cook’s pad level isn’t consistently good enough for him to run though contact that he otherwise should. When he learns and applies better pad level between the tackles and in the open field, he’ll bounce off more hits rather than earn a minimal amount of yards falling forward. He’ll also survive more glancing blows without getting knocked sideways.
At this point, he’s better at bouncing off contact than running through wraps. Better pad level should help him break tackles in both scenarios.
I’m also not convinced that Cook has Charles’ type of agility. Cook’s change of direction is excellent, but it’s a different toolbox than what Charles brings to the worksite. Cook can jump cut, spin, and plant, but it’s his skill at bending and weaving through tight spaces with great step control and adjustment of his hips without losing much speed that leads to many of his big plays.
What Cook has in common with the rest of the RSP’s first tier of backs is his receiving skill. Cook tracks and catches the ball facing the quarterback or over the shoulder with his back to the line of scrimmage. His vision, balance, and change of direction make him a difficult match-up one-on-one with a defender in the flat. Even if the defense gets it right and pairs a defensive back with Cook outside, he’ll get behind many of them on seam and wheel routes.
Pass protection is a weakness, and while I appreciate the analysis that teams aren’t drafting Cook to keep him at the line of scrimmage as a blocker, quarterbacks will need his help often enough that the issue can’t be glossed over as much as it is.
One of Cook’s problems is lowering his head and pads into the collision point with his blocking assignments. It’s bad technique, because it telegraphs his intent, allowing defenders to work around him, and prevents him from sustaining the block after he makes contact.
Cook must do a better job of keeping his head up, delivering a punch, and rolling his hips into that punch so he’s generating maximum power. This will give him a fighting chance to temporarily stand up the opponent and buy time to establish proper hand position, so he can move his feet with the defender and remain square with the opponent. Cut blocks are also problematic. Cook shoots too early, and his angles of approach are ineffective. He must keep his head up so he can gauge when to take his shot and work across the legs or hips of the opponent.
Personally, I wanted Cook higher in the RSP rankings than fourth. Professionally, I didn’t have a justifiable reason to do so with my current process. Because he’s in the first tier despite his weaknesses with ball security and pass protection, it’s a strong indication that he can produce though I’d personally like to have him addresses these concerns.
If you think Cook is the best back in this draft, I won’t argue with you. He carries more risk of a benching because ball security and pass protection are the most common reasons why top running back prospects don’t see the field as much as they should. However, if you can live with the potential consequences, there is the possibility of great reward.
Cook has feature back potential and no worse than high upside, big-play RB2 role in a productive offense and has top 15-20 fantasy potential if his issues don’t ground him. Although fourth on the RSP’s board, if you don’t take him with one of the first two picks in most rookie drafts, you won’t land him.
If you know that someone holding one of the top two picks in your fantasy drafts is scared to death of Cook because of his combine performance and off-field transgressions and it’s not a concern for you, offer a deal for him to trade down. You might get a little more out of the deal, because he’s motivated to get out of the pick. I also think there’s reason to worry about Cook’s off-field behavior. His record has a pattern of immature and often violent behavior, including:
- A robbery charge in 2009.
- Firing a weapon at a school event in 2010, a third-degree felony charge later dropped.
- A criminal mischief charge in 2014 involving a BB-gun shooting that caused property damage.
- A misdemeanor battery charge where he was accused of punching a woman outside a bar in 2015.
- A citation for violation of animal care for allegedly chaining up three dogs outside his residence, leaving two of the dogs—puppies—choking for air.
Because the RSP pre-draft is exclusively about talent, Cook is easily in my top tier. If I included off-field behavior and factored it into rankings, I’d find this list of bad behavior alone a compelling reason to drop him below Joe Mixon, who at least had to perform 100 hours of community service and undergo counseling.
Although all individuals are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, and several of these charges were dropped or granted pre-trial intervention, the pattern of behavior is more than law enforcement targeting Cook because he’s a big-time athlete. And because reading provides a mental image of the charges, I don’t need video to understand the severity.
There’s a decent argument that Cook is in as much need of counseling as Mixon. I’m sharing this as a healthy warning because I’ve heard more concern from scouts about Cook’s off-field issues than Mixon. Talent alone, he’s easily a justifiable top pick. Everything else? He carries risk.
Because the RSP is agnostic about off-field behavior, Cook is in the top tier. Personally, I’m worried enough about his future behavior that I’d place him in the next tier and either trade the pick or pick someone else. However, we’ve also seen players with worse issues than Cook who had long, productive, and trouble-free careers.
Games watched: Oregon (2014), Clemson (2015), Houston (2015), Louisville (2016), UNC (2016), Clemson (2016), Florida (2016), Michigan (2016)
- Vision: Has incredible ability to process action while pressing the LOS. Will identify alleys rapidly and does very well when forced to bounce plays and freelance at the POA. Sees defensive flow well and has the ability string multiple cuts together to find way to the boundary.
- Elusiveness: Highly slippery in both one on one situations and the open field. Capable of turning and getting skinny to slip contact. Runs with low COG and can dart suddenly to break pursuit. Has improved ability to run through weak contact. Elite short area agility and foot precision.
- Feet/COD: Elite quality. Feet are awesome when working through traffic or bodies to deliberately step outside of contact areas and keep lower half clean. Capable of steep, sudden cuts with high levels of lateral range on a single cut. Capable of breaking against grain hard and gaining edge.
- Receiving Ability: Likeable polish. Has had a number of reps that include work outside the numbers as a flexed out receiver. Has reliable hands and has proven ability to reach/extend on errant throws. Will chip, delay or slow play screen passes convincingly.
- Durability: Medical questions will linger, has had shoulder issues in the past. Has had a high level of work throughout college career and has become better at diminishing heavy hits to frame. Braces for contact well and can take hits between the tackles.
- Short Yardage Skill: Has admirable leg drive. Low pad level and center of gravity allow for effectiveness getting leverage on runs. Does not have the raw power to drive back the pile but can run through one on one tackles and has ability to bounce laterally and sustain balance/forward progress.
- Balance: Built and runs low to the ground; effective with cuts to move and shift, will slip past tackles and sustain play speed. Transitions out of a cut quickly thanks to mobile hips and ability to play with wild feet out from underneath base of support.
- Football Intelligence: Has a clear grasp on the game and how to create yardage. Capable runner in power/gap runs, inside and outside zones and power perimeter plays. Patient runner who will allow blocks to develop prior to putting down the accelerator.
- Pass Protection: Functional strength is adequate and is surprisingly scrappy. Will not stonewall defenders and is guilty of conceding yards but does have enough pop to stave off bodies and provide extra time for a release. Passible blocker on both interior and exterior roles.
- Effort: Tremendous effort. Has broken off a large number of 1st down conversions on long distance conceded plays. Leg drive is active. Creative in the open field and will look to work to the boundary in an effort to find a big play; although not at the expense of maximizing interior space.
Florida State's Dalvin Cook is an electric runner; he has an elite blend of short area agility, linear speed and top notch mental processing during live action. Cook has a rare gift to pick up and process defensive flow and creases in the point of attack with such suddenness that he's planting and cutting before alleys are developed. Cook combines that anticipatory skill with blue chip short area agility and foot speed. His cuts are steep, sudden and can break the grain of pursuit with excellent consistency. Cook has game breaking speed and is a pleasantly well rounded runner; he can impact the game between the tackles or when turning the corner. Cook will consistently beat angles with pure speed; even when he's looked to be cornered Cook has another gear to break through and pick up large chunks. A three down back and an immediate starter in any offensive system.
- Feet: Has exceptional footwork that allows him to remain balanced, take sharp cuts, and make people miss. Carries speed through tight angles and is continuous in his change of direction skills. He makes cuts with terrific timing and does well to get tacklers off balance.
- Vision: Sees the field well and makes great decisions. Runs with great tempo to allows blocks to develop. Has tremendous burst to and through the hole. Decisive, has a great feel for the defensive flow, and counters accordingly.
- Pass Protection: Adequate pass protector who gets his work done. Remains balanced when absorbing contact and fulfills assignments. He can improve diagnosing pressure but finds work and isn't over-matched.
- Receiving Ability: Outstanding contributor as a receiver. He runs great routes with proper timing and is a natural hands catcher. Has shown the ability to track and catch the ball vertically. Dynamic out of the backfield and can create yards for himself after the catch.
- Elusiveness & Balance: Extremely elusive in the open field with good agility and balance to continue picking up yards after contact. Has plenty of wiggle and the ability to carry speed through sharp cuts. Breaks angles and has all the juice you could ever want in a back. Can shake and slip tacklers with good balance.
- Toughness & Power: Surprising amount of physicality and ability to finesse for more yards after contact. Will break tackles, but his game isn't predicated on powering through opponents, but the power he does have compliments his elusive traits well. Willing to lower his shoulder and challenge with physicality.
Dalvin Cook is a dynamic football player who can be the focal point of an NFL offense. With a tremendous ability to see the field and carry speed off his cuts, Cook is problematic for offenses. Complimenting his natural running skills with significant receiving upside, Cook is a versatile contributor that projects perfectly in today's NFL. There are alarming off-field issues and concerns with his shoulders that NFL teams will have to vet. On the field, Cook has the type of traits that should place him consistently among the league leaders in yards from scrimmage.
Submitted June 05, 2017 at 08:44AM by skepticismissurvival
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