The Vikings had the opportunity to select a first round talent in the NFL Draft and didn't flinch at the chance to add him. Daniel House breaks down Dalvin Cook's tape and discusses his fit in Minnesota.
Updated: May 10, 2016 4:40 p.m.
By: Daniel House
video .gifs used courtesy of Draft Breakdown
By: Daniel House
The Vikings had the opportunity to select a first round talent in the NFL Draft and didn't flinch at the chance to add him. Running back Dalvin Cook has the talent to be a franchise running back in the NFL, but off-the-filed concerns and poor combine testing caused him to slide down the board.
With Adrian Peterson departing for the Saints, the Vikings needed to select a young running back. It wasn't a matter of when they would take one, but where. Entering the draft, nobody thought the Vikings would have a chance to select Dalvin Cook, a first round talent. Cook's value was simply too good to pass up. Not to mention, he fits perfect into a system that wants to utilize more sets out of the shotgun.
When Cook runs out of the shotgun, he is fantastic at reading his blockers, maintaining balance/agility, and generating yards after contact. According to Pro Football Focus, Cook generated the second-most yards after contact in college football. His vision allows for him to sharply cutback as he gets downhill and into the second level. This play vs. South Florida is an example of Cook's ability to make plays in the open field by cutting back and bouncing off a defender in the second level. Running out of a zone blocking scheme makes Cook a huge threat because of his ability to create plays with his cutbacks and natural running style.
He tested poorly at the combine with his broad jump, vertical jump, 20-yard shuttle, and 3-cone drill being significantly below average. Nonetheless, when you watch his tape, it's his instincts that set him apart. He reads his blockers well and has such a natural feel for the game. When he is placed in game situations, he has the ability to cutback swiftly or accelerate when he bounces outside. He uses his vision and superior quick twitch to develop a major advantage over the opponent. Cook is at his best when he can get to the edge and accelerate, as evidenced by the clip below:
Cook creates yards after contact and uses his natural football abilities to be a methodical runner. He even ran well behind an inconsistent offensive line and created plays because of his instinctive running style. It's what makes me less concerned about his "numbers" from workouts. Some players just play naturally and don't have the freak ability when they are tested during an individual workout. For me, it's not about how a guy tests in workouts, but how he performs when the pads come on.
The main areas I want to see Cook improve are in ball security and pass protection. Cook had 14 career fumbles and put the ball on the ground far too often. However, with work on technique and a strong focus on ball security in practice, this problem can easily be addressed. In addition, he didn't display much awareness and was late to get set in pass protection. It allowed rushers to get inside and get Cook off balance. He needs more experience in these situations. Some specific drills while working 1-on-1 with blitzing linebackers during training camp will help remedy this issue. These are all minor flaws that are correctable and often cause trouble for young running backs. However, there is no need to question his gifts as a natural runner with his vision, acceleration, speed, and balance.
Cook has the chance to be a major weapon as a runner, but also as a pass catcher out of the backfield. He had his best season as a receiver, notching 488 yards through the air. He had some concentration drops scattered throughout his games, but he is extremely dangerous with the ball in his hands. During the Orange Bowl vs. Michigan, Cook flashed his capabilities as a pass catcher, which is something the Vikings haven't had from a three-down running back in the past.
Cook will fit well in Pat Shurmur's system because he can run out of the shotgun and keep the defense on their toes because of his effectiveness out of this set. He also is a threat in the screen game and can create big plays because he is so dynamic. All of his Florida State tape has so many big-time runs where he would burst for 75, 80, or 85-yard scores. He is a playmaker and the Vikings needed to add more weapons to their offense.
Drafting Cook and signing Latavius Murray provide the Vikings with a trio of talented running backs. Cook is the dynamic weapon, while Murray can be the home run between the tackles runner. In addition, Jerick McKinnon can be put out in space, where he can flash his superior athleticism and fluidity.
With an improved offensive line in front of Cook and company, Minnesota may be able to get back to running the football well again. If the team can run the ball, it will make their offense less predictable, which was a major problem last year. Teams were able to bring pressure and tee off on the pass because Minnesota could not run the ball for more than two yards per rush.
The Vikings made an effort to add playmakers this offseason and if they improve to the point where they score 21+ points per game, they will win more because of their defense. The offense has addressed the soft spots and now all the pieces must fit together to see a substantial improvement as a unit. There is so much more potential after this offseason than there was last year.
Bringing in a playmaker like Dalvin Cook will give the Vikings a chance to get more creative on offense to utilize his skill-set. Cook was an extreme value pick that will be special if he can stay healthy and out of trouble. If manages to do those things, he adds a dynamic element to the Vikings' offense.