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Spielman: Vikings unvexed after vetting Cook

The Vikings GM explained how a deep dive into their new running back’s past put them at ease to make the pick.

NCAA Football: Orange Bowl-Michigan vs Florida State
Cook has a checkered past, but the Vikings sound secure in their choice.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

There are few that debate Dalvin Cook is a first-round talent on the football field. The running back out of Florida State amassed over 5,400 yards from scrimmage in three seasons with the Seminoles. His tape holds up against anyone in the nation against some of the top competition in the country. Evaluating Dalvin Cook the player is pretty straightforward.

Evaluating Dalvin Cook the person? That’s where it gets complicated. An assortment of problems in his past led to Cook entering the draft with more red flags than a game of Minesweeper on the expert level. His checkered past combined with a less-than-stellar combine led to Cook sliding out of the first day.

That’s where Rick Spielman saw his opportunity.

The Vikings traded up with the Cincinnati Bengals to the 41st overall pick to swoop in and select Cook. Spielman said the Vikings started looking at the possibility of drafting Cook after Day 1 of the draft.

We started making some calls once we knew he was going to slide into the second day. As we looked and he kept coming down the board, we thought he was too talented of a player not to take a swing and go up and get him. We feel we have great value of where we were able to land Dalvin.

Outside of the character flags, Cook also had a couple injury concerns heading into the draft. Spielman said those were never a concern and the Vikings doctors cleared Cook. But the Vikings did do some very thorough research on Cook’s background.

We spent an extensive amount of time with that. We felt very comfortable with everything. In fact, I called him [Friday] morning and spoke with him for another 45 minutes, just rehashing everything the end, he was a player we felt comfortable to take.

Spielman complimented Cook’s sincerity and honesty about his situation. “We asked him very pointed questions and I knew he was sincere and honest about everything by talking to him and the background and due diligence that we did...I think this kid has really matured over the past couple years and we have no problems with him being a Minnesota Viking.”

The trip from Tallahassee to the Twin Cities is a long one, but Cook won’t be devoid of familiar faces when he arrives in Minnesota. He knows Xavier Rhodes and Teddy Bridgewater, who should be good influences on the rookie. And as long as Cook keeps good company off the field, Spielman really likes what he sees from Cook on the field.

Not only is he an explosive playmaker with the ball in his hands as a running back, he has great balance. Watching him catch the ball and the explosive plays he makes out of the backfield as a receiver...there are always going to be some things these running backs need to clean up, pass pro and things like that, but overall he’s a talent with the ball in his hands. We felt he was one of the most complete backs in this draft.

While Cook’s explosiveness is rock solid, his ball security was not at Florida State. He put the ball on the ground several times at a Seminole. But just like pass protection, Spielman believes Cook can be coached up in that area. He thinks Vikings Running Backs Coach Kennedy Polamalu can help Cook’s ball security issues. If that’s cleaned up, Spielman thinks Cook’s game translates well to the next level.

He was playing in a pretty good conference, and when you see him running away from defensive players that have a lot of speed and are at that talent level, that kind of tells you what kind of football player he is. And I believe you’re going to see that same speed at this level, and when you can get a running back that has had that much success in his conference, that’s a pretty good success rate of how they perform in the NFL.

Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur is excited to add a new weapon to the fray. “When I went in to talk to Pat this morning about this being a possibility, his mouth kind of dropped,” Spielman explained. “One of the areas we definitely have to improve on is the running game, and I think with the three backs that we currently have right now, I think we’re going to have some playmakers.”

If Dalvin Cook can keep his proverbial nose clean in Minnesota, the Vikings have a good chance of getting first round impact with a second round pick.