With the completion of the 2017 NFL Draft, it’s time to start looking more in-depth at the members of the Minnesota Vikings’ draft class. (Our own wludford has been doing an outstanding job of this so far in numerous stories on the site.) There are plenty of scouting reports out there on the internet on players, but I wanted to bring folks some scouting reports from sources they may not have seen.
There aren’t a lot of “dead tree media” draft guides that get put out on shelves at the local stores anymore, but I’ve got a couple of them sitting here in front of me. One is from Athlon Sports, and the other is from Lindy’s. We’ll go through both of these guides and the scouting reports they have for the newest members of the purple and see what they have to say.
What better place to start than with Minnesota’s first selection, running back Dalvin Cook out of Florida State University? We’ll let the Athlon guide lead off this one. They had Cook ranked as their #2 running back in this year’s class, behind only Leonard Fournette, who went to Jacksonville at #4 overall. Cook was ranked #18 overall in Athlon’s “Top 100” of draftable prospects for this year.
Strong Points: A compact runner, Cook has a rare blend of balance, agility, and instincts. His stop-start ability in traffic, exceptional balance, lateral agility, and body control allow him to squeeze out chunks of yardage when it appears that nothing is there. He gets low and rarely absorbs significant contact, and he shows a nice blend of quickness and patience, maximizing blocking. He’s extremely coordinated as a pass catcher, a natural in the screen game. He’s deadly when he’s in space, with true breakaway speed.
Weak Points: He’s on the small side, and the concern will be whether he can hold up physically as a 20-touch-per-game workhorse at the next level (he’s had shoulder injuries in the past). He’ll also have to become more physical as a pass protector. Cook had some ball-security issues at FSU as well, fumbling six times in 2016. His hands are good, but he doesn’t show much feel as a route runner and might not be a guy you flex out wide. His off-the-field past is of at least minor concern. While charges were dropped, when he was a juvenile he was charged in separate incidents with robbery and firing a weapon on school property. While at FSU he was cited for improper care of pit bull puppies, and he was found not guilty after being charged with misdemeanor battery after an altercation outside a bar.
Summary: Most years, a prospect of Cook’s caliber would be the first running back off the board. He’ll have to wait until Fournette is picked this year, but as long as medicals on his shoulder check out, he’s a versatile feature back with star potential.
Final Grade: First round
I think we heard a lot of this after the Vikings used the 41st overall pick on Cook. The off-field stuff is a bit damning, though if you read this story from Robert Klemko of SI’s MMQB, there’s more in some of these cases than meets the eye. It sounds like at least some of the issues stem from the people he hung around with, and he’s apparently assured Rick Spielman that those people would not be coming with him to Minnesota. In that respect, perhaps Cook winding up in Minnesota is a very positive development. Other than that, we heard about the shoulder issues and some of the other stuff, but it certainly does sound like Cook has superstar potential at the running back position.
Now, onto the Lindy’s scouting report. Lindy’s actually had Cook rated as their #1 running back. . .yes, ahead of Fournette. He was also #5 overall on their Top 100 list of available players in this year’s draft, and their highest-rated offensive player overall. Here’s what they had to say about him.
In Our View: A two-year starter, Cook is arguably the best running back Florida State has ever produced with the two best rushing seasons in school history the past two years, leaving the Seminoles atop most rushing records. The former “Mr. Football” in the state of Florida set a new school rushing record as a sophomore with 1,691 yards on 229 carries (7.4 average) and 19 touchdowns, earning first-team All-America and All-ACC honors. Cook broke his own single-season rushing record as a junior with 1,765 yards on 288 carries and 19 touchdowns to again earn first-team All-America and All-ACC honors.
As long as the medical staff and front office are comfortable with his long-term durability, Cook should be the first running back drafted in the 2017 class, although his final grade isn’t as high as Ezekiel Elliott’s a year ago.
Strengths: Explosive lower body and coordinated feet to start, stop, and redirect quickly. Elusive athlete can make defenders miss in a phone booth, showing exceptional body control and instincts in his jump cuts. Senses his surroundings well and anticipates spacing in his runs. Quick to read blocks and sets up his moves with patience and feel. Runs balanced with a low center to escape tackle attempts. Runs with better-than-expected toughness between the tackles to blow through arm tackles. Flashes a fifth gear once he hits the second level to breeze past defenders; had 10 career runs of 50-plus yards. Above average ball skills as a pass-catcher (79 career catches) due to his hand-eye coordination and hands.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal body armor to be a consistent hammer. Not the type of power back who will drop his pads and move bodies with leg drive. Ball security concerns with 12 fumbles the past three seasons (six in 2016), averaging one every 63.8 touches on offense. Willing blocker in pass protection, but makes too many mistakes due to inconsistent timing, technique, and awareness. Will have the occasional drop, focusing on the run after the catch instead of the catch. Teams will question whether or not he can take consistent NFL punishment and stay durable long-term. History of shoulder issues, including surgery to repair a torn labrum on the back side of his right shoulder (April 2016), front side of his right shoulder (March 2014), and front side of his left shoulder in high school.
NFL Comparison: Marshall Faulk, Hall of Fame — It is unfair to compare a college prospect to a Pro Football Hall of Famer, but stylistically the comp fits for Cook. The on-field talent is similar from the size to the athleticism and the versatility to be an offensive weapon.
I agree that it seems a bit unfair to compare a guy that hasn’t hit the field in the NFL yet to a guy that’s in the Hall of Fame and quite possibly the greatest all-around running back in the history of the game. I’m not sure we can expect that right away, but if Cook’s shoulder stays healthy, then it appears that he does have the physical make-up to eventually develop into that sort of football player.
From looking at either of these reports, you’d be hard pressed to say that the Vikings didn’t get a steal at #41 overall in this year’s draft. There’s absolutely no way that Dalvin Cook should have been available for the Vikings to pounce on, but strange things happen on draft day. Here’s hoping that Cook can stay healthy and show the rest of the NFL what they missed out on.