Dalvin Cook has long been considered a first round talent by NFL evaluators – that hasn’t changed.
But there’s a chance now the 5-10, 210-pound All-American, who rushed for 1,765 yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior and set a school record for rushing in his three years at Florida State, could end up becoming a second round steal.
“While Dalvin Cook is clearly a first-rounder based on talent alone, there are some teams who simply don't believe he is worth a first-round investment,” NFL.com analyst Lance Zierein wrote Thursday. “Some teams seem to be basing their opinions on concerns surrounding durability and character, while others were disappointed with his NFL Scouting Combine showing.”
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Though Cook is rated the No. 2 running back prospect in the draft behind LSU’s Leonard Fournette by most experts including Bucky Brooks of NFL.com, analysts are now projecting Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey will go ahead of Cook and join Fournette as the only backs to be taken in the first round.
Passing on Cook, a former standout at Miami Central High and Florida’s Mr. Football award winner back in 2014, could end up being a mistake some teams regret. Recent history has shown running backs from the South Florida area end up having pretty good careers as pros.
Of the dozen players to rush for more than 1,000 yards last season, three played their high school ball in Miami-Dade: former Miami Central standout Devonta Freeman (1,079 yards, 11 touchdowns for Atlanta), Killian’s Lamar Miller (1,073 yards, 5 TDs for Houston) and Coral Gables’ Frank Gore (1,025 yards, 4 TDs for Indianapolis).
In his last college game, Cook ran for 145 yards and a touchdown and earned MVP honors in FSU’s thrilling 33-32 victory over Michigan in the Orange Bowl last December. It was just another great performance by Cook in front of his hometown fans. In his final high school game, he ran for 223 yards and four touchdowns and led Miami Central its third state title while in four years wearing golden cleats.
Yet, what is giving scouts reason to pause is Cook’s injury history (he had three surgeries on his shoulders and dealt with hamstring issues) and arrest record.
His rap sheet, according to floridafootballinsiders.com, includes one citation for a BB gun incident that left some car windows broken when he was in high school, another for chaining up three pit bull puppies by the neck and a misdemeanor battery charge in 2015 he was later acquitted of at Florida State.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn, Cook also scored low (11) on his Wonderlic test. The average score for a running back is 16 according to Paul Zimmerman's “The New Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football.”
“Fumbles and arrests are a bad combination,” an NFC executive told Zierein in his analysis of Cook. “He's got a lot of ability but he’s got on the field problems with ball security and multiple arrests off of it. You have to decide if he will be responsible with more money and more time on his hands. If you have any doubts, just wait around for another running back because there will be plenty this year.”
Still, there are many other scouts who believe Cook, who ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash and had 22 reps on the bench press at the combine, can be a star. Some have compared Cook to both former Miami Hurricane four-time Pro Bowler Edgerrin James, and Freeman, who has run for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons with the Falcons. Freeman was a 2014 fourth round pick also out of Florida State.
“He’ll be in the mode of [Devonta] Freeman,” one scout told McGinn. “I absolutely love that guy. He can take over a game. What makes him special is his first 10 yards. His acceleration rate is awesome. Good enough hands. People will try to kill his character, and to a degree he may slide.”
Cook’s grandmother, Betty Cook, said the family plans to spend the draft at home in Miami.
The teams targeting running backs include the Jacksonville Jaguars, who pick fourth; the Carolina Panthers, who pick eighth; the Philadelphia Eagles, who pick 14; and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who pick 19th.
The Seminoles have six players projected to be taken over the three days and seven rounds of the draft according to NFL.com.
Since 2010, only Alabama (17) and Florida (11) have had more players drafted in the first round than FSU (9).
Last season, Florida State only had two draft picks: cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who went fifth overall to Jacksonville and kicker Roberto Aguayo, who went in the second round to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In 2015, quarterback Jameis Winston was taken with the first overall pick by Tampa. FSU had 11 players taken in all in that draft including another first rounder and three second rounders.
FSU DRAFT PROSPECTS
Name, Pos., Ht./Wt., Projected round
Dalvin Cook, RB, 5-10/210, 1st or 2nd round
DeMarcus Walker, DE, 6-4/280, 3rd round
Roderick Johnson, OT, 6-7/298, 3rd round
Freddie Stevenson, FB, 6-0/234, 6th round
Marquez White, CB, 6-0/194, 6th round
Kareem Are, OG, 6-6/325, 7th round