I can remember it like it was yesterday. Up by a comfortable margin, I was on pace to blow out my week 3 opponent. My rookie running back prodigee, who I stole in the 12th round of my main league's draft, was carrying my team once again. Tied for the number 1 seed of a 14 team league with no major injuries, a plethora of depth, and the top waiver priority, life was good. Yet I was jealous. Why was I jealous? What more could I possibly want?!
Well the answer to that is more-so of a 'who' question. Dalvin freaking Cook. Yeah Kareem Hunt was great and all, it's just Joe Mixon wasn't. Being my 3rd round pick I expected far more and he was doing doo-ky. And boy did I feel better looking back and remembering how Dalvin Cook was still on the board when I took Mixon. The very thought tormented me at night like the ending to Infinity War has left us all. However it was short-lived as Cook went on to tear his ACL the next week.
So why do I want a runningback who is coming off a torn ACL, with a new offensive coordinator, and a different o-line? For the same reason I wanted him so bad a year ago. Before he was tearing his ACL he was tearing the NFL apart one highlight-reel juke after another.
If you believe in the eye-test then you believe in this kid. Oh and don't worry if you aren't really an eye-test person, cause I've got just the thing for you too. As David Gettleman would put it, here's some stats for you analytic-loving nerds!
In the chart above I took the liberty of taking stats from the top 10 fantasy runningbacks this past year and compared it to Dalvin Cook's stats. At a glance his efficiency stands out. Amongst these top tier rushers, His 4.8 YPC (Yards Per Carry) and his 111 yards/game ranked 4th and 5th respectively. Doubters are quick to point out this is only from a mere 4 games. Don't get me wrong, it's good to account for sample size however there are plenty of reasons to believe in this small glimpse. For starters, he was a rookie. With 3 of the top 10 RBs in standard ,4 in PPR (Christian McCaffrey), being rookies this may not seem that special. However, being thrown into the NFL, where the worse teams could beat almost every college team, and excelling this early on is no easy feat. You have to understand the tendancies of your O-line, learn a more complex playbook, be able to read the defense, be adequate in pass pro to stay on for 3 downs, etc. The list goes on. Cook had to put in tons of work to acheive what he did in those 4 games. So yes, he has earned those stats.
Luckily for him, he can reach that kind of play again today given advances in the medical field. As you may have heard ACL tears are no longer the death sentence they once were. He can and will return top 10 RB form this year. You just have to look at the stats. Only two rookies were ahead of Cook in YPC or yards/game. They were Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara, the 3rd and 4th best RBs in fantasy last year. Only Hunt was better in both categories. One of which he lead by a tiny margin (0.4 more yards in yards/game). From an efficiency and a production standpoint he was just as good as Hunt and Kamara. Both of whom are seen as top-10 picks this year. Dalvin Cook on the other hand is falling to the 2nd round in 12 team leagues.
When RBs drop like that, it's sometimes because they lack upside in the passing game. In a league where passing has taken over, that is completely reasonable. What's unreasonable is those who believe Cook is one of those backs. He caught 11 receptions for 90 yards in the games he played in. If you add that to the catches from Jerrick McKinnon and Latavius Murray, you get a whopping 77 receptions. Good for 3rd out of the top RBs in fake football. Worried this was due to Jerrick McKinnon's style of play? Just know that Cook alone projected for 44 catches on the season. The average top 10 RB caught 54. McKinnon left this offseason for the 49ers. Surely Cook's catches will go up as a result assuring that he will hit that 54 catch-mark if not higher. Hence, Cook has the versatility to be a useful asset in every league this coming fall.
If you still aren't full from the buffet of stats poured down your throat then here is some desert. McKinnon, Murray, and Cook combined for an insane stat line of 1,766 rushing, 613 receiving, 77 catches, and 13 TDs. These nummbers total to 315.9 fantasy points in standard scoring, edging out Todd Gurley for 1st place amongst all RBs last year. For PPR fans like myself, the Vikings RB would have had 77 points alone from receptions. However this is would be in a perfect world. Backup RBs are sure to take some of those stats away. Furthermore, the Vikings have a new offensive coordinator and QB this season. Usually these changes would be a negative but Cook lucked out as the Vikings debatebly upgraded with both. This estimate's only purpose is to show you the potential in the Vikings run game last year. Projecting Cook's stats over 16 games gives us a more realistic line.
Now with an improved offense and the 9th easiest run-defense slate, per CBS sports, these stats and more should be an easy task for Dalvin Cook this upcoming season. Just don't realize that when someone else drafts him and uses his game-breaking ability to hand you a fat 'L' next season. 'Cause something is cooking in Minnesota- and it's gonna be magical.