The Case for Dalvin Cook as a Top 5 Running Back

According to the Fantasy Football Calculator, Dalvin Cook is the 10th Running Back off the board in both PPR and Standard. He only rises to 9th when it becomes Dynasty. These ADPs are currently my best friend because the further we get into the preseason, the more I realize that Dalvin Cook should be the 5th Running Back off the board in all formats. It means that no matter what slot I pick from in the first round, I will be able to draft one of my top 5 RBs. Dalvin Cook should be drafted in before Melvin Gordon, Kareem Hunt, Leonard Fournette, Saquon Barkley, and Alvin Kamara (against the strong opinions of the @Top2Pod hosts – please give their RB rankings episode a listen!).

College Pedigree Worth Considering

Dalvin Cook holds the record at Florida State for the most career rushing yards (4,464) while only playing in three seasons. He also holds the school record for the most touchdowns (46). Two of his seasons sit on top of the single season rushing yards list for the school (1,765 in 2016 and 1,691 in 2015). Florida State plays in the ACC. The same conference as Pittsburgh (37), NC State (29), Louisville (18), Clemson (10), and Boston College (1). The number in parenthesis is the overall defensive rankings for the 2016 season in the NCAA. In other words, he was facing good defenses in that record breaking year.

Cousins Targets his Running Backs

Kirk Cousins has the ability to provide PPR value to his Running Backs. The only thing that has held this statistic from being even more impressive is the health of Chris Thompson. In 10 games (2017), Chris Thompson caught 39 passes for 510 yards and 4 touchdowns. If he had played 16 games while performing at the same level, that would have been 816 yards and 6 touchdowns. A counter argument might be, “Chris Thompson doesn’t play for Minnesota.” The answer to that argument would be, “Dalvin Cook plays the passing downs.” In the three full games before his injury (week 4), he played in 70% of snaps. Jerick McKinnon was used in the passing game after Cook’s injury, but McKinnon left town to be the 49ers lead back. Latavius Murray is not a passing down back. I’ll tell you a secret, he’s not as good as Dalvin Cook, either.

Injury Argument Shouldn’t Apply If You Have Watson Ranked Top 5

I’ve participated in several mock drafts with real people (please see the awesome Mock Draft Series Articles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). In those drafts, people are drafting DeShaun Watson incredibly high for the QB position. The similarities between Watson and Cook are oddly similar: Incredible talent out of college, was not the top pick in their respective position, lit up the stat sheets, played a truncated rookie season due to an ACL tear. Is the ACL tear really going to be part of the argument against Dalvin Cook while it is being completely ignored for DeShaun Watson? I certainly hope not.

Comparing Other Top Running Back Options

Player Avg Rush-YPG Avg Rec-YPG Avg TDs Avg Total YPG
Cook 101 26 0.6 126
Kamara 45.5 51.6 0.8 97
Fournette 80 23.2 0.6 103.2
Melvin 69.1 29.8 0.75 98.9
Hunt 69 28.4 0.7 97.4
Barkley NA NA NA NA

The stats tell similar tales. Some were used more in the red zone, but not by much. Some were used more in the passing game, but not by much (exception is Kamara, but his rushing yards bring the comparison back to reality). Since the stats are so close, here is my reasoning why I would draft Dalvin Cook over the 5 RBs immediately ahead of him in ADP.

Leonard Fournette – Cook’s stats are better. Fournette’s ankle issues will never go away. I believe it is safe to use the term “injury prone.” Fournette will miss games. Cook is safer.

Melvin Gordon – The stats are close. But despite Melvin Gordon’s relatively young age, his left knee has been problematic on multiple occassions: Torn meniscus in 2015 and sprained PCL in 2016, missing time both seasons. I like Melvin Gordon. If it weren’t for his injury history, this article could have been about him. But, I like Cook’s opportunity a lot more and I feel he is safer.

Kareem Hunt – Remember when Kareem Hunt disappeared for weeks on end? They have a new offensive coordinator, a rookie QB, a returning Spencer Ware…..and the same Andy Reid that made Hunt disappear for weeks on end. I’d still draft Hunt, but he is the second lowest in my personal rankings within this group.

Saquon Barkley – Saquon has skills and potential. I will not argue the higher ADP in Dynasty. In fact, I just barely disagree with it. But the Giants STUNK last season. I only see them stinking slightly less this year. Plus, Barkley has never touched an NFL ball. Unproven and bad team = lower ranking for me.

Alvin Kamara – Kamara has never been utilized as a feature back, not in college and not in the NFL. He might get a boost from Ingram missing the first 4 games, but we don’t have any evidence that he will be able to handle the workload. Once Ingram returns, it will go back to a timeshare. Those 2017 stats were magical and possibly not repeatable. If somebody is arguing for Kamara over Cook in PPR, they will receive a head nod from me even while I maintain my disagreement. I’m going to go with my gut.

My Rankings

Player Standard PPR Dynasty
Cook 5 5 5
Kamara 6 6 7
Barkley 7 7 6
Fournette 8 10 10
Melvin 9 8 8
Hunt 10 9 9

About Marc Szymanski

@FFA_Marc on Twitter Resident of southeast Michigan and the wonderful suburbs of Detroit. In real life, I am the Manager of Technology Operations for a software company. Graduated from Baker College with an MBA in Information Systems. Fan of the wonderful game called Fantasy Football. Fan of the Packers AND Lions. Thanks to Madden '94 for the Sega Genesis for causing an internal struggle twice a year.

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