Three years ago, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In that series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. A year later, we started the Why Slide? series, and this year, it is back. Feel free to email me requests for "Why the Slide?" and "Why Undrafted?" at email@example.com. I can't promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely respond.
Leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft, Florida State running back Dalvin Cook was a consensus first-round pick who many felt was a top-10 talent. As the draft itself got closer and closer, however, there were more and more reports of Cook sliding, for a variety of reasons. Some of the reports suggested off-the-field concerns,while others said there were medical concerns. Cook did end up sliding out of the first round, despite the fact that there were NFL teams that had given him a top-10 grade as a player.
Sources say the reason why Cook slid was a combination of the medical evaluation and the off-the-field issues, but in speaking with sources at multiple teams that could have used an upgrade at running back, it sounds like the off-the-field portion was a bigger detriment to Cook than the medical report. Teams felt the medical issues were there, but minor. WalterFootball.com was first to report that there were some off-the-field concerns with Cook stemming from him having a group of old friends who were described as an entourage of gang-bangers. Cook had to reassure teams that his friends wouldn't be following him to his NFL city, but some teams had doubts about that.
Cook is known as a good teammate, so teams were also worried that some his teammates would be hanging out with him off the field and those rough individuals that Cook has been hanging out with would be there as well. Such a scenario would put multiple players in danger of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. While the medical evaluation played a role, the off-the-field concerns were the biggest anchor that weighed down Cook's draft position.
The Minnesota Vikings ended Cook's fall when they traded up for him in the second round, and that was a great landing spot for him. The Vikings had a big hole for a feature back after moving on from Adrian Peterson. They signed Latavius Murray, but he is just a backup quality running back. Cook can be the lead back in their offense, and with his first-round talent, he helps make up for them not having a first-round pick due to the Sam Bradford trade.
Cook was a steal in the second round for Minnesota. Going to small market in a cold midwest city also could help Cook to put distance with those friends and stay focused on football. Also, Mike Zimmer has done well working with some players who had off-the-field issues. The Vikings were a great landing spot for Cook, and it wouldn't be surprising if he provides a big impact for Minnesota as soon as his rookie season.