By Charlie Campbell
Summary: Cook was an impactful player for the Seminoles from his first day with the program. As a freshman, he beat out more experienced backs to be the feature runner who replaced Devonta Freeman. With Jameis Winston under center, Cook turned in an excellent true freshman season in 2014, averaging 5.9 yards per carry for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns. He caught 22 passes for 203 yards, too.
Cook carried the Florida State offense in 2015 following Winston’s departure to the NFL. The sophomore averaged 7.4 yards per carry on his way to 1,691 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also had 24 receptions for 244 yards and a score.
Cook had a bit of a slow start to his junior season, but he dominated during the final three quarters of the year to produce his best season. In 2016, Cook averaged 6.0 yards per carry for 1,765 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also had 33 receptions for 488 yards.
There is no doubt that Cook is a dynamic runner for the NFL. He is a well-built back with tremendous speed. He has an explosive first-step and a second gear to accelerate downfield after hitting the next level. Cook is a very elusive runner, too, and that makes him extremely dangerous in the open field. In space, Cook dominates defenders with juke moves and cuts to weave around defenders. Additionally, his natural height, knee bend, and body lean make him very tough to get a hold of for defenders. Cook also has tremendous feel with vision and patience as a ball-carrier. He is a natural running back who is a slashing weapon to carve up defenses.
Cook isn’t the biggest of backs, but he has toughness to him. He can break tackles and pick up yards after contact. In the NFL thought, he won’t be a power back. Cook still will break some tackles, however, and will finish his runs well. Cook has already displayed the durability and stamina to handle a big work load. Sources have said that Cook seems to avoid some contact near the sideline though. While a lack of a physical attitude isn’t appealing to some, it does save Cook some hits, and that could help him avoid some injuries or wear and tear. Some NFL teams might pull him in short-yardage situations for a bigger back and also to spare Cook some of the pounding, but he is capable of handling short-yardage and goal-line duties.
As a receiving back, Cook is an incredible prospect. He runs tremendous routes to get open and has superb hands. He is a threat to make big plays in the passing game by running routes vertically down the sideline. With his skills as a receiver, Cook could line up in the slot and should be a mismatch weapon who will be very valuable on third downs as an outlet receiver who can move the chains. Cook has blocking potential for the NFL, but all college backs have a learning process for handling NFL pass-rushers.
There are very few negatives to Cook as a player though. For one, he has a real problem with fumbles and ball security. Some of the fumbles were weird, fluky plays where he just dropped the ball without being hit. Cook did have some painful fumbles in his earlier seasons at Florida State as well. With the bigger, stronger and more skilled defenders in the NFL, teams are going to be trying hard to strip Cook of the ball as a rookie because he is known to have fumbling issues. Improving his ball security is critical for his success in the NFL as nothing gets a running back benched faster than repeated fumbles.
Off the field, some teams have concerns about the entourage that hangs around Cook. They don’t think that Cook is a bad guy, but they worry about some bad influences following him to his NFL home. Sources say that some of those friends are gangbangers and worry that Cook could end up being at the wrong place at the wrong time from hanging around them.
For the NFL, Cook looks like he has the ability to be a franchise running back similar to Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy or Marshall Faulk. Dominant running backs can make a big difference in the win/loss column, and Cook could make any offense challenging regardless of the quarterback. Cook is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. He looks like a future Pro Bowl running back if he can stay healthy and improve his ball security.
Player Comparison: Marshall Faulk. In terms of playing style, Cook reminds me of Faulk. Faulk was a fast, slashing back who was a threat to rip off a chunk run on any carry. In the Rams’ aerial offense, Faulk was a tremendous receiver, and Cook could be similar in the NFL. Faulk was a first-round pick, and Cook will be a first-rounder as well. In the NFL, I could see Cook being a back similar to Faulk, but it is unfair to expect any player to have a Hall of Fame career like Faulk did. Thus, think of this comparison as a style of player and not a forecast for Cook’s career. Other good comparisons for Cook include Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy.
NFL Matches: New York Jets, Carolina, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Tampa Bay
There are a lot of teams that could take Cook despite lacking a huge need at the position because he is a player who should make an immediate impact and also contributed significantly toward producing wins for his team. Among the first 20 picks of the 2017 NFL Draft, Cook has a lot of potential landing spots.
Perhaps the highest that Cook could hope to go would be to the Jaguars because he is such a special talent. Tom Coughlin isn’t tied to the drafting of T.J. Yeldon or the signing of Chris Ivory. Additionally, having a weapon like Cook could help the Jaguars attempt to salvage Blake Bortles before he goes bust.
The Jets signed Matt Forte before the 2016 season, but the skilled veteran is aging. Cook could make a big difference for whomever is the Jets’ young starting quarterback – whether it be Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty.
A couple of picks later, adding Cook to Cam Newton could be an insane combination of running ability for the Panthers. Jonathan Stewart turns 30 prior to the 2017 NFL Draft, and he didn’t have a strong 2016 season for Carolina. Additionally, Stewart has dealt with durability issues throughout his career and there are rumors that he will get cut.
The Colts were led by Frank Gore again on the ground in 2016, and the aging veteran isn’t a long-term option. Indianapolis needs to provide more support to Andrew Luck, and a running game with Cook would certainly make Luck’s job easier.
Philadelphia fielded a weak rushing attack in 2016 and needs to give Carson Wentz more help in the form of a running game. Cook could be more valuable than any receiver who is available with the Eagles’ first-round pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. He would be a great fit in Doug Pederson’s offense.
Baltimore needs a feature back for its offense. At the 16th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, Cook would be a nice value for the Ravens if they want an upgrade over Kenneth Dixon.
Many Tampa Bay fans are clamoring for Cook, and the Bucs could trade up for him. Cook shouldn’t fall past the Buccaneers, but the odds of all these teams passing on Cook are very remote. The Bucs also have a lot of needs, so trading up for Cook seems unlikely. Sources with Tampa Bay say they don’t believe Cook will fall to them.
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