Why Dalvin Cook Is Going to Be the Next Ezekiel Elliott in 2017

Dalvin Cook #33 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball during the first quarter.
Dalvin Cook could be great for the Vikings. | Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Dalvin Cook was one of the most heralded prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Over the last three years, the 22-year-old running back rewrote the record book (in regards to rushing statistics) at Florida State University, which is one of the greatest college football programs of all time. During his three seasons in Tallahassee, Cook accumulated 4,464 rushing yards and 46 rushing touchdowns, and he caught 79 passes for 935 yards and two touchdowns.

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Cook went from being the best available running back on many boards to an eventual second-round pick (No. 41 overall) of the Minnesota Vikings. His slide mostly involved concerns around the league about whom he associates with off the field, rather than anything football-related.

During the pre-draft process, Cook promised teams that the people around him would not follow him to the NFL. If that proves to be true, the Vikings may have landed the biggest steal of the draft.

Dalvin Cook #4 of the Florida State Seminoles watches before a game.
Dalvin Cook has big-time NFL potential. | Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

With Adrian Peterson now a member of the New Orleans Saints, Cook is in a position to be the Vikings’ lead back during Week 1 of his rookie season. He will have to beat out free agent acquisition Latavius Murray, but he undoubtedly has the skill set to land the job outright.

If he does end up winning the starting job in Minnesota, Cook has the potential to have an Ezekiel Elliott-type of impact on the National Football League in 2017.

While he does not have the benefit of running behind the best offensive line in the league like Elliott did in 2016, Cook does have several qualities that cause us to believe he could be this year’s version of Elliott.

He has true home-run ability

Within the first two minutes of the above highlight reel it becomes abundantly clear that Cook is the type of player who is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. He is literally a big-play machine, and can shred defenses in multiple ways. This is one area where Cook may actually be better than Elliott.

He has a three-down skill set

True three-down, workhorse running backs are a rarity in today’s NFL. A handful of guys prove to be in this class — Elliott, Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, and LeSean McCoy instantly come to mind — but the simple truth of the matter is most NFL running backs are best suited for a role in a committee approach to the position.

Cook has the skill set to be a workhorse for the Vikings in 2017. He can run between the tackles; he can catch passes out of the backfield; and he can use his world-class speed to outrun defenders on the edge or in the open field.

He thrives on big stages

Dalvin Cook #4 of the Florida State Seminoles runs for a 24-yard touchdown against the South Florida Bulls.
Dalvin Cook loves the big stage. | Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Like Elliott, Cook entered the NFL as a proven big-game performer. Here is a quick rundown on Cook’s performances against some of the top teams in college football over the last three years.

  • Louisville (2014): 9 carries, 110 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns; 4 receptions, 40 receiving yards
  • Miami (FL) (2014): 7 carries, 92 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns
  • Florida (2014): 24 carries, 144 rushing yards; 2 receptions, 28 receiving yards
  • Oregon (2014): 15 carries, 103 rushing yards; 3 receptions, 24 receiving yards
  • South Florida (2015): 30 carries, 266 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns
  • Miami (FL) (2015): 22 carries, 222 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns; 3 receptions, 47 receiving yards, 1 touchdown reception
  • Louisville (2015): 22 carries, 163 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns; 4 receptions, 60 receiving yards
  • Clemson (2015): 21 carries, 194 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown
  • Florida (2015): 26 carries, 183 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns
  • Ole Miss (2016): 23 carries, 91 rushing yards; 7 receptions, 101 receiving yards
  • South Florida (2016): 28 carries, 267 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns; 4 receptions, 62 receiving yards
  • North Carolina (2016): 29 carries, 140 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns; 6 receptions, 106 receiving yards
  • Miami (FL) (2016): 27 carries, 150 rushing yards; 1 reception, 59 receiving yards, 1 touchdown reception
  • Clemson (2016): 19 carries, 169 rushing yards, 4 touchdowns; 2 receptions, 15 receiving yards
  • Florida (2016): 26 carries, 153 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown; 3 receptions, 26 receiving yards
  • Michigan (2016): 20 carries, 145 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown; 3 receptions, 62 receiving yards

As you can see, Cook consistently produced big-time numbers against some of the best defenses in the country throughout his college career.

He has an elite burst

The above video tells you everything you need to know about Cook’s burst. The players in the clip who look like they are wearing cement shoes are actually members of the same Clemson Tigers defense that went on to win the 201617 College Football Playoff National Championship.

Running back Dalvin Cook of Florida State answers questions from the media.
Running back Dalvin Cook of Florida State answers questions from the media. | Joe Robbins/Getty Images

In all honesty, it’s totally realistic to expect Cook to put up numbers that rival Elliott’s rookie stats (322 carries, 1,631 rushing yards, 15 rushing touchdowns; 32 receptions, 363 receiving yards, 1 touchdown reception). The former Ohio State star had one of the greatest rookie seasons by a running back in NFL history, and he had the benefit of running behind Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Travis Frederick.

One thing Cook absolutely must improve on is his ball security (he had 13 fumbles during his career at Florida State). If he doesn’t, the Vikings likely won’t trust him with a full-time role.

But when it comes down to it, Cook is an elite talent, and he is a great fit (even better than Peterson in our eyes) in Minnesota’s offensive scheme. If it all comes together, the Miami, Florida native could take home NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2017.

Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference and Sports-Reference