Just two short years ago, Dalvin Cook was one of the names being discussed at the top of dynasty rookie drafts. The 2nd round pick from Florida State had shattered most of the Seminoles rushing records, owning the number one and number two single-season rushing records, four of the top seven single-game rushing records, and ranking first in all-time rushing yards and touchdowns. This put him above former studs including Warrick Dunn, Karlos Williams (remember him?), and Devonta Freeman.
Cook had shown dynasty owners he could handle a huge workload, touching the ball 250+ times his RS Sophomore season, and over 320 times his RS Junior season. On top of that, he simply dominated the competition, rushing for 6.1 yards-per-carry and averaging nearly 15 yards per reception his final season in Tallahassee. The Minnesota Vikings traded up to get him and made it clear he would be an integral part of their offense.
So what happened?
Well, things went nearly perfect in his first game at U.S. Bank Stadium. He quite literally broke one of Adrian Peterson‘s records right in front of him, and he helped his team knock off the Saints on national television. Fast forward three weeks and the Vikings are 2-1, albeit with Case Keenum at the reigns of the offense, and clearly needing to rely heavily on their rookie running back. Cook, already at 60 yards and a touchdown less than halfway through the game, rips off another big run but makes a hard cut and his knee gives out. Torn ACL, season over.
Obviously a devastating injury for the Vikings and dynasty owners alike. Cook had shown immense promise, the Vikings were feeding him the rock, and he was lost for the remainder of the 2017-18 season.
Fast forward again, this time to Week 4 of the 2018 season. Cook is dealing with a bit of a hamstring issue, but with a massive TNF game against the Rams on tap, he decides to push himself and play. This turns out to be a terrible decision, as he pulls up with an injured hamstring. He wouldn’t play again until Week 9.
Week 9 comes, Cook is back and the Vikings need him desperately. He jumps back in against the Detroit Lions and proceeds to mash them for 109 yards on just 14 touches. From here on out, we have mixed results from Cook. The Vikings are struggling to win consistently, but we see big flashes (9.84 YPC vs New England; 163 yds, 2 TD vs. Miami) from Dalvin during the stretch run.
Eventually, the Vikings miss the playoffs, and many are wondering if Dalvin is the RB1 he was drafted to be.
Here’s what you need to know: Dalvin Cook has all the ingredients at his disposal to be great. He knows how to put it all together, he just needs a little help changing the menu. And that’s exactly what the Vikings are doing this off-season.
The Vikings were Extremely Unbalanced in 2018
The Vikings suffered from a major identity crisis in 2018; having just paid Kirk Cousins $84 million and hiring “offensive guru” John DeFilippo, passing became the identity of the offense. This was evidenced by an average of 47.3 pass attempts in the first four weeks of the season, however, resulting in an unacceptable 1-2-1 record.
For the remainder of the season, there was a struggle between Head Coach Mike Zimmer and the aforementioned DeFilippo over “running the damn ball“, and calling a balanced, effective gameplan, eventually culminating in the firing of DeFilippo.
It would be a mistake to use 2018 as a blueprint of how the offense will look moving forward. General Manager Rick Spielman and Zimmer are on the hot seat, realizing they need to win now to keep their jobs, and that means…
The Vikings are Making Fixing the Offense a Priority
Everyone across the league knows what the Vikings offense did last season was unacceptable. They put Cousins in bad situations time and again, and did not play to their player’s strengths.
They’re already taking steps to correct this.
Enter Gary Kubiak
They were able to keep interim Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski on a permanent basis, and they paired him up with former Super Bowl-winning coach Gary Kubiak. The two should form a formidable duo in game planning, as well as accentuating the strengths of their players — namely, Dalvin Cook.
In Gary Kubiak’s 22 years of coaching NFL offenses, one thing is clear: his zone running scheme works. 13 times, he’s had a Top 10 Rushing Offense, including 11 Top-5 finishes. Stefanski has also shown his propensity to run the zone running scheme, as well. And Dalvin, well, he enjoyed it.
As you can see in the above clip, you don’t need to slam Cook between the tackles. Misdirection, pulling guards, and using tight ends to take out players on the edge will give Dalvin enough space to make men miss — which is his specialty.
The Vikings offensive line was “stuffed” on 21.5% of their running plays last season. Incorporating Kubiak’s system will help get Cook into space and let him do his thing.
Furthermore, in 2011 and 2014, two of the best rushing seasons in Kubiak’s recent past, he manufactured 53 receptions for Arian Foster and another 44 for Justin Forsett. Seeing as many people believe that Dalvin Cook is a (far) superior running back to these two, we should see plenty of this:
Get the ball in Cook’s hands, and good things happen.
If the new scheme wasn’t going to be enough for Cook to flourish, the Vikings will be looking to strengthen their offensive line. Both through the draft and free agency. Any sort of help up front will undoubtedly help make the running game more effective.
Dalvin Cook should be the Focal Point of the Offense
The Vikings identity for the entire Zimmer tenure has been defense. They’ve used many of their top picks on defensive players, and they’re consistently Top-5 in team defense.
What’s a great way to compliment an elite defense? Run the ball.
The best thing for Cook is the fact that his coach wants the offense to run the ball. They’ve even hired a guru in terms of successful rushing attacks.
Especially with the deficiencies of the signal caller, it would behoove Minnesota to feature Dalvin Cook as often as possible. Then and use Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen as a result of Cook’s success, not the other way around.
Your Task: Go Get Dalvin Cook
If you don’t own Cook in dynasty, this is the perfect time to target him in a trade. The owner most likely invested a lot to get him two years ago and is probably frustrated with the results. Especially given the fact he’s only played 15 of 32 games thus far.
The injuries do not concern me at all. He had the ACL tear, which happens to plenty of players. Cook probably just rushed back a bit which resulted in the hamstring strain. With a full offseason to prepare, he should be firing on all cylinders by Week 1. The way he was moving around down the stretch should leave no doubt in your mind that he’s back. Maybe even healthy as ever.
Cook is also just 23 years old. Meaning he’s just a shade older than guys like Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. He’s got plenty of tread left on those tires and can be expected to perform for a long time.
With Latavius Murray’s future in Minnesota in question, Dalvin Cook is set to be the main chef wearing purple. Get him before it’s too late.