Will Dalvin Cook Finally Put it Together in the 2019-2020 NFL Season?

By:  Justin Holden

Dalvin Cook missed 12 games in his rookie season (2017-2018) due to a season ending ACL injury, which required reconstructive surgery.  Cook missed 5 games last season (2018-2019) due to a nagging hamstring strain injury.  So yeah, his injury history is looking like a red flag at this point in his career.  Cook also shows a lack of agility and burst based off of his workout metrics, however, this has not appeared to significantly impact his on-field efficiency and production.

I led with the negatives right out of the gate, but let me explain why the arrow appears to be pointing up on Dalvin Cook for the 2019-2020 season.  We should all know by now that running back is one of the most interdependent positions in football.  Pair a replacement level running back (CJ Anderson, Thomas Rawls, etc.) with an all-pro quarterback on a high-octane NFL offense, and he will have the capability to produce like a superstar in the short-term.  By contrast, put an amazingly talented running back on an NFL offense that has poor offensive line play and a third string quarterback starting, and watch how much his productivity/efficiency drops.

Fortunately, Dalvin Cook’s situation this upcoming season is way better than the latter part of that analogy.  Kirk Cousins may not be a perennial pro-bowler at the quarterback position, but he’s much better than most analysts and football fans give him credit for.  Cousins is a reliable pocket passer throwing to two of the league’s best wide receiver talents in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.  Having that trio of players on the offense helps tremendously in not allowing opposing defenses to consistently stack the box against the Minnesota Vikings’ run game.

There are three other situational factors for Dalvin Cook that are noteworthy.  First, the Vikings addressed offensive line play by selecting Garrett Bradbury in the first round of the NFL Draft.  Second, Gary Kubiak was hired by the Vikings in the offseason as Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Advisor.  While I’m not big on coach-centric analysis, Kubiak does have an undeniably strong track record of having highly productive 1st string running backs on the teams that he has coached.  Across a sample size of 22 NFL seasons where Kubiak has been head coach or offensive coordinator, Kubiak’s lead running backs have averaged over 1100 rushing yards and 10.5 touchdowns per season.  Third, Dalvin Cook has absolutely no competition behind him on the depth chart.  The next man up is Alexander Mattison, a replacement level back that the Vikings unwisely selected in the third round of the NFL draft.  Mattison is slow (4.67 40-yard dash time) and was ridiculously inefficient with his carries (4.7 ypc, 14th percentile) in a weak conference in college.  The Alexander Mattison fan boys can come out of the woodwork to give me crap for this take, but I’m telling you right now that Mattison is not capable of siphoning off any meaningful snaps from Cook, barring a severe injury to Cook.

Cook has the prospect profile of an all-purpose NFL running back.  Cook’s college dominator score, college yards per carry, and college target share are all above the 80th percentile for running backs.  Looking at Cook’s production at the NFL level, he was #2 in juke rate per touch and #8 in evaded tackles per game last season.  Cook is also well above average in terms of speed and strength, as evidenced by his 40-yard dash and bench press workout metrics.

So with Cook being in an NFL offense that is on the rise, with an exciting prospect profile and virtually no competition for touches, sky truly is the limit for Cook this upcoming season.  All he needs to do is stay healthy.  Cook’s ADP has him going in the second round of fantasy football drafts right now.  Despite the perceived injury risk, I’d be comfortable drafting Cook in the first round of a redraft fantasy football league.  There are very few players in the NFL that are truly “injury prone”.  The public once thought that Julio Jones was injury prone, and then he strung together five straight seasons of missing no more than two games.  I have no crystal ball, and injuries can happen to any player at any time, but Cook is healthy right now and that is what matters.  Don’t be scared to trust him as your RB1 in fantasy this year.

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Fantasy Football Rankings 2019-2020: QB

By:  Justin Holden

1 Pat Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs
2 Andrew Luck Indianapolis Colts
3 Baker Mayfield Cleveland Browns
4 Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks
5 Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers
6 Drew Brees New Orleans Saints
7 Deshaun Watson Houston Texans
8 Carson Wentz Philadelphia Eagles
9 Cam Newton Carolina Panthers
10 Matt Ryan Atlanta Falcons
11 Matthew Stafford Detroit Lions
12 Philip Rivers Los Angeles Chargers
13 Mitch Trubisky Chicago Bears
14 Dak Prescott Dallas Cowboys
15 Jameis Winston Tampa Bay Buccaneers
16 Lamar Jackson Baltimore Ravens
17 Tom Brady New England Patriots
18 Jared Goff Los Angeles Rams
19 Kirk Cousins Minnesota Vikings
20 Jimmy Garoppolo San Francisco 49ers
21 Ben Roethlisberger Pittsburgh Steelers
22 Derek Carr Oakland Raiders
23 Sam Darnold New York Jets
24 Kyler Murray Arizona Cardinals
25 Marcus Mariota Tennessee Titans
26 Josh Allen Buffalo Bills
27 Andy Dalton Cincinnati Bengals
28 Nick Foles Jacksonville Jaguars
29 Josh Rosen Miami Dolphins
30 Case Keenum Washington Redskins
31 Joe Flacco Denver Broncos
32 Eli Manning New York Giants

Key Differences – LSO Rankings vs Average Draft Position (ADP)

Baker Mayfield – Has an ADP of 5 but I have him ranked at 3.  With a season of NFL experience under his belt now, and an offense loaded with play makers such as the the newly acquired Odell Beckham Jr, I expect Mayfield to have a Pat Mahomes style breakout in his second season.  Ultimately I think AFC North defenses (minus the Bengals) will find a way to put a cap on Mayfield’s upside, preventing him from finishing as the #1 QB.  But he’s for damn sure going to get close.

Matthew Stafford – Has an ADP of 23 but I have him ranked at 11.  Stafford is coming off of a poor season where he threw just 21 passing touchdowns.  But ultimately, we are talking about a player who has finished as a top ten quarterback multiple times over the course of his career and more often than not returns value on his draft position.  Judging by Stafford’s current ADP, he will return value on his draft position in a big way.  Fundamentally, I do not see a huge difference between Stafford and similar pocket passers such as Ryan and Rivers.  This is why I have them all ranked similarly.  Expect a bounce back season for the Lions’ offense.

Mitch Trubisky – Has an ADP of 19 but I have him ranked at 13.  Trubisky missed two games last season and still finished as QB15.  Trubisky showed that he is capable of putting up monster games, like the one against Tampa Bay where he threw for six passing touchdowns.  Other than the loss of Jordan Howard, who underwhelmed last season, not much has changed for the Chicago Bears offense.  Barring injury, I see no reason why Trubisky’s production would take a dip compared to last season.

Ben Roethlisberger – Has an ADP of 13 but I have him ranked at 21.  Roethlisberger is coming off of a huge season, there’s no doubt about it.  Despite throwing double digit interceptions, his 31 passing TD’s and 5,000+ passing yards returned great value for his fantasy owners.  So why am I so low on Big Ben this year?  The loss of Antonio Brown will hurt.  And every indication right now is that the Pittsburgh Steelers will be going to a run heavy offense this season.  Roethlisberger is 37 and has taken a beating over his career due to his style of play.  He’s always an injury risk, and I’d be shocked if he didn’t retire by the end of this season.

Tom Brady – Has an ADP of 14 but I have him ranked at 17.  I believe I’m actually being generous with my Tom Brady ranking because I have seen other websites rank him as low as 20.  Let’s face it, Brady’s team won the super bowl last season, but they did it without him throwing a touchdown pass.  Tom Brady is the oldest starting quarterback in the league.  Rob Gronkowski retired in the offseason.  Brady did not finish as a top ten quarterback last season and I see no catalyst for him to do so this season.  While Brady seems determined to wage war with Father Time, I suggest you let someone else draft him, as he will probably go even higher than his current ADP as we get closer to the start of the season.

Kirk Cousins – Has an ADP of 12 but I have him ranked at 19.  As much as I’d like to move Cousins up in my rankings, I just can’t do it.  Yes, he has Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs at his disposal, and both are excellent receivers.  However, I just don’t see game script allowing Cousins to be a big time fantasy quarterback.  The Minnesota Vikings have a strong defense, and Dalvin Cook is going to get his carries.  The way this team is built, I just don’t see them airing it out enough to make Cousins a huge factor in fantasy.  Significant injuries on the Vikings defense or to Cook would provide a catalyst for Cousins to air it out more and finish with more fantasy points, but this is not something that I am betting on.