Over the past few months, we’ve been breaking down the Jets’ undrafted rookies. However, we’ve also been looking at some of the veteran additions they’ve made since training camp opened, continuing today with former Vikings running back Dalvin Cook.
The 28-year old Cook was a second round pick out of FSU in 2017. He has earned Pro Bowl honors and rushed for over 1000 yards in each of the past four seasons.
Cook was a five-star recruit out of high school, where he was also a track star. He headed to Florida State where he made an immediate impact with a 1000 yard season as a true freshman in 2014.
In the next two seasons, he earned all-ACC first team honors as he rushed for 1,691 yards in 2015 and 1,765 in 2016, scoring 20 total touchdowns in each season. In 2016, he also posted career-best numbers as a receiver with 33 catches for 488 yards and was also named as an all-American.
After announcing himself as an early entrant in the 2017 draft, Cook’s stock dropped during the pre-draft process and he ended up falling into round two, where the Minnesota Vikings selected him 41st overall.
As a rookie, Cook got off to a great start with a hundred-yard game in his NFL debut, but three games later he suffered a season-ending injury.
2018 was also an injury-plagued season for Cook, who ended up with 615 rushing yards and 40 receptions.
In 2019, he broke out with his first thousand-yard season and a career-high 53 catches and went to the Pro Bowl for the first time. The Vikings made the postseason and won in the first round as Cook racked up 130 yards from scrimmage and two scores. He was stifled in their second round exit to the 49ers though.
For each of the next three seasons, Cook was again voted to the Pro Bowl and posted over 1000 yards on the ground. He had a career-high 1,557 yards in 2020 and a career-best 17 total touchdowns.
The Vikings made Cook a cap casualty when they released him in June and the New York Jets signed him to a one-year deal worth up to $8.6 million per year.
Now let’s take a look at what Cook brings to the table, divided into categories.
Cook has average size but is a good athlete who ran sub-4.5 and posted 22 bench press reps at the combine. His explosiveness and agility numbers were poor, though. He’s obviously allayed any concerns about these numbers and that he may have lost a step due to injury with his success since entering the league.
Cook primarily lined up in the backfield at FSU but has been in the slot, at an H-back position or out wide more often in the NFL. He’s only caught four passes for 15 yards out of the slot in his NFL career though.
Cook’s best attribute has always been his speed, and judging by his 81-yard touchdown run against the Bills last season, he hasn’t lost a step, although his number of long runs last year was down. He has a second gear and accelerates very quickly as a viable home run threat.
He accelerates so quickly that he is really effective at getting outside or beating the angles of defensive players in pursuit to turn it upfield.
While he’s not known as a power back or between the tackles runner, Cook can finish a run strongly at times.
He has the ability to side-step tackles at the second level and downfield without slowing down and while retaining his balance.
His speed, quick feet and ability to cut means that he can prevent defenders from getting a clean hit on him to break through arm tackles, but he’s also capable of making guys miss.
Handling a big workload is no problem for Cook, who has carried the ball at least 25 times in an NFL regular season game 11 times so far in his career.
Ball security has been a concern. Cook lost 13 fumbles in three years at FSU and had a career-high four lost fumbles last season.
Prior to the 2022 season Cook averaged three fumbles and two lost fumbles per year.
Cook obviously has a good nose for the end zone with two 20-touchdown seasons in college and 47 career touchdowns at the NFL level. 14 of these were one-yard runs and another seven were from the two or three-yard line.
When carrying the ball in short yardage situations, Cook’s speed to get to the outside can be a major asset.
There’s no doubt Cook has been a productive pass catcher over the course of his career, but the majority of his production has come on dump-offs and screen passes. He is excellent on screens, with a good ability to follow his blockers and make yardage in space.
Cook shows an ability to run routes and make tough catches from time to time but it’s an area of his game where he could offer more.
Drops have been an issue too and these tend to arise on easy catches where he just loses focus. Considering the fact that most of his targets are short passes, he probably drops more passes than he should.
He has had one offensive pass interference penalty during his career so far.
Cook’s grades as a pass blocker have generally been below average as he gives up pressure at a relatively high rate. He allowed two sacks for the first time in his career last season.
Despite any concerns these numbers might create, Cook would almost certainly provide an upgrade over each of the Jets’ other backs as a pass protector. In 2022, he was the only back in the entire NFL to stay in to pass protect on 100 snaps - he actually had 135 - and obviously did a good enough job for the Vikings to function as they were a top-10 offense.
He had one penalty for an illegal cut block in college.
Cook hasn’t played special teams in college or at the NFL level and would not be expected to now. He doesn’t have any experience as a return man.
Cook is known for his excellent vision and his ability to follow blockers and anticipate cutback lines at the line, second level and downfield. He can even cut right across the field.
He hasn’t had any pre-snap penalties at the NFL level or in college.
Cook is a player with multiple off-field concerns over the course of his career. He had multiple legal problems in high school and college, although he was found not guilty of one charge and had other charges dropped a couple of times.
There’s a lingering concern about a 2021 assault accusation from an ex-girlfriend although he has maintained his innocence. The contract he signed with the Jets protects them in the event of a possible suspension and clearly at this stage of his career he’s proven that these issues haven’t prevented him from having success.
His on-field discipline has generally been good but he did have a taunting penalty in college and another at the NFL level.
Cook has had injury issues throughout his career and is currently sidelined with a shoulder injury, although he hopes to practice soon.
He originally tore his rotator cuff in high school, then suffered two labrum tears. Cook had shoulder surgery in 2016. However, the issues continued with an AC-joint sprain in 2019, a disclocation and labrum tear in 2021 and another dislocation last year. Cook had additional shoulder surgery this past offseason. He’s played hurt with the injury over the past few years and the hope is that the surgery he had in February will rectify the issue.
This wasn’t the only injury issue he’s had though. He recovered nicely from an ACL injury in his rookie year, although he missed five games with a hamstring injury in 2018.
In 2019 he missed a game with a chest injury and he also missed games with a groin injury in 2020 and an ankle injury in 2021.
Cook has displayed toughness by playing through injuries at various points of his career.
Cook came into the league as someone who can fit into basically any system, having played in a system at FSU which had gap, power and zone elements. The Vikings have mostly been a zone team but with some gap aspects, much like the Jets.
Over the course of his career, Cook has been a teammate of Tyler Conklin, Chazz Surratt, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Nick Vigil, Craig James and Jayln Holmes. He has also been on a pro bowl roster with Aaron Rodgers three times, although Rodgers didn’t play in any of those games.
The addition of Cook has been seen as a luxury to many and it’s perhaps disappointing to any Jets fans who had high hopes that the young trio of Michael Carter, Israel Abanikanda and Zonovan Knight could be productive with Rodgers under center. Now it looks more likely that Breece Hall will produce a one-two punch with Cook.
With the Jets in win-now mode, they were prepared to make the investment in Cook, with the pay cut Rodgers took perhaps making the cost involved with such a move easier to swallow.
The Jets will need their offensive line to block well for any of their backs to succeed, but you’d like to think Cook can be relied upon to produce more than any of the other backs apart from Hall, whether or not the blocking is sound. How much of a statistical upgrade Cook will provide remains to be seen, but his experience as a pass blocker and of playing in the postseason will be valuable.