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Fantasy Football: Does Dalvin Cook have a case as the overall RB1?

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) runs the ball in the first quarter against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2021 season. Click here to read the series of questions answered so far.

The single worst feature of offseason fantasy football Twitter has been the presence of injury predictors. Yes, the occasional player is beset by bad enough injury luck that he struggles to stay healthy seemingly every season. Also yes, there’s often rather arbitrary injury analysis offered by trolls around the globe devoted to some players over others with generally nonsensical reasoning.

Unfortunately for those of us looking to make an easy buck or two in fantasy land: the public is well aware that Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook is someone who should be prioritized in leagues of all shapes and sizes. Sure, Cook only played in 15 of a potential 32 games during his first two seasons in the NFL, but he has rebounded with impressive as hell 14-game campaigns in 2019 and 2020 alike.

What follows is a breakdown on just how good Cook has been over the years and what to make of him as a fantasy asset ahead of 2021.

We haven’t seen Cook work as anything other than a high-end RB1

The Vikings have featured Cook as their starting running back in 42 of his 43 career games; the only exception was for one contest in 2018 upon returning from a strained hamstring. Injuries have been a factor throughout his career: Cook has dealt with two torn shoulder labrums, a torn ACL, multiple hamstring issues, one sprained shoulder A/C joint and a strained groin since 2014.

And yet, Cook has been nothing other than an elite professional football player with the ball in his hands since entering the league in 2017. This has been true as a rusher:

  • PFF rushing grade: 90.8 (tied for No. 3 among 115 running backs with 100-plus carries since 2017)
  • Rushing yards: 3,661 (No. 4)
  • Rushing touchdowns: 33 (No. 6)
  • Missed tackles forced on carries: 153 (No. 6)
  • Missed tackles forced per carry: 0.2 (tied for No. 15)
  • Yards per carry: 4.8 (tied for No. 15)
  • Yards after contact per carry: 3.1 (tied for No. 18)

As well as when catching the ball:

  • PFF receiving grade: 69.2 (No. 36 among 84 running backs with 50-plus targets since 2017)
  • Yards per reception: 8.6 (tied for No. 19)
  • Yards after the catch per reception: 10.3 (No. 1)
  • Yards per route run: 1.54 (tied for No. 13)

The eye test backs up what the numbers tell us: Cook is anyone’s idea of a top-five real life running back.

The returns in fantasy land have also been more than fine over the years. Overall, Cook has worked as the PPR RB2 and RB6 over the past two seasons after posting RB19 and and RB10 numbers during his first two years on a per-game basis.

Minnesota expected Cook to be the next big thing when the team selected him with the 41st overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, and he’s lived up his gaudy expectations and then some. Since 2017, only Christian McCaffrey (23.1 PPR points per game), Alvin Kamara (21.7) and Saquon Barkley (20.8) have produced more fantasy points per 60 minutes than Cook (19.7).

The good news for Cook and everyone involved is that ….


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