James Cook Draft Profile
Stefon and Trevon Diggs, JJ and TJ Watt, Travis and Jason Kelce… The past few years we have seen NFL players and brothers thrive together in the league. I am confident that James and Dalvin Cook will be the next great brother duo in the NFL. While James Cook is not as polished of a prospect as his brother was coming out of Florida State, you see similarities between the two of them that get you really excited. While comparing the Cooks to each other would be easy to do, I believe another good comparison for James Cook is the Chargers’ running back, Justin Jackson. At Georgia, Cook split carries with his fellow draft prospect, Zamir White. In the NFL, I do not think Cook will be an every-down back that carries the load for a team. I believe Cook will be a flashy number two back in the NFL that gets opportunities as a runner against lightboxes and a dynamic receiver out of the backfield. Cook is not the same player as his brother; he is going to pave his own way and find his way out of his shadow. Once he is in the NFL, I anticipate Cook making a name for himself and separating himself from pre-conceived notions.
The two traits that really get you excited about watching James Cook are what he can do as a receiver out of the backfield and his vision as a runner. In his final season with Georgia, he had 27 catches for 284 yards and four touchdowns. While these stats don’t jump off the screen when reading them, he showed that he was a legit route runner who can make plays as a receiver lined up in the backfield, slot, and on the outside. Offensive coordinators can get creative with him, both as a runner and receiver. When taking handoffs, he has a rare foresight that only seasoned professionals have. He is able to anticipate what angles defenders will try to tackle him from and makes cuts to make those tackles as hard as possible for defenders. We always talk about anticipation when scouting quarterbacks, but Cook’s ability to anticipate tackles is a rare skill that I have not seen before. For these reasons, a system that features a great number of counters, cutbacks, and delayed handoffs could put Cook in a position where he is a home-run hitting running back. His tremendous speed is a great compliment to his anticipatory vision. Cook does a great job at sticking his foot in the ground and exploding through a hole. There is quick and then there is fast, Cook is fast; you can tell that he ran the 100 meters in high school. Coaches like Kyle Shanahan and Mike McDaniel love one-cut guys with great speed; that is what Raheem Mostert and Elijah Mitchell bring to the table. If drafted to a team like the 49ers, Dolphins, or Broncos, James Cook will be able to make a name for himself. Another team that he could thrive with is the Arizona Cardinals, I think he is capable of doing what Chase Edmonds does, but maybe even better, and for a little cheaper.
I had a few concerns when watching James Cook play, and it starts with his weight. At 5’11 190 lbs., Cook is a lighter back who will need to put on muscle. At Georgia, he never had a game with more than 12 carries which makes a coach wonder if he will be able to tote the rock 15 times a game in the NFL. Cook’s contact balance is not great and you never see him punish defenders physically for trying to tackle him. Cook is a burner, not a punisher; which isn’t a problem, but you don’t want defenders to punish him for trying to burn them. His lighter weight also limits him as a blocker and while he is able to get in the way of rushers, he struggles to hold blocks. Because of these limitations, I believe that Cook will fall to day three, but if he is able to put on some muscle and lands in the right scenario, he can be one of the most explosive running backs in the NFL.
Contact Balance 6/10
Lateral Speed and Change of Direction 6.5/8
Receiving Threat 5.75/6
Long Speed 5/5
Pass Protection 2.25/5
Final Rating: 80
Pro Comparison: Justin Jackson
Scheme Fit: One-Two Punch (receiving end)
Draft Grade: Fourth Round
Draft Projection: Fourth or Fifth Round