Given his performances this offseason and preseason, the Minnesota Vikings’ rookie rusher should open their first game of the 2017 NFL season as a starter.
Last April when the Minnesota Vikings were preparing to make their second-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, a talented young running back out of Florida State named Dalvin Cook was still waiting to hear his name called. Projected by many to be as skilled as any running back in the 2017 draft class, Cook was bypassed by teams in the first round due to having a so-called “troubled past”.
As more teams announced their selections in the second round of the draft and Cook was still on the board, the Vikings decided to make a move. Minnesota made a few calls and traded up seven slots to select the former Florida State running back with the 41st overall pick.
After parting ways with longtime back Adrian Peterson during the offseason, the Vikings knew they needed to improve their offensive backfield heading into the 2017 season. The addition of Cook, as well as the signing of free-agent running back Latavius Murray, were moves that Minnesota felt they needed to make after finishing 2016 with one of the NFL’s worst rushing attacks.
Murray missed the majority of the Vikings’ OTAs and training camp this year with an ankle injury, allowing Cook to get a few more reps out on the field than the team might have anticipated when drafting him. But literally since day one of Minnesota’s rookie mini-camp, the rookie running back has been turning heads with his outstanding playmaking abilities.
Cook’s lightning, quick speed (4.49 40-yard dash time) and his tremendous vision between the tackles has already been showing up during the Vikings’ first two preseason games of 2017.
In Minnesota’s first preseason matchup against the Buffalo Bills, the running back excelled more as a pass catcher out of the backfield as he finished the game with four catches for 30 yards. Against the Seattle Seahawks last week, Cook stepped up his performance in the run game and ended his night with 40 rushing yards on seven carries.
So far this preseason, the Vikings’ rookie running back is averaging 5.5 yards per touch. No Minnesota back averaged even 4.5 yards per touch in 2016, so the team is hoping that Cook’s performance in the preseason will continue into the regular season.
The Vikings’ have opened each game this preseason with Cook as their starting running back and that is a role that the rookie should expect to be given when the team opens the regular season on September 11. Murray is supposed to be healthy enough to play by Week 1, but Cook has put in the work and performed well enough to begin the regular season as Minnesota’s top back on their depth chart.
Can the rookie become the Vikings’ next great running back? It is a little early to be thinking like that, but starting in his very first NFL game seems like a good place to begin.