What did Dalvin Cook do better than any NFL running back in 2019?

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Dalvin Cook
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Dalvin Cook /

The Minnesota Vikings running back was a threat as a receiver as well in 2019.

For the first time since 2006, the Minnesota Vikings had someone rush for over 1,000 yards in a season last year whose name wasn’t Adrian Peterson.

In his third season with the Vikings, Dalvin Cook finished with 1,135 rushing yards on 250 attempts. Cook’s 13 rushing touchdowns were also tied for the second-most in a single season by a Minnesota running back.

in addition to his skills as a rusher, he excelled as a receiver out of the backfield as well last year. Cook hauled in 53 passes for the Vikings in 2019, the most in team history by a running back since Moe Willams finished with 65 in 2003.

After the catch is where the Minnesota Vikings running back stood out last season

Cook is a vital piece of Minnesota’s offense for multiple reasons. His impressive ability to consistently make something out of nothing caused headaches for opposing defenses throughout the 2019 season.

Recently, a metric compiled by Football Outsiders known as YAC+ revealed just how dangerous Cook is as a receiver out of the backfield. According to Football Outsiders, YAC+, “estimates how much (yards after the catch) a receiver gained compared to what we would have expected from an average receiver catching passes of similar length in similar down-and-distance situations.”

So compared to every other running back and fullback who had at least 23 targets in 2019, no one had a better YAC+ than Cook. Not Austin Ekeler, not Aaron Jones, and not even Christian McCaffrey. In addition, Cook had the best YAC+ amount among running backs in the NFL last season on targets that were behind the line of scrimmage.

With Kevin Stefanski and Gary Kubiak running the offense, the Vikings’ offense increased their use of screen passes last year and their top running back took full advantage of these opportunities.

Of the screen passes Cook caught last season, 11 of them resulted in gains of 15 yards or more. No other running back in the league hauled in more than six screen passes that resulted in a gain of 15 yards or more in 2019.

Cook’s excellence as a receiver out of the backfield is just another reason why he shouldn’t be included in the general argument against paying running backs. He’s not a typical, average running back. Cook brings so much more to the table than a guy who can just find the holes in a zone-blocking scheme.

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Minnesota and their top running back still haven’t been able to agree on an extension. But if the Vikings want to have any sort of success in 2020, making sure Cook is on the field in Week 1 should be one of their top priorities.