Dalvin Cook Is Apparently Still Explosive

There Is a Dalvin Cook Plot Twist
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

The running back position in today’s NFL is extremely devalued. Runners have short careers because even a slight decrease in athleticism lowers their efficiency on the field. In addition to that, players at the position are likely to sustain injuries because they get hit on every play.

Dalvin Cook Is Apparently Still Explosive

Another problem for the RBs is that even late-drafted players can come in and have an immediate impact. They are easy to replace. Those things are why teams hesitate to pay big bucks for a running back.

Dalvin Cook Is Apparently Still Explosive
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs with the ball for a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings are one of those teams that still pay one of them a large amount of money. Dalvin Cook signed a $63 million five-year deal in 2020. Three years later, the Vikings could move on from their star player. A trade and even a release have been rumored for months, but he is still on the team. That might be because he is still a decent weapon. The latest evidence of that comes from NFL.com’s Nick Shook, who listed the ten most dynamic runners of the 2022 campaign based on data from Next Gen Stats.

Cook reached an explosive score of 84. Shook explained what that is:

Explosive score takes into account each player’s top speed, average speed, number of big plays and more to produce a composite score on a scale of 0-100. As you’ll see below, my ranking of the 10 most explosive runners of 2022 relies primarily on explosive score to separate top performers, with supporting information to help you — the reader and football fan — understand exactly why they’re among the best in the NFL.

Nick Shook, NFL.com
Has Dalvin Cook Played
Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) and Buffalo Bills defender in overtime at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.

Notably, Shook’s list is based on real data and not just subjective and opinion-based writing. Cook ranked as the 10th most explosive runner in the NFL.

Cook’s raw numbers paint a picture of a back who runs hard and isn’t stopped easily. That’s still true: He broke 20 mph on carries three times, and logged one of the best top speeds of any qualifying running back at 21.68 mph. His 57 runs of 15-plus mph support what we already know, which is that Cook runs like a wrecking ball intent on felling a skyscraper in one swoop. But he didn’t consistently rack up enough runs of 10-plus yards (at least when compared against his 264 total carries) to land any higher on this list.

Cook is still one heck of a running back. He’s just not quite as elite as the others listed here when it comes to explosive plays — likely a product of Minnesota’s offense, which uses him as a building block for its play-action passing game.

Nick Shook, NFL.com

Vikings fans who watched Cook run for years know he is no longer his elite self. Cook was sensational in 2020 but slowed down in the last two seasons. He doesn’t seem quite as dynamic and agile as he once was. His -0.16 rushing yards over expected ranked him far down on the list of eligible running backs as the 41st of 48.

His total numbers were still excellent. He fired up 1,173 rushing yards and 8 rushing TDs. No other running back besides Cook recorded at least 1,100 rushing yards in each of the last four seasons.

Vikings Depth Chart -- Week 15 vs. Colts
Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) celebrates his touchdown against the New York Jets during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The best part of Cook’s 2022 season was his big plays, which is why he made Shook’s top-10 list. Cook scored big-play touchdowns in multiple games, and they were essential to pull off the victories.

Cook’s receiving touchdown against the Colts gave the Vikings a chance to reach overtime and later pull off the largest win in NFL history. Another one was his score against the Bills. Minnesota was down 17 points, and the game was close to over at that point. The Vikings needed a score, and they needed it quickly. Eighty-one yards later, the Vikings were back in the game. It gave the team life.

While his backup, Alexander Mattison, can do many things at a similar level as Cook, he can’t do that. You won’t see a big touchdown run like that from him because he doesn’t possess the same top speed.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell must decide if that is worth his kind of money, especially because the veteran is entering his age-28 season, which is when running backs usually slow down. Cook will count roughly $14.1 million against the salary cap in 2023. A trade would save the team $11 million and a release $9 million.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt