Recent History Isn’t on Dalvin Cook’s Side

Christian Darrisaw's Return Is a Big Deal
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Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has to make some big decisions in the next few weeks. Everyone is looking at the draft right now, the Vikings hold the 23rd overall pick, and after some draft misses in recent years, the organization needs to make the right selection.

Adofo-Mensah will also be in charge when the team moves on from quarterback Kirk Cousins, the next passer will most likely be drafted in either 2023 or 2024, and the GM will be the guy to decide when that will be and who the team will pivot to. But the QB is not the only one close to the end of his tenure with the Vikings.

Recent History Isn’t on Dalvin Cook’s Side

Recent History Isn't on Dalvin Cook's Side
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Despite having a productive year in 2022 with 1,173 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns, Dalvin Cook’s tenure with the Vikings could end soon.

Running backs are a controversial topic in NFL circles. The analytics input changed how teams and many fans think about the position. In the modern league, running backs are close to worthless because they have short careers and are easy to replace.

However, nobody would argue that Derrick Henry didn’t change the Titans’ offense once he was fully unleashed in 2018. Christian McCaffrey was traded to the 49ers, and even though they didn’t win the Super Bowl, the team became much scarier with him in the lineup.

Recent History
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Players like Saquon Barkley, incredible weapons in both running and passing games out of the backfield, can be the focal point of decent offenses. Fans of the sport will always love a good running back, someone who can run around or straight through people, but the league has changed.

Teams regularly find excellent running backs late in the draft. The Chiefs picked Isiah Pacheco just last year in the 7th round. While some star runners are truly special, the difference from a replacement-level player is not significant enough to make the star player worth a huge contract or a first-round selection.

In addition to that, running backs have short careers. The players enter the league more NFL-ready than any other position and can immediately hit the ground running, but they take a lot of hits from way bigger people. That automatically leads to injury problems, and those lead to declining athleticism. Running backs are rarely worth a second contract because once they sign them, many get hurt or aren’t the same explosive players anymore.

after Vikings at Packers
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In recent years, the success of aging running backs hasn’t been great. In the last three seasons, only two runners recorded at least 1,000 rushing yards in a season after turning 28 years old. Derrick Henry and Aaron Jones did it in 2022. No one did in 2021 and 2020.

In the last five seasons, only 22 running backs recorded more than a total of 500 rushing yards after turning 28. Just for comparison, Kirk Cousins had 554 rushing yards in that span. Of those 22 RBs, only two had a better yard-per-run average than 4.4: Raheem Mostert and Aaron Jones.

The list includes players like Melvin Gordon and Devonta Freeman, who, in their heyday, were phenomenal backs. Or decent players like Carlos Hyde, Latavius Murray, Mark Ingram, LeSean McCoy, and Jerick McKinnon. 11 of the 22 rushers had an average of 4.0 yards per carry or lower.

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Why is that age 28 so important for the Vikings? Star running back Dalvin Cook will celebrate his 28th birthday on August 10, about four weeks before the NFL season begins. His decline will ultimately happen sooner rather than later, especially because he wasn’t as explosive in the 2022 campaign as in prior years. He was at his best in 2020.

The Vikings can save almost $8 million by trading him away and close to $6 million by releasing him. Minnesota’s front office is reportedly trying to get a trade done, but a release is also possible.

Vikings on Another
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While he was still a decent starting running back in the league, with some impressive plays, Cook will likely fall off a cliff at some point in the next few years. Parting ways a year too early is better than a year too late. Adofo-Mensah, an analytically driven mind, is certainly aware of the likely decline.

Minnesota already re-signed Alexander Mattison for borderline starter money and could pair him with a rookie or last year’s pick Ty Chandler in a cheap but effective committee. The purple team met with draft prospect DeWayne McBride last week, a potential target in the mid-rounds.

At this point, it seems more likely that the Vikings want to move on from their running back after six years in the organization.

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