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Why Vikings RB Dalvin Cook Is Worth Risking A High Pick In 2021 Fantasy Football Drafts

Why Vikings RB Dalvin Cook Is Worth Risking A High Pick In 2021 Fantasy Football Drafts article feature image

Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Dalvin Cook

Editor’s note: The following analysis was written in June, but when coupled with the latest rankings and projections in our 2021 Fantasy Draft Kit, is still valuable research for your next draft.

Dalvin Cook Fantasy Rankings

Overall 3
Positional RB3
Consensus rankings via Sean Koerner and Chris Raybon are based on half PPR scoring and as of early June.

Dalvin Cook has been an elite running back in each of the last two seasons and is looking to make it the fantasy hat trick in 2021.

He enters the year consensus ranked by my colleagues just one spot behind fantasy powerhouses Christian McCaffrey and Derrick Henry, but his speckled injury history could deter some managers from using their early first-round pick on the Vikings’ star.

Cook’s 2020 Season

  • Games played: 14
  • Rushing: 312 attempts, 1,557 yards, 16 TDs
  • Receiving: 54 targets, 44 catches, 361 yards, 1 TD
  • Fantasy finishes: RB2 in PPR, RB2 in standard, RB2 in half PPR

Cook is coming off a banner season and finished as the second-highest scoring running back for fantasy football behind only Alvin Kamara.

Cook began the year in a drama-laden contract stalemate with the Vikings. The team eventually signed the fourth-year back to a five-year, $63 million deal one day before their Week 1 matchup against the Packers.

Cook was utilized heavily and saw the second-most rushing attempts (312) behind Derrick Henry (378), who appeared in all 16 games. Cook averaged 22.3 attempts per game and 111.2 rushing yards per game. He also ranked second among running backs in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.
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Previous Fantasy Performances

Cook is a former five-star recruit and two-time first-team All-American for Florida State. He was selected by the Vikings in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft as the third running back off the board behind Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey.

Cook burst onto the scene in Week 1 and rushed 22 times for 127 yards, which broke the Vikings’ rookie debut rushing record previously held by Adrian Peterson. Unfortunately, his rookie campaign was cut short after suffering a torn ACL just four weeks into the season. He ended the year with 74 rushes for 354 yards and two touchdowns and 11 catches on 16 targets for 90 yards over four games. He finished as RB67, but averaged a healthy 15 fantasy points per game in half PPR scoring.

Injuries continued to plague Cook in 2018. He returned from his ACL tear, but suffered a hamstring injury in Week 2 that ultimately forced him to miss five games. He ended the year with 133 attempts for 615 rushing yards and two touchdowns and 40 catches on 49 targets for 305 yards and two touchdowns — good enough to finish as RB33.

Year 3 was Cook’s major breakout season. He missed just two games dealing with a chest injury and tallied 250 rushes for 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also caught 53-of-63 targets for 519 yards and finished as RB3 in all formats (RB2 on a per-game basis).

Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Dalvin Cook

Cook’s 2021 Fantasy Outlook

Injuries have been Cook’s biggest risk factor since his rookie season, most notably his ACL tear in Year 1. He has yet to play all 16 games since entering the league in 2017, but has missed just four games over the last two seasons.

When on the field, Cook is a force to be reckoned with: He is utilized heavily and is highly productive with his touches.

He enters the season with minimal competition for rushes out of the Vikings’ backfield, which bodes well for his workload year-over-year. His backup, Alexander Mattison, saw 96 attempts for 434 yards and two touchdowns and caught 13-of-15 targets for 125 yards and a touchdown.

Mattison would be a valuable handcuff to roster in the event of an injury to Cook: In the two games Cook missed in 2020 (Weeks 6 and 17), he saw a combined 34 touches for 171 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns (one rushing and one receiving).

How to Draft Dalvin Cook

Cook’s monster 2020 workload is both a blessing and a curse: He enters Year 5 once again poised to take over a bell-cow workload — a rarity among running backs — but wear-and tear from his immense carries could increase his injury risk heading into 2021. 

Cook is currently being drafted around the RB2/RB3 depending on the format, and his pass-catching abilities likely give him the slight edge over Henry in PPR. The paucity of competition from the Vikings’ depth chart and his consistency over the past two years make him incredibly valuable and worth the relative risk at his current ADP.

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