2022 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: James Cook (Fantasy Football)

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Does this last name sound familiar to you? Well, it should. James Cook is indeed the younger brother of fantasy superstar, Dalvin Cook. Can he produce the same level of performance for our fantasy rosters, or do we need to temper expectations despite the family ties? Let’s dive into Cook’s career at Georgia, his production profile, measurables, and then take a look at how he projects at the NFL level from a fantasy perspective.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our Rookie Profile series going on until the 2022 NFL Draft. For more on each rookie, check out Andy, Mike, and Jason’s exclusive rookie rankings and production profiles found only in the Dynasty Pass, part of the UDK+ for 2022.

College Production

Rushing

Year Games Rushing Attempts Rush Yards Yards Per Attempt Rush TD
2018 10 41 284 6.9 2
2019 13 31 188 6.1 2
2020 8 45 303 6.7 3
2021 15 113 728 6.4 7

Receiving

Year Games Receptions Receiving Yards Yards Per Reception Receiving TD
2018 10 8 89 11.1 0
2019 13 16 132 8.3 0
2020 8 16 225 14 2
2021 15 27 284 10.5 4

When compared to other backs in the class, there’s no question James Cook doesn’t profile as your typical bell-cow back we like to roster. First off, at just 199 lbs., he’s undersized relative to NFL standards (more on that in a second). Second, he’s never totaled more than 113 carries in a season, and that didn’t come until his final season at Georgia. To put things into perspective, I went back and looked through all of Cook’s game logs. He never carried the ball more than 12 times in a single game.

But as with most of these big-time SEC schools, some context is important. Cook first stepped on campus back in 2018. From 2018 to 2020, Cook played behind or alongside the likes of D’Andre Swift and fellow NFL Draft prospect, Zamir White. Was Cook just not as good of a player as those two guys? Or, was his lack of production the result of playing behind two NFL talents, one of which we know is very great in D’Andre Swift. Regardless, the fact that Cook split time in the Georgia backfield his entire career definitely raises some yellow flags in his production profile.

To put this into context, I took a look at our Production Profiles in the Dynasty Pass…the results weren’t pretty. The numbers in the table below represent his rank in the 2022 class when compared to the rest of the running backs. We currently have 19 RBs in our database.

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Rushing Att Share Rushing Yards Share Reception Share Receiving Yards Share Dominator Rating
21% (18th) 25% (18th) 10% (10th) 8% (T-5th) 15% (19th)

There’s really no way to sugarcoat this. James Cook’s production profile is among the worst in the class, at least when you look at it from an analytics perspective. The one area of hope for Cook when you look at how he performed at Georgia is in the receiving game where he piled up 27 receptions during his final year. Cook’s 10% reception share at Georgia and 8% receiving yards share doesn’t sound all that impressive, but for college RBs, we’re typically looking for those who can eclipse a 10% threshold, so he at least checks that box. No doubt, that’s what pops on his tape the most – his ability to contribute in the receiving game, but we’d be fooling ourselves if we didn’t have question marks about his ability to contribute on a consistent basis as a runner at the NFL level.

Measurables

Height Weight 40-Yard Dash Broad Jump Vertical
5’11” 199 lbs. 4.42 10’4″ 33″

From a measurables standpoint, James Cook at less than 200 lbs. doesn’t profile as your traditional “early-down back.” According to our data set in the Ultimate Draft Kit where we look at the average weight of an RB1 at the NFL level, Cook is certainly undersized. For reference, the average weight used from our NFL sample is 219 lbs., and the average height is 5’11.7″. Based on his current build, it seems more likely than not that Cook will need to add some weight to have a chance to produce on early downs in the NFL.

So far, it might sound like this article is all negatives on Cook. To be fair, his size and his production profile are negatives in his overall profile, but let’s spin this in a more positive direction for a minute. Cook tested extremely well at the NFL Combine. His 4.42 40-yard dash ranked 8th at the position while his 10’4″ broad jump ranked 6th, and his 33″ vertical ranked tied for 15h among all backs in Indianapolis. To put this in perspective, it’s often times more helpful if we used speed score to compare prospect to prospect as this helps to factor in height and weight. In other words, the smaller guys (James Cook) should run faster than the bigger guys. Using size-adjusted 40 times helps to put context around a player’s athleticism. According to PlayerProfiler.com, Cook’s 104.3-speed score ranks in the 78th percentile. All in all, when factoring in his size, I’d say Cook is an above-average athlete, but there are better athletes in the class. For reference, Breece Hall ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at 217 lbs., good for a 98th percentile speed score.

What’s on Tape

Games viewed: Alabama (2022), Michigan (2021), Tennessee (2021), Kentucky (2021), Auburn (2020), Florida (2020)

1. One cut style of running

As seen in this clip below, Cook does a great job of identifying the hole, sticking his foot in the ground, then getting upfield in a hurry to the second level. Almost all of his top plays in the running game (we’ll hit on the receiving in a minute) came on runs where Cook is able to make one cut then burst up the field. Based on the tape I’ve seen, he’s not the type of back to juke a defender out of his shoes, but when he can make one cut and go, he’s effective.

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2. Burst and acceleration in the second level.

This attribute can be seen in the clip above as well, but one thing I liked about Cook’s game is that he doesn’t seem to lose any speed when he cuts to get upfield. Remember, he ran a 4.42 at the Combine, so we know he’s got burst. That definitely showed up on tape, which helped him average 6.52 yards per carry over his last two years at Georgia.

3. Natural hands and route running out of the backfield.

Cook’s calling card at the next level is his receiving ability out of the backfield. He finished his senior season with 27 receptions, and per PFF, Cook only had one drop on 68 catchable passes in his career. On tape, he definitely backs this up with natural route running out of the backfield, proving to be a mismatch on linebackers, as seen in this angle route against Kentucky. Cook displays natural hands catching ability routinely on tape.

What’s Not on Tape

1. Pass protection reps

It seemed like Georgia used Cook as a scatback rather than a true 3rd down back, meaning when he was in the game, he was in there to run a route, not necessarily to work in pass protection. In the six-game sample of games I watched, I only saw a small handful of pass protection reps, and in those reps, Cook definitely didn’t look comfortable. Given that his calling card at the next level is likely as a receiving back, he’ll probably need to clean up his pass pro if he wants to earn playing time consistently.

2. Play-making in tight spaces.

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As we discussed in the section above, Cook is a lightning rod in a bottle at times, demonstrating good explosiveness and big-play ability on tape. However, almost all of his big plays came in the open field or on plays where he can make one cut and get upfield quickly. This isn’t necessarily a ‘negative’ on Cook’s tape, but

2022 Fantasy Outlook

According to GrindingTheMocks.com, James Cook has a late March expected draft position of 80th overall. Similarly, over on NFLMockDraftDatabase, Cook’s consensus big board ranking comes in at 85th overall. Collectively, these two resources suggest Cook is likely to hear his name called in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. From a dynasty perspective, we obviously want these prospects to go earlier rather than later in the NFL Draft. If for some reason, Cook falls into Round 4, his dynasty outlook will take a bit of a hit. However, if he goes on day two of the Draft, we should at least leave the light on for Cook to carve out a role for an NFL offense, potentially as early as 2022.

As we’ve established thus far, Cook is undersized relative to today’s NFL standards, so we should certainly temper expectations in regards to Cook’s role and workload in 2022 and beyond. He profiles a change of pace receiving back at the next level, so from a fantasy perspective, Cook gets a boost in PPR leagues. Given that we know volume is king in fantasy, especially at the RB position, Cook isn’t the type of prospect who profiles as having a top-12 RB ceiling. In PPR leagues, Cook profiles as a back-end RB2/flex option if he can get on the field in a change of pace/third-down role.

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