This week Bills Beat takes a look at Buffalo’s rookie and 2022 NFL second-round draft pick, James Cook, younger brother of Minnesota Vikings Dalvin Cook.
Hot Wings With Blue Cheese, Please!
James Cook is exactly what this team has been missing the past few seasons, a pass-catching, elusive, outside zone, speed-centric running back. Devin Singleterry has somewhat done the job the past few seasons, but the Bills have struggled to find a running mate to go with him since parting ways with future Hall of Famer, Frank Gore.
So far in the preseason, James Cook has shown some flashes as to why the Bills took him at the end of the second round. But many in the draft process had concerns about how Cook could be used in the NFL. Analysts were saying Cook is undersized to be an every-down back or too small to run between the tackles. Now I’m going to tell you why I think they’re all wrong.
James Cook Is A (Bull) Dog
Growing up in Miami James had the aspirations to play at his brother Dalvin Cook’s alma mater, Florida State. After his freshman season in high school and rushing for 709 yards and eight touchdowns on only 99 carries. He ended up verbally committing to Florida State later that year, doing what he thought was his lifelong dream of following in his brother’s footsteps.
But after his freshman year, James took extra classes and was reclassified to become a junior to graduate a year early. That deserves a tip of the cap in and of itself just for how hard he’s willing to work for what he wants in life. In his high school career after transferring to Miami Northwestern Senior High School for his senior year. Cook tallied a total of 2,019 yards and 30 touchdowns in his early career.
During that transfer of high schools, James had a change of heart again and de-committed from Florida State and chose to attend Georgia and be a Bulldog. During his senior year at Georgia, James Cook rushed for 728 yards and seven touchdowns while hauling in 27 catches for 284 yards and four touchdowns.
He finished off that stellar season with a championship ring beating Alabama in the College Football Playoffs Championship. In the game, Cook had 6 rushes for 77 yards including a game-record 67-yard scamper while hauling in two catches for 15 yards. Not long after the game James penned a goodbye letter to Georgia fans as he declared his intention to enter the NFL draft.
First Wing Impression
Let me be perfectly clear, James Cook was my draft darling all year after seeing him play in the SEC Championship and the playoffs. Seeing the way Kirby Smart was lining him up in the slot or by putting him in motion out of the backfield to make reading the defense easier for the quarterback. I was drooling just thinking about what Josh Allen and the Bills could do with a weapon like that.
When the Bills were able to trade back not once but twice and STILL pull off drafting Cook with the second to last pick of the second round I was grinning from ear to ear. All my dreams had come true, even though when it happened his facial reaction may have said otherwise. Then we all saw his reaction to his first plate of Buffalo wings and knew he was home. Now after seeing the hype videos all over social media of the connection that Cook and Allen are building, it’s like Christmas in August for the Bills.
Big Things Come In Small Packages
The biggest knock critics had on Cook coming out of the draft was his size. Let’s break this down into relative terms and in no way shape or form am I insinuating that Cook is going to be the next version of these players. James is 5′ 11″ weighing in at 190 pounds, that size profiles at the professional level to be an outside zone, pass-catching only running back. Let’s break down a few of the top running backs in the league and compare profiles.
Christian McCaffery is widely known (while healthy) as the best overall running back in the NFL. His stature and build are similar to Cook also coming in at 5’11” but weighing a little more at 205 pounds. In his rookie season, McCaffery started in ten games and played in all 16 while accumulating 435 yards on the ground with two touchdowns and 80 receptions for 651 yards and five touchdowns becoming the only rookie running back ever at the time with at least 70 receptions in a season.
After that season McCaffery took over the starting role and throughout the next two seasons had 2,485 rushing yards, 22 touchdowns on the ground, with 223 receptions, 1,872 receiving yards, and another ten touchdowns.
Alvin Kamara will be our next comparison coming in at 5’10” and weighing 215 pounds. Coming out of Tennessee, Kamara wasn’t a highly touted prospect. The world knew he was shifty and quick but didn’t realize the straight-line speed and pass-catching ability he had in his arsenal. The 40-yard dash in the draft process is a way to get a taste of someone’s speed but game speed is a completely different thing. During his professional career, Kamara has amassed 4,238 rushing yards with 47 touchdowns and 3,263 receiving yards, and 20 touchdowns with one return touchdown. Another player was deemed too small to play between the tackles.
Let’s keep this one in the family with our next comparison and use his brother Dalvin. Now unlike James or Kamara, Dalvin was touted as the top running back of his rookie class. He had everything the size, speed, athleticism, vision, everything that a team wants out of an RB1. But similarly, to these other comparisons, Dalvin measures in at 5’10” and 210 pounds as well. Other than the injuries which have derailed his career from being known as the top back in the league, he is exactly what NFL teams look for in their backs.
In Dalvin’s career, he has totaled 4,820 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns with another 1,499 yards and three more touchdowns through the air. Again, coming in with the size he has, Dalvin Cook is the only one who was thought of as a generational talent in the draft, the only other out of this group was Christian McCaffery and he was more so hope than expectation.
With all of that being said, it all breaks down to work ethic and health. All of these other running backs we have talked about are known as some of, if not the best running backs in the NFL even though they are considered “undersized.” The only knock any of these players is the injury bug has hit a couple of them and even still, has put up the numbers listed above, which are still tops in the league. So, if these players who weren’t highly touted coming out of the draft ended up being superstars, why can’t James Cook?
He has all the same abilities that these three other players have. Cook is fast, elusive, and patient at the line of scrimmage while having the ability to line up or motion into the slot out of the backfield and run incredibly crisp routes to get open among the defensive backs. Bills mafia, my belief is we have a young superstar. We have had legendary running backs throughout Bills history, such as Frank Gore, LeSean “Shady” McCoy, Fred Jackson, and Thurman Thomas just to name a few. But don’t be surprised when it’s all said and done, we may be putting James Cook on this list of legendary Bills running backs as well.
From us here in Bills Mafia to you Mr. James Cook, welcome to Buffalo, and enjoy your wings.
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