James Cook - RB - Georgia
Welcome to the rookie profile for James Cook. Cook was a versatile running back and consistent contributor for the Georgia Bulldogs his entire four-year tenure. He was never a workhorse in the backfield but was always an electric change of pace back. Cook was always on scouts’ radars throughout his college career, in no short part due to his older brother Dalvin Cook. In his final year at UGA, he took a step forward in the offense, especially in the rushing game. Demonstrating he can succeed in a larger role at the next level, and most likely increasing his draft stock from the end of the 2020 season.
Height: 5′ 11″
Weight: 199 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.42s
3-cone drill: DNP
20-yard shuttle: DNP
Vertical Jump: 33″
Broad Jump: 124″
Bench Press: DNP
James Cook came out of high school as a high four-star recruit with offers from Georgia, Florida State, Alabama, LSU, etc. Cook was initially committed to Florida State to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Dalvin Cook. Although, the summer before his final season in high school he de-committed and eventually signed his letter of intent with Georgia. In his true freshman season, Cook carved out a solid role for himself as a change of pace running back alongside D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield, accumulating 373 total yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. The following season, Cook was still relegated to a change of pace role with Zamir White joining the team as a freshman and Brian Herrien taking significant work as well. Cook lost a lot of production on the ground, but in turn, doubled his receiving work from the previous year.
In 2020, James Cook’s junior season, his role started to trend the right way. He became much more efficient in the receiving game, catching 16 passes for 225 yards averaging 14.1 yards per catch and 2 touchdowns. On the ground, Georgia was still approaching the backfield as a 3-4 headed monster, splitting carries between Zamir White, James Cook, and Kenny McIntosh. While that same trio split the majority of the carries in Cook’s final season for the Bulldogs, Cook became the clear cut 1b to Zamir White’s 1a. He accrued over 100 carries for the first time in his career and was efficient with his touches for 6.4 yards per carry and 7 touchdowns. His receiving work continued to grow as well, totaling 1012 all-purpose yards on the season with 11 total touchdowns. He was a large contributor to the Georgia team that made it and won the 2022 CFP National Championship.
First and foremost, one of Cook’s best traits is his lineup versatility. He has the ability to be a threat and effectively line up in the backfield, in the slot, or even out wide. There were minimal drops on his tape, so he has reliable hands and consistently catches with his hands and does not allow the ball to get into his body. He runs crisp routes for a running back, allowing him to match up effectively across the entire lineup.
When it comes to running the ball, Cook has quick and nimble feet. He has the ability to make defenders miss in tight spaces whether that is in the middle of the offensive line, or on a sweep following his blockers. Vision is a big reason he is successful on the ground, quickly identifying running lanes or effectively bouncing it outside when necessary. He isn’t the most physical running back in this class, but he consistently falls forward when getting hit. Additionally, he contributed a lot of explosive plays for Georgia over the years, and a lot of that is due to his open-field speed. He can rip off big runs or receptions for explosive plays when he gets himself into the open field.
One of the larger concerns with James Cook will be his workload. The increased workload his final year was good to see and gives more confidence that he will be able to endure a significant 1b role in a committee. But the college game and the NFL will have a different impact on the prospects’ bodies. Will Cook be able to hold up to that same workload at the NFL level? And will he be able to create as many explosive plays at the next level? He is a little undersized as well, so it is a legitimate concern.
Another negative, potentially connected to his smaller frame, is that he goes down on first contact pretty consistently. Power running isn’t Cook’s game, but it was far too often that he went down immediately on first contact. The running lanes won’t be as clean as often as it was behind Georgia’s offensive line the past 4 years. Finally, the last concern is for a primarily 3rd down back, there weren’t a lot of pass protection reps on tape. He mostly was out running routes, but when he did get the opportunity to pass protect he was average for an incoming prospect. So, there is some room to improve in that area.
Pre Draft Analysis
Expected Draft Capital- Round 4
James Cook’s versatility, but lack of size for a true workhorse role, means he needs to land in a spot where there is already a running back to create an effective 1-2 punch. For fantasy, Cook seems like he will be a better real-life NFL player than fantasy player. It’s hard to envision him with a large enough workload to produce consistently for fantasy managers without putting on some additional weight and testing well at the combine. For landing spots, the Seattle Seahawks have Chris Carson on another year of his contract, but if they let Rashaad Penny walk this offseason, Cook could be a nice replacement on Day 3 of the draft. The Arizona Cardinals would also be a nice pairing if they only bring back one of Chase Edmonds or James Conner. Finally, the New England Patriots. Even though they already have Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson, they could bring in a true pass-catching back if Cook falls to later in Day 3.
Post Draft Analysis
Buffalo Bills- Round 2, Pick 31
Over the past three seasons, the Buffalo Bills have rolled out some combination of Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, and Frank Gore at running back. Last offseason, the Bills were a hot team being mentioned as interested in adding a running back, but they elected to roll out both Zack Moss and Devin Singletary for one more go at it. Of course, Josh Allen continued to carry a solid workload on the ground the past few seasons as well. The team finally addressed the backfield this year early on Day 2 of the draft by selecting James Cook. Cook won’t contribute in a significant way on the ground, but he can become a Swiss Army Knife for the offense with the ability to the lineup in the backfield, in the slot, and even out wide and win on routes. He is also an explosive play waiting to happen, another trait that they don’t quite have out of their backfield. He won’t be a workhorse, but he provides a skill set that’s not present and should be a very useful weapon for Josh Allen to utilize.
Many consider Cook to have secured one of the best landing spots, and that’s not totally untrue. There is minimal competition for touches and Cook has the opportunity to get schemed touches right out of the gate thanks to his versatility. But he still has the same concerns as he did before the draft. He’s undersized and struggles to run between the tackles, causing him to have limited upside due to a lessened workload. That lessened workload is minimized in PPR leagues thanks to his specialty in pass-catching situations, but he won’t be a team’s workhorse and will depend on being efficient with his touches. Especially with his predraft inconsistencies in pass protection. In redraft, he could be a great late-round dart throw as he will have a role in a very high-powered offense. While Josh Allen will inevitably vulture touchdowns, Cook should still be in a position to score more than the average running back. In dynasty, he’s a solid target with a high floor/fairly high ceiling in the late 1st or early 2nd of Superflex rookie drafts.