Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Bills take James Cook in 2022 NFL Draft: Fantasy Football and Dynasty outlooks, scouting report, more

James Cook became the third running back selected in the 2022 NFL Draft when the Buffalo Bills grabbed him with the No. 63 pick overall in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft. The Bills have made a habit of drafting Day 2 running backs but Cook offers something different than Devin Singletary and Zack Moss with a ceiling that is reminiscent of Alvin Kamara.

Cook is not a clone of his brother — NFL star running back Dalvin Cook — but it’s impossible not to see the similarities in their running styles when watching James’ tape at Georgia. You don’t need to dig deep into the game film to see it either. Anyone who watched the national championship game against Alabama and saw James make this jump cut that might have for one moment actually felt like Dalvin showed up to give the Bulldogs a boost to finally get over the hill against Bama. But nope, it was James. And while Dalvin’s younger brother doesn’t have the same kind of size, he displays a variety of similar traits to the ones that have made the older brother a special player. He also might be a better prospect as a receiver and we all know how well that plays in Fantasy Football.

The mini Dalvin doesn’t have the same build — he’s about 10-15 pounds lighter — and he didn’t operate anywhere near the same workload as his older brother at Georgia. But partially, it felt like that was because they didn’t need him to. James does an excellent job with his footwork and vision — like his brother — and this allows him to be an asset as a between-the-tackles runner despite his size. And his passing game prowess will allow him to immediately be an asset on passing downs — so there is a path for him to operate in a three-down role at the NFL level.  Cook rushed for 738 yards on 113 attempts (6.4 YPC) for a total of seven scores on the ground in 2021. He also caught 27 of 30 passes for 274 yards and four touchdowns in the air while operating out of a four-way running back by committee at Georgia. 

Age as of Week 1: 22 | Height: 5-11 | Weight: 199 | 40-time: 4.42

We’re breaking down everything you need to know about Cook from a Fantasy manager perspective, including best fits, Dynasty outlook, measurables, scouting report, key stats and an NFL comparison.

Fantasy fits

Buffalo Bills

Here’s what I wrote about the Bills as Cook’s top Fantasy fit prior to the draft: Throughout his tenure as general manager of the Bills, GM Brandon Beane hasn’t been shy about targeting the running back position on late Day 2 (Round 3). He located two backs he loved and he went out and got them both in Round 3 — Devin Singletary and Zack Moss. While Singletary had a nice stretch at the end of 2021, he hasn’t fully established himself as the alpha, and there is room for another playmaker in this offense. Considering how many opposing defensive coordinators shifted to playing the Josh Allen-led Bills from a two-high safety shell, this is among the best fits for any running back. Cook’s skill set in the passing game also helps his projection here. Cook was a legitimate weapon as a complete mismatch for opposing safeties and linebackers in the SEC as a receiving option.

Dynasty outlook

Cook has been falling in the rookie mock drafts I’ve participated in until this point, and I believe his lack of size and touches at the collegiate level have a lot to do with it. I’ve been seeing Cook come off the board consistently in Round 3 — at times toward the middle or back end. I understand the concerns, but as we’ll get to below in the scouting report, the elite traits outweigh those. And that’s way too far of a fall. His cost will rise now that he joined the Bills and based on his draft capital as one of the first few running backs off the board. Cook will be a target of mine at the end of the second round in standard rookie drafts with a skill set that translates very well to any Fantasy league that awards points for receptions. 

Scouting report

Strengths

  • The breakaway speed is real with Cook and he might even have a slight edge on his brother in that regard — the 4.42 40-yard dash shows up on tape via his game speed.  
  • Incredibly quick feet allow him to change direction, press the line of scrimmage before cutting to get vertical.
  • Near identical run style to his brother Dalvin gives him a leg up for any team that brings him into an outside-zone heavy run blocking system.
  • Total mismatch against linebackers as a receiving option — Georgia even found success lining him up on the boundary and in the slot — in motion. 
  • Acceleration after his cuts is noticeable on tape and a major asset for James, and his ability to stop and start on a dime is incredibly impressive.
  • James’ patience and vision as a runner are often what helps him set up his cuts and create big gains. 
  • Not only does James have borderline-elite top end game speed, but perhaps more important is his ability to maintain that speed after his cuts.
  • James shows flashes of advanced mental processing in his ability to set up cutback linebackers and safeties, and in doing so create cutback lanes. 
  • Great in space in the screen game or on designed quick passes
  • Shows a willingness to pass protect and has a few high-level pass protecting reps
  • Great at protecting the football — zero fumbles in 2021

Concerns

  • Cook has a slight frame that brings question marks as to whether or not he’ll be able to hold up with a heavy workload at the next level.
  • Cook is not a tackle breaker via power by any means though he can evade them with his slippery running style.
  • Contact balance is not a concern necessarily but also not an elite trait for Cook
  • Cook only eclipsed 100 total touches in one season

Stats breakdown


G Att RuYds Avg TD Rec ReYds Avg TD
2021 15 113 728 6.4 7 27 284 10.5 4
2020 8 45 303 6.7 3 16 225 14.1 2
2019 13 31 188 6.1 2 16 132 8.3 0
Career 36 230 1503 6.5 14 67 730 10.9 6

Advanced stats to know

  • Zero dropped passes in 2021
  • Zero fumbles in 2021

NFL comparison

A smaller version of Dalvin Cook in running style is apt, but factoring in the frame, former Falcons running back Devonta Freeman might make the most sense as an NFL comparison given their running styles and size.

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