One of the ongoing storylines heading into the 2017 season was that, for the first time in a decade, the Minnesota Vikings were going to enter a season without Adrian Peterson. The question at hand was how the Vikings were going to replace the home-run hitting ability that Peterson brought to Minnesota for so many years.
Not everyone was in lockstep that free agent signee Latavius Murray could provide that with his between-the-tackles skill set.
When the Vikings finally did hit the clock – trading up seven spots with Cincinnati to get the 41st pick in the draft – they answered that question with a resounding exclamation point, selecting running back Dalvin Cook of Florida State.
Cook was a workhorse at Florida State who was a two-year full-time starter who rushed 517 times for 3,456 yards, caught 57 passes for 732 yards and scored 40 touchdowns. He left FSU as its all-time leading rusher (4,464 yards) and touchdown scorer (46) and became the first ACC running back to top 4,000 rushing yards in just three seasons.
So why the drop?
It was a series of off-field issues from high school and early in his college career that remained the sticking point with teams. There were some pretty significant allegations, including one of punching a woman at a bar that was determined not to have happened, but the stigma of his off-field issues and the people he associated with was a concern for a lot of teams and became one of the narratives prior to the start of the second round.
Cook said he has tried hard to dispel the negative buzz surrounding him, including with General Manager Rick Spielman, who spoke with Cook for 45 minutes Friday morning before drafting him. Cook said he was straightforward and honest with Spielman during that conversation and he convinced him that he wasn’t going to be a problem in Minnesota.
“You just have to be open about everything and be truthful,” Cook said. “I’m willing to come in, show them and prove to them that they’re getting the right guy when they picked me. I had to be open about everything and let them get a good feel for (me).”
Cook wasn’t happy that he fell out of the first round because he felt he had done enough to earn a first-round selection. But he wasn’t going to let it define his draft weekend. He knew he was going to land in the second round and said it’s all part of the business of football.
“You’ve got accept things as a man,” Cook said. “I just was waiting my turn and that was it. I was waiting for my name to get called and I got called to a great organization.”
His college head coach, Jimbo Fisher, was stunned to see that Cook didn’t come off the board earlier, but it isn’t the first time he’s seen one of his star running backs stay on the board longer than he should.
Falcons star running back Devonta Freeman was a Seminole and has torn up the NFL, but he had to wait until Day 3 to hear his name called, but Fisher felt Cook should have been off the board long before he went.
Was he surprised?
“Without a doubt,” Fisher said. “There were a lot of guys that had a lot of issues. Everybody has their way of doing things. Devonta didn’t go until the fourth round – look what he’s doing in the NFL right now. Because of his explosion and diversity and the way the game is being played in the NFL right now, Dalvin meets all those needs and he does it with such explosion with ability to score touchdowns every time he touches it, it really did shock me.”
Cook is looking to leave all of his troubles from his past behind him. He has matured and the humbling draft process has had an impact on him. He’s coming to Minnesota looking to prove to the Vikings that they got the right guy and that the teams that passed on him shouldn’t have.
“This is my life,” Cook said. “I love football and it’s my job now. I love the game and I love everything it represents. Moving forward, I just take what learned, be ready to come in and be surrounded by great people, learn from great people and do great things.”
One advantage he’ll have coming to Minnesota is that he is familiar with Xavier Rhodes and Teddy Bridgewater, a pair of players who are organization leaders because of who they are and how they conduct themselves.
Cook is ready to let them take him under their wing and show him how to conduct himself like a professional.
“They’re great people, they’re great people to be around, they’re great people to learn from,” Cook said. “They represent the Vikings in the right way. It’s good to be around those guys, learn from those guys and learn how to be a pro.”
Cook is a vastly different type of player than Peterson and he knows that he has big shoes to fill with Vikings fans. But he isn’t concerning himself with being the next Adrian Peterson. He just wants to be the first Dalvin Cook.
“Growing up watching Adrian Peterson, he’s one of the greatest running backs I ever watched,” Cook said. “It was so special. To be going to the team that he played for, it still feels unreal. I just want to come in and try to be the best Dalvin I can be.”