If you haven’t had your fantasy football draft yet, then you are probably neck-deep in your fantasy football player rankings, reading everything you can possibly read in our free fantasy football draft guide and formulating draft strategies for the big day. Safe to assume you’ve already printed out and studied the Ultimate Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet? Good. What about doing some fantasy football mock drafts? Excellent. But even with all of that research, you are probably still staring at certain players, wondering if drafting them at their current fantasy football ADP is, not just giving you the proper value, but if they are even right for you or your team. Is the juice worth the squeeze? This is where we come in with our all-new Fantasy Football Player Debate series where two analysts go head-to-head and give you the pros and cons to help with your decisions.

Today, Colby Conway and Howard Bender go head-to-head to help you decide whether you want to or even should draft Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook





Why You Should Draft Dalvin Cook in Fantasy Football

by Colby Conway

I understand that the run-first regime in Minnesota is no longer in the fold. I know that Kevin O’Connell and Wes Phillips are coming from a pass-happy Los Angeles team that ranked in the bottom-third of the NFL last season in rushing attempts and rushing yards. I know Cook is nearly a shoe-in to miss some games each season. STOP TRYING TO FIND REASONS TO NOT TAKE A TRIED-AND-TRUE RB1. Over 41 games the past three seasons, he’s been an RB1 in 23 of those weeks (56%), and a RB1/RB2 in 36 of them (87.8%).

In only 13 games last season, he still ran for over 1,100 yards with six scores on the ground. He also mixed in 34 receptions on 49 targets for 224 yards through the air. He was the RB15 on the season in Half-PPR setups, but on a fantasy points per game basis, he was the RB11, and his 17-game pace last year would have given him over 1,700 total yards. Last year’s production gives him three-straight seasons with over 1,100 rushing yards, six or more touchdowns, and 30+ receptions, and he has two top-five finishes at the position (Half-PPR) in the past three seasons!

While everyone points to the new regime being more pass-focused, why not look at the benefits for Cook? With the team likely operating out of 11 personnel more often than not, getting a linebacker off the field in favor of another defensive back figures to bode well for Cook, a back who has shown to be tough to bring down for his career. There may be a new blocking scheme to get used to, but if Darrell Henderson can post a 4.5 yards per carry mark for his career in this similar scheme, there’s no reason Cook, a far superior talent, can’t do the same thing, and more. Cook is an exceptional talent, and O’Connell and Co. will figure out how to utilize him in the passing game, and get one of its top two offensive talents the ball in space.

Other than the new regime, the same reasons to knock Cook from past years still exist, and he was still a top two or three pick at the position. You can now get him after the top five RBs are off the board, and likely after a couple of receivers, too. Point to his injuries and propensity to miss a couple of games, but his season averages over the last three years result in 280.1 fantasy points (PPR), which would have been the RB5 last year. Cook is one of the few backs that possess the complete skill set and potential volume to be the overall RB1 this season. 

This feels like a situation where in a few months, we won’t believe that Cook was available at the tail end of the first round, especially when that positive touchdown regression hits this season. Buy the value, and reap the rewards.



Why You Should Not Draft Dalvin Cook at His Current ADP

by Howard Bender

Over the past three years, you would have been hard-pressed to have found a bigger Dalvin Cook fan than me. The uber-talented back out of Florida State spent his first two seasons cutting his teeth in the NFL and then, in his third year, was fortunate enough to see the Vikings hire running-game guru Gary Kubiak who immediately installed a zone-blocking scheme that highlighted the strengths of the team’s offensive line as we as all the features that made Cook such an amazing player.

But those days are gone and this Vikings offense is going to look vastly different than it did even just one year ago. Minnesota brought in former Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell as the new head coach and he subsequently brought in Wes Phillips, his former passing-game coordinator and tight ends coach in Los Angeles. You don’t need to be a genius or even read my Vikings Coaching Scheme Breakdown (though you really should) to see the handwriting on the wall. This Vikings team is going to be all about the pass and while, yes, they will have to establish some sort of a ground game, the days of high-volume carries for Cook seem to be gone.

First off, the scheme is moving from zone-blocking to a mix of power/gap blocking with some zone. The problem is that both Cook and the Vikings offensive line aren’t built for power/gap. The line is undersized and Cook is a better one-cut back on the outside. Second, Rams running backs saw just 369 rushing attempts last year to the 410 for the Vikings. And that was a down year in Minnesota as Kubiak was already out the door, headed to retirement. O’Connell isn’t going to increase the rushing workload now that he's with the Vikings and with a mix of blocking schemes, we are likely to see a little more of the team’s backs filtered into the action, especially when guys like Kevin Nwangwu and Ty Chandler are better suited for power/gap running.

And yes, while the tired, old “if he stays healthy…” phrase is not something I like to throw in, you cannot ignore the fact that Cook has never played more than 14 games in a given season. He’s a hard runner and he’s not afraid of contact, so you have to bake that into his value somewhere. In the past, I was fine with it as I knew Mattison was the easy handcuff, but in this new scheme, I’m not so sure who would see the bulk of the action in Cook’s absence.

What? He’s going to catch more passes in this scheme? Sony Michel and Darrell Henderson combined for just 76 targets last year for the Rams. Do we think Cook even matches his career-high of 63 targets, given that number? Seems unlikely.

Again, I’m fine if you’re looking to draft Cook in the late-first or early-second round if all other bell-cows have been snatched up. He’s still capable of shining bright. But I’d much rather take a shot on Joe Mixon, D’Andre Swift or even Alvin Kamara before drafting Cook as their offensive schemes are much better suited for their talents than this one is for Cook in Minnesota. 

Strong cases have been made. Now it's up to you to decide. Are you drafting Dalvin Cook?


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