The Vikings needed to make two important phone calls Friday before picking their new running back, Dalvin Cook, a speedy playmaker who at Florida State left in his wake ACC defenders on the football field and a few concerning incidents off it.
There was one more conversation, lasting 45 minutes, that General Manager Rick Spielman needed to have with Cook to feel comfortable drafting him.
And then there was the call he placed hours later to the Bengals, when he sensed Cook’s slide would come to an end before the Vikings were on the clock.
“When he kept coming down the board, we felt he was just too talented of a player not to take a swing and try to go up and get him,” Spielman said after the Vikings gave up one of their two fourth-round picks to trade up seven spots to pick No. 41 overall to select Cook, considered by many analysts to be a first-round talent.
In three years with the Seminoles, Cook, who left college after his junior year, rushed for 4,464 yards and 46 touchdowns, both Florida State career records. This past fall, the 5-10, 210-pound back rumbled for 1,765 yards and 19 scores. He was a unanimous All-America and a finalist for the Doak Walker Award.
“We felt that he was definitely one of the top two running backs in this class,” said Spielman, who was wowed by Cook — in particular his “great balance” and his “great vision” — while watching Florida State’s season opener in person this fall.
Cook fumbled 13 times in college, but Spielman believes that problem is correctable. Ditto for his shortcomings in pass protection, where he feels Cook has the willingness needed to pick up blitzes if he improves his technique.
If the 21-year-old, who had 79 career catches for 938 yards in college, can be trusted to pass protect, he has the potential to become an every-down player for the Vikings.
Despite his pedigree and potential, Cook lasted until the second round because of concerns about his health and his character.
He battled a hamstring injury as a sophomore at Florida State and has reportedly undergone three shoulder surgeries since high school, including one last spring. But Spielman said the team’s medical staff had no concerns about those lingering.
Cook’s issues away from football, though, gave the Vikings a least a little pause.
The Miami native was charged with robbery in 2009 when he was 14, but charges were dropped. A year later, he was arrested for possessing and firing a weapon on school property. Those charges also were dropped.
The legal issues continued in college, when during his freshman year he was one of several Florida State players involved in an alleged BB gun shooting that caused property damage, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Cook was charged with criminal mischief. Later that year, Cook was cited for the mistreatment of puppies.
And then Cook was accused of punching a woman outside of a Tallahassee, Fla., bar and charged with assault. Florida State suspended him while he awaited trial, and after a jury found him not guilty, he returned to the team for his sophomore year.
“We spent an extensive amount of time researching that. We felt very comfortable after going through everything. In fact, I called him this morning and spoke with him for another 45 minutes, just rehashing everything again,” said Spielman, who felt Cook was “sincere and honest” when talking about those incidents.
Said Cook of their talks: “I was more eager for him to get to know the person — and that’s Dalvin Cook — and for him to know that if you draft me for the Minnesota Vikings, he was getting a guy that was going to represent the organization the right way and go to war for his teammates every game and help them win football games.”
Cook has had no known brushes with the law since 2015.
“This kid has really matured over the last couple years,” Spielman said.
Cook joins a backfield that includes free-agent addition Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon — but not Adrian Peterson, who signed with the Saints this week.
Cook praised Peterson on a Friday night conference call, calling him “a great back” while he sidestepped a question about replacing a likely future Hall-of-Famer.
“I’m just going to come in and work hard and try to be the best Dalvin I can be,” he said.
Later on the draft’s second day, the Vikings traded up again, from pick No. 79 in the third round to No. 70, to add a big offensive lineman.
Pat Elflein closed out his stellar Ohio State career by starting 40 consecutive games at center or guard, including all 15 in 2014, when he helped the Buckeyes win the national title. Elflein was thrice named a first-team All-Big Ten performer and as a senior won the Rimington Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top center.
Spielman said Elflein is a “tone-setter up front” who could play center or guard. He will let coach Mike Zimmer and offensive line coach Tony Sparano figure that out.
Before the night wrapped up, Spielman traded back in the third round and then again out of the round, netting two fourth-round picks and two seventh-rounders. The Vikings have seven selections Saturday.
“It was a very good day for the Minnesota Vikings,” Spielman said. “A very busy day.”