Who is the real Dalvin Cook? And why was he available for the Vikings to select in the second round of the NFL draft?
His file includes transgressions, yet his college coach swears by his character. “We never saw the issues that are so-called out there,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman hung up after a 45-minute phone conversation with Cook on Friday morning convinced that he would fit perfectly with the organization.
“I asked him very pointed questions,” Spielman said. “I knew that he was sincere and honest with how he answered everything.”
Cook’s talent didn’t cause him to fall to the 41st pick. If evaluating solely in football terms, Cook would have been a first-rounder, possibly top 15.
He is fast and elusive and powerful and instinctive, an ideal blend of skills for a running back. Turn on his college highlights and watch him slice through defenses like soft butter.
“We felt that he was definitely one of the top two running backs in this class,” Spielman said.
And yet he was passed over 32 times Thursday. Eight teams passed again at the start of the second round before the Vikings sprang into action, moving up seven spots in a trade to grab him.
Red flags in Cook’s background required extensive due diligence and created an opening for the Vikings to secure Adrian Peterson’s successor.
So what are they getting in Cook? The answer seems complicated, or hazy.
Is he someone who made immature mistakes but has since changed his ways? A guy who surrounds himself with the wrong people? Or did some shady character purposely float damaging accusations to teams before the draft, as explained in a lengthy profile by Sports Illustrated this week?
The truth might be a combination of those things.
The buzz before the draft focused on the Vikings’ reported interest in Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon, a top-10 talent who had no chance of landing in the first round with his rap sheet.
The educated guess here is that the Vikings were not seriously considering Mixon. He was too polarizing and risky to think the Wilf brothers would give their approval. Mixon served a one-year suspension at Oklahoma after punching a woman, leaving her with fractured bones in her face.
Cook’s file doesn’t include a heinous video, but he found enough trouble to hurt his draft stock. According to reports, he was arrested for robbery in his early teens, but charges were later dropped.
He encountered more issues at Florida State. There was an incident involving a BB gun. He also received a citation from animal control for mistreating puppies.
The most serious incident came during his sophomore year when he was charged with misdemeanor battery for alleging punching a woman outside of a bar. The case went to trial and a jury found Cook not guilty, taking less than 25 minutes to reach a verdict. Cook maintained his innocence throughout the case.
“We spent an extensive amount of time researching [his background],” Spielman said. “We felt very comfortable after going through everything.”
Spielman made one last call to Cook on Friday morning to “rehash” information he gathered during the vetting process. Cook said he was “willing and open about everything.”
“You’ve just got be truthful and prove to them that they’re getting the right guy,” Cook said.
Cook promised Spielman that he will distance himself from hangers-on who might not have his best interests at heart. That’s a good start. He’s a professional now, soon to be a millionaire. An organization is putting its trust in him.
Spielman was asked what Cook said during their conversation Friday that convinced him that he would leave negative influences behind him.
“He told me,” Spielman said. “And I believed him.”
If Cook rewards that faith, he could become a steal because he possesses game-changing talent. The running back position isn’t valued as highly in today’s pass-happy NFL, but explosive playmakers remain indispensable.
The Vikings will look smart if their homework and gut feeling on Cook are proven right.
“I think this kid has really matured over the last couple of years,” Spielman said. “We have no concerns at all about him being a Minnesota Viking.”