As dynasty fantasy football managers look toward the NFL season, Georgia RB James Cook established himself as a name to remember for 2022. Following a successful collegiate career, what are Cook’s strengths, are there any concerns, and how does his landing spot with the Buffalo Bills impact his dynasty value in 2022 and beyond?
James Cook’s dynasty fantasy profile
Name value carries so much weight, and that’s the case for Georgia’s Cook. It’s well established he is the brother of Minnesota Vikings standout RB Dalvin Cook. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if that would be the case if he had any other generic name.
A four-year player at Georgia, Cook didn’t cement his role on the team until 2021. At a school notorious for using committee approaches at RB, Cook shared the backfield with many RBs over his time, including Zamir White and D’Andre Swift. Truth be told, despite White’s early career injuries, I prefer him to Cook, though I am in the minority on this.
Playing in 15 games last season for the national champion Bulldogs, Cook rushed 113 times for 728 yards with 7 touchdowns. However, he made his name as a receiving threat, catching 27 passes for 284 yards and 4 TDs.
That’s where Cook will bring value to an NFL team, as he has the best hands in the class. However, I have my questions about his talent as a rusher. Cook will likely be a second-round pick in rookie drafts. I understand that given the way the NFL is moving and the way fantasy leagues are leaning toward full-PPR formats. I just can’t help but think people are drafting the name on the back of the jersey, not the player on the field.
Cook’s catching ability and versatility are unparalleled in the 2022 fantasy rookie class. He did it all. Whether it was out of the backfield on swing passes, angle routes against linebackers, in the slot, or even split out wide. And Cook was not just a decoy. He was a legitimate threat in the Z for Stetson Bennett. Cook has excellent speed, both in the long game and via his acceleration and burst.
He is a rapid runner and can easily take the edge or hit daylight. On multiple occasions, Cook would rattle off chunk plays. In fact, almost 40% of his 2021 rushing total (290) came on rushes of 10+ yards. Cook is shifty in the open field as well. Part of that comes from manipulating the angles of a defender, but he can break down and change directions with ease. His jump cut left multiple collegiate defenders grasping at air.
Cook’s vision was sporadic in its consistency. Georgia had one of the best OLs in the country. If the designed hole didn’t open up, a backside lane would. The issue is Cook wouldn’t see this in time before the fill happened. We know he has the lateral quickness to hit it. He just didn’t see it.
My next significant critique is Cook’s contact balance and overall physicality — or perhaps the lack thereof. Despite trying to run behind his pads, Cook was outmuscled on plays. Part of it was size (5’11” and 190 pounds), and that issue will only be exacerbated in the NFL.
Cook won’t break tackles if someone gets a good wrap him. Sure, he may sometimes fall forward, but the play is dead. Even if defenders in the SEC got a decent hit on him, it was enough to knock Cook to the ground. The NFL is only going to be stronger and faster. Yes, Cook has home-run speed and flashy open-field moves. But none of that matters if he doesn’t get there in the first place. A player has to see the hole, get through it, and absorb contact before the end zone shows up. If you can’t get to that point, it doesn’t matter what you can do.
Cook’s injury history
With only 218 overall carries over his four-year career, there’s not much wear and tear on Cook’s tires. That doesn’t mean he has a clean bill of health, though.
In 2019, Cook underwent surgery to repair his ankle, which forced him to miss the Sugar Bowl. Then, in 2020, Cook dealt with shoulder and hand injuries that cost him playing time. For a player who never saw a full workload, there are concerns about his durability. I feel this could impact his NFL Draft stock and is something dynasty managers should consider in 2022 dynasty rookie drafts.
Buffalo Bills select James Cook in the second round
AFC East linebackers, I am sorry. I wish you the best of luck. The Buffalo Bills are an offense no one wants to play, and they just got even more dangerous by selecting Cook at pick No. 63.
The Bills were in the market for a pass-catching back. The team thought they landed one in J.D. McKissic, but after he went back to Washington, the Bills went in a different direction and hit a grand slam with a home-run hitter.
Cook can win all over the field, but he is most dangerous as a receiving asset. How often do you see running backs get split out and used as the X or Z and actually get targeted? Not very often. But that is what Cook brings.
Full transparency, I have not been high on Cook. I think there are some holes in his game, and perhaps the constant comparisons to his brother further pushed me off of him. But there’s no denying how good this is for Cook and for dynasty.
While Cook will be splitting time with Devin Singletary and Zack Moss, he should be locked in as the passing-down back, including the two-minute warning. With Singletary on the final year of his deal and knowing the powerhouse that is the Bills, Cook is likely a top-five RB of the 2022 rookie draft class and is set to produce from Day 1. In PPR leagues, Cook takes an even higher priority.