Following in family footsteps is no easy feat, especially when every news outlet wants to refer to you as the little brother. However, Georgia running back James Cook is more than just Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook’s younger brother in this 2022 NFL Draft class. Cook’s scouting report reveals a legitimate pro prospect who is ascending draft boards following a standout senior season.
James Cook NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Running back
- School: Georgia
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 5’11”
- Weight: 190 pounds
James Cook Scouting Report
When evaluating running back prospects, there’s a propensity to look towards 1,000-yard seasons and touchdowns as standard-bearers at the position. Of course, production is important. However, there are many factors that go into determining whether a running back will be a success at the NFL level.
Cook is hardly a statistical standout. In his four seasons in Athens, the Georgia RB has never led the running back room. Does that mean that he isn’t as good as the players that have gone before him, or even that he’s playing alongside right now? No, it does not. When given the opportunity, Cook has proven that he is worthy of high acclaim in this 2022 NFL Draft class.
Cook’s scouting report begins with versatility. The NFL is looking for running backs who can be factors on all three downs. Cook more than ticks that box. He’s productive as a rusher and a receiver, and he has some blocking acumen. He’s taken snaps in the backfield, lined up as a receiver in the slot, and gone in motion. Cook has even been lined up as a receiver outside of the numbers.
This versatility is the result of exceptional receiving ability from the running back position. Cook possesses soft, reliable hands. He’s an incredibly natural catcher of the ball. Furthermore, his athletic ability enables him to pose a threat after the catch. Cook also demonstrates an excellent route-running ability that would make some wide receivers proud. There are few better pass-catching running backs in this NFL Draft class.
Cook is a speedy outside runner with vision and patience to work inside
Although he excels as a pass catcher, don’t be fooled into thinking that Cook is just a gadget player at the next level. He’s also a genuine talent as a rusher. He can put together multiple moves to create space behind the line of scrimmage and among traffic. Cook has impressively quick footwork and is able to plant his feet, sink his hips, and almost effortlessly change direction.
Cook also displays impressive vision between the tackles. While his overall speed means he can be a devastating threat as an outside runner, he possesses the vision and patience to be a force between the tackles too. Cook routinely falls forward on contact ensuring no wasted yardage.
In addition to rushing and pass-catching ability, the NFL evaluates running backs on their ability to block. Cook is an extremely willing blocker both in pass protection and as a run blocker. He’s routinely tasked with chip blocking, and there were multiple examples of him getting out in front and blocking downfield in the games studied. Furthermore, he routinely looks for work in this regard, demonstrating a level of football intelligence.
In a deep 2022 NFL Draft running back class, Cook has the potential to separate himself with his multi-faceted ability. Moreover, the limited tread on his tires — only five career games with 10+ carries — will prove alluring to NFL teams. At present, he could be looking at a very early Day 3 selection. However, he has the opportunity to solidify himself as a Day 2 prospect with a good showing at the Senior Bowl.
Areas for improvement
Although Cook has an impressive 2022 NFL Draft scouting report, there are some areas for improvement. Some of these factors may prove limiting for his NFL stock.
Having praised his willingness as a blocker, this is an area that requires the biggest development. At 5’11” and 190 pounds, Cook isn’t the most physical back in the class, and it shows when it comes to blocking. He can be easily uprooted upon contact, resulting in pressure on the quarterback. That said, there were times where his athletic ability allowed him to recover.
Although he has the vision and patience to be a competent runner between the tackles, he could seek to add a little more muscle to be a more physical presence. Cook won’t be mistaken for a power back by any stretch of the imagination. That could limit his projection at the next level. Yet, there were examples of him being able to drive with his lower body in the games studied.
James Cook Player Profile
There’s a difference between admiration and acceptance of a life spent in the shadows. Growing up, Cook looked up to his older brother, describing Dalvin as the most complete running back in college football during his time at Florida State.
While there was clear adoration, the younger Cook wasn’t content to simply ride his brother’s coattails or stand in his shadow.
From high school to the college ranks
“When people think of Miami Central football, I want them to think of James AND Dalvin Cook, the two best running backs to step on the field,” James said in 2016.
Even before he stepped foot on that Miami Central field, Cook was already writing his own story. In 2014, he was a finalist for the Youth Player of the Year alongside current Georgia teammate JT Daniels. He continued crafting his own narrative at Miami Central, tallying 2019 total rushing yards and 30 touchdowns during his time there. In addition to his success on the field, he also represented the school in multiple distances on the track.
It would have been easy for Cook to follow in his brother’s footsteps on the recruiting trail too. A four-star high school prospect who was the No. 3 all-purpose back in the 2018 class, he committed to FSU in June 2016. However, just over a year and a recruiting class that contained Cam Akers later, Cook rescinded his commitment and reopened his recruiting.
It remained open at the start of a senior season that ended with first-team All-State Class 8A-6A honors and a place in the US Army All-American Bowl. Amidst that season, Cook committed to the Georgia Bulldogs, a perennial developer of running back talent to the NFL Draft. Despite a late push from FSU, he signed with the Bulldogs in December 2017.
Cook’s career at Georgia
Cook’s commitment alongside Zamir White gave Georgia the first- and third-ranked RBs in the 2018 recruiting class. Their running back room also contained Elijah Holyfield and D’Andre Swift. As a result, early opportunities to impress were limited for the standout from Miami Central.
Nonetheless, Cook impressed when the chance presented itself. Against UMass, he led the team with 133 all-purpose yards while scoring 2 touchdowns, an early demonstration of the versatile and dangerous threat that he possesses. Although he ended his freshman season with just 41 carries for 284 yards, he was named one of the team’s Offensive Newcomers of the Year.
While his sophomore campaign saw a reduction in touches, Cook earned three starts in 2019. Furthermore, he still averaged 6.1 yards per carry. The Georgia RB continued to showcase his ability as a pass catcher, snagging a 19-yard receiving touchdown against Georgia Tech. While he took a hit statistically, he was recognized within the program as the co-winner of the Most Improved Offensive Player award.
Emerging as the standout NFL Draft prospect in the Georgia RB room
As a junior in 2020, Cook continued to impress. Against Alabama, he snagged an 82-yard receiving touchdown while adding both rushing and receiving scores against Missouri. Cook tallied 104 yards on just 6 carries against South Carolina, bolstering a team-leading 6.7 yards per carry. He finished second on the team with 303 rushing yards and fourth with 225 receiving yards.
Despite seeing 40 fewer carries than White this year, Cook has emerged as the standout prospect from the Georgia RB room for this NFL Draft cycle. He earned the start in the season opener against Clemson and tallied receiving and rushing touchdowns against South Carolina. In the win over Tennessee, Cook set a career-high with 104 rushing yards and 3 total touchdowns while leading the team as a captain.
Those performances had already earned Cook a call-up to the Reese’s Senior Bowl. Regardless, his best was yet to come. The Georgia running back tore Michigan apart in the Orange Bowl, tallying a career-best 112 receiving yards, including a 39-yard touchdown.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for James Cook
Positives: Talented running back with a well-rounded game. Very quick, does an outstanding job using blocks, and will pick his way through the trash. Runs behind his pads, possesses outstanding vision, and has a burst through the hole. Plays faster than his 40 time, beats defenders into the open field, and can run to daylight.
Finds the running lanes, uses an effective straight arm to keep plays alive, and always works to pick up positive yardage.
Displays himself as a legitimate downfield pass-catching threat, tracks the ball in the air, and adjusts backwards to make the over-the-shoulder reception down the field. Easily adjusts to the pass and makes the reception in stride. Can throw the halfback option.
Negatives: Not a power back who will move the pile or pick up a lot of yardage off initial contact. Used more in a rotational role at Georgia.
Analysis: Cook is a well-rounded skill player. He’s effective as a pass catcher and as a ball carrier and can even throw the option pass on occasion. Cook is a zone runner who will be an exceptional rotational back on Sundays.