Matt Waldman examines a play from James Cook’s film portfolio that hints at the Georgia running back’s every-down upside as a 2022 NFL Draft prospect.
James Cook is a difficult evaluation — maybe not for those who lean on the eye-ball test — but most players who fill NFL rosters and contribute fail the simplicity of the eye-ball test. The eye-ball test also doesn’t help you define where a player wins and loses, which is why NFL owners and GMs who impulsively react to speed, agility, and efficiency of production can derail the makeup of an offense by ram-rodding a player into a role where the coaches know the fit hurts the scheme.
But Matt, good coaches adapt their schemes to the player.
While this is true, there’s a point where if the player is so limited in his skill set that the offense becomes predictable or as limited as a player because of the demand for him to be on the field in situations where there are better options, the executives have hamstrung the team.
This is the potential difficulty of evaluating a running back prospect like Cook, at least on the surface. At first glance, Cook is a part-time role player on a National Championship squad stocked with surrounding talent who the Bulldogs want to get into open space. This means there aren’t as many reps to study and an evaluator has to find meaningful reps that project well to the NFL.
One of those meaningful reps for Cook is this play against Tennessee. It’s a Counter that runs into backfield penetration that requires Cook to display patience, efficient footwork, comfort with tight creases, sudden acceleration, and finishing form in the secondary.
James Cook’s curvilinear skills and feel for tight confines makes him a fascinating prospect. There’s ways he could become a useful asset — at least as a situational player pic.twitter.com/SKamcri9XC
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) February 11, 2022
Like his Pro-Bowl running back brother, Dalvin, James has the curvilinear movement to bend around pursuit at strong angles. He also has Dalvin’s acceleration and long speed. Unlike Dalvin — a unique talent who many draftniks panned on the basis of fitting the template of the Combines’ workouts to a style of play that had a different athletic archetype than they were used to analyzing — James’s style is likely more suited to the measurements we’ll see at the end of the month because he’s skilled with jump stops, jump cuts, and hard pressure cuts.
Where James’s usage at Georgia could lead one to conclude that he has a career along the lines of Tavon Austin, at best. The skill to work in tight quarters could make this member of the Cook family at premiere scatback in the league — one who generates enough meaningful volume to rely on as a lead option in an offensive game plan.
I don’t think he’s as contact-savvy as Chris Johnson, but there’s the slightest hint of Johnson his game that could help him become more than a productive committee option in the right offense.
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