INDIANAPOLIS — Dalvin Cook is the best running back in the 2017 NFL draft, and he’ll tell you that himself.
In what is the deepest running back draft in several years, with high-rated talent at the top and a fair amount of depth, Cook and LSU’s Leonard Fournette are the undisputed top two.
“It’s probably one of the best yet and I think what separates me is I can do it all,” Cook said. “I can stay on the field all three downs and I’m just a do-it-all back and I just feel like I am the best back in this class.”
For those reasons, Cook is right. In three years at Florida State, averaged 6.5 yards per carry, finishing with 4,464 yards on 687 attempts. He also caught 79 passes for 935 yards. In total, he had 48 touchdowns.
“You didn’t need to do much blocking for Dalvin,” Florida State offensive tackle Roderick Johnson said. “He’s a great running back. He sticks his foot in the ground, can go vertical and can catch.”
He also comes out of a system at Florida State that has him well-suited for the NFL. Many of the run-game principles the Seminoles use are similar to what pro teams do.
“Coach Fisher’s system definitely helped me transfer over to the NFL level,” Cook said. “When I’m in certain meeting rooms and coach is asking me questions I can relate very well and I think coach Fisher got me very well prepared for this next level. His offense is very intense. It’s a big playbook and the NFL is the same well. I think he got me prepared very good.”
Now it will be up to teams to determine if it’s Cook they like, or Fournette. The LSU star is the biggest running back at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week at 240 pounds, and has a more power-based style compared to Cook’s all-around game.
Both players admitted they don’t have a rivalry with one another, but they’ve kept in touch since high school after Cook said they met in the ninth or 10th grade. They both also participated at The Opening 2013, Nike’s workout event for top high school players.
“No, there’s not a rivalry,” Fournette said on Thursday. “Dalvin is a great player and a great running back. He’s going to do great things, too.”
It might not be fair to call it a rivalry between the two star running backs, but it’s fair to call it a competition.
“We just started talking and chatting and started competing and brought the best out of each other,” Cook said. “I think once you connect like that we just followed each other. Me and Leonard been close ever since. We stayed in contact through college and we just built a bond from there.”
Whatever order they get picked in, they owe some thanks to Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys. Cook and Fournette were quick to praise Elliott for boosting the value of running backs in the draft after the Cowboys rookie had almost 2,000 total yards and 16 touchdowns last season.
“Zeke did pave the way for us,” Cook said. “Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, all those guys they paved the way for us. Zeke did a great job of catching the ball out of the backfield, protecting Dak at quarterback, and running very well behind a good offensive line, so he paved the way for us very good. It was a good thing for us coming in right now.”
In the right system, Cook is confident he can make a similar impact to Elliott.
“It goes to show if a running back gets put in the right system, you put him in the right place, he can do a great amount of things for a team,” Cook said. “I feel like if I can put in the right system I can do the same things that Zeke did.”