Dalvin Cook Could Be Fantasy Football’s Next David Johnson But Must Avoid…

Dalvin Cook has the upside to finish among the Top-Five RBs in 2018... but has a couple hurdles he must overcome -- the most dangerous one seems to be completely ignored.

Anyone who owned Dalvin Cook in 2017 knows: the guy was an absolute monster.

Sure, the 340+ touch, 1776 total yard, 8 TD pace was thrilling. Yet, not only did that seem entirely sustainable, Cook seemed to only be ascending. Those numbers almost seem a floor for what he would've done.

Instead, he suffered a soul-crushing ACL injury, and owners were robbed of a R.O.Y-contending RB debut.

Yet, the injury recovery shouldn't be fantasy owner's greatest concerns. He reportedly "knocked his rehab out of the park," and, after participating throughout OTAs in every facet, is expected to be a full-go for training camp.

This is just one snippet from our John DeFilippo & Vikings Fantasy Football Preview......

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 Rather, Latavius Murray should be at least on the mind after he thrived in a short yardage role. Despite playing only 12 games, Murray ranked 3rd in the NFL in red zone carries, and has consistently converted upwards of 60% of his 1-2 yard runs, dating back to his Raiders day.

Considering DeFilippo is a master of using all his talents in their exact roles, Murray's "Vulture" potential (and high TD upside) is very real. We know the new OC wants to pound the rock inside the 20:

"The best red zone teams do two things,” DeFilippo said. “No. 1, they run the football. They have success running the football. So right now, when you come out to our practice, you’re going to see us throwing the football more than we’re going to [during the season], because we have to work on that timing. It’s so unique down there; we’ve got to get that timing down. I told our O-line the other day, ‘Hang in there with me, fellas,’ because I would be shocked if we don’t have more rushing attempts inside the 20 than we do passing attempts."

Yet, prior to his injury, Cook showed extremely well at the stripe and after contact himself. According to PFF, he ranked eighth in yards after contact per attempt (2.6) and tied for second in total forced missed tackles (18) among the 27 running backs with at least 50 touches in Weeks 1-4 (in 2017). If he holds off Murray and remains involved at the stripe, Cook would contend with Le'Veon Bell and Todd Gurley for fantasy's top scorer.

That's because he's about to explode as a pass-catcher. DeFilippo has already spoken at length about extending Cook's receiving role, particularly with splitting him out wide:

“The thing we’ve tried to work with Dalvin coming in here is getting him outside the numbers a little bit, and getting him out wide, and getting him comfortable out there. Because we want our skill guys, our best players, and all of our players, to be able to lineup anywhere.”

Granted, the Eagles' "propensity to throw to the RBs" is overblown -- in 2017, they ranked dead last with only 13.5% of their targets going to the backfield. Moreover, DeFilippo's Browns RBs only netted an 18% target share. Even still, Duke Johnson did net an impressive 74 looks (for 61 receptions), and Cook is on a different level talent-wise; if he nets a similar targets, Cook will approach 700-800 receiving alone. 

Lastly, when asked what excited him about the Vikings, DeFilippo's first response was, “Dalvin Cook I loved coming out of the draft; he was a fantastic player." 

Cook is an elite, versatile talent, capable of being the centerpiece of this explosive offense. With health, Cook will hover anywhere between 1400 - 1800 total yards while netting 50+ catches -- an excellent floor, particularly in reception-based leagues. 

Cook's ceiling, however, hinges upon his involvement at the stripe. DeFilippo will run early and often in the red zone, but whether Cook or Murray receives the bulk of this work remains to be seen. Should this lean Cook, he'll approach Gurley and Bell status in 2018. If it bends Murray's way (my expectation), Cook still remains an excellent first round target given his major role in an explosive, creative offense. His early second ADP is a bargain right now. 

Meanwhile, Murray himself remains an excellent bargain at his 148 overall ADP. His handcuff value alone already exceeds that price; a 10+ TD ceiling makes it a flat out steal. He's the best cheap guarantee at some stake in what projects to be a juggernaut offense.

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