James Cook is a spark plug at the running back position. In this 2022 NFL Draft Profile, let’s unpack what makes Cook one of the most exciting players available in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Height – 5’11”
Weight – 199 Pounds
DOB – September 25, 1999 (22 years old)
School – Georgia
Position – Running Back
Arm Length – 30 3/4”
Hand Size – 9 3/8”
Wingspan – 76 1/4”
40-Yard Dash – 4.42 Seconds
Vertical Jump – 33”
Broad Jump – 124”
James Cook spent his childhood in Miami, soaking up that South Beach sun. He attended Miami Central Senior High School, a school rich in NFL history. They have sent 12 alumni to the NFL, with the likes of Willis McGahee, Devonta Freeman, and even James’ older brother — Dalvin Cook.
Cook never got the usage that his older brother did in high school, failing to eclipse 100 carries any singular season. He still made the most of his touches though, averaging ~eight yards per carry over the course of his career. Impressively, Cook completed sophomore classes the summer after his freshman year, allowing him to reclassify as a junior in 2016.
Cook garnered a lot of attention on the recruiting trail. A lot of that attention can be directed towards his athletic profile combined with the illustrious school and a big brother that has blossomed into a star in the NFL. Dalvin’s school — Florida State — recruited James heavily, never relenting until they secured a commitment from the four-star running back.
Unfortunately for the Seminoles, Cook rescinded his commitment prior to his final high school season. Upon opening up his recruitment, SEC schools came knocking. After getting offers from LSU, Alabama, and Georgia (among many others), Cook opted to become a Bulldog and joined the University of Georgia.
Cook’s time in Athens echoed his high school career, in a sense. He surpassed the 100 carry plateau only once (2021), but never found himself below 6.1 yards per carry in any season on campus. Furthermore, his pass game usage increased each year, culminating in a career-high 27 receptions in 2021. He accomplished this while splitting time with fellow NFL Draft hopeful, Zamir White.
Cook tested out at the Combine similarly to what Dalvin did, even laying claim to the fastest 40-yard dash in the family (4.42), a mere .07 seconds ahead of his big brother. Now that we are caught up on James Cook’s journey to this point, let’s dive in and shine some light on what makes him special — and what he must improve.
Explosiveness – I’m sure that James Cook gets tired of the constant comparisons to his brother, but they are mirror images of each other with the ball in their hands. Cook is a threat to take any play to the house for six points, regularly making defenders look as though they are stuck in mud. He is as shifty as they come and rarely allows oncoming tacklers to square him up.
Pass Catching – The explosiveness bleeds over into his pass catching ability as well. On his 27 receptions in 2021, he averaged over ten yards per reception. So many of these came in dire situations for the team, extending drives solely on Cook’s efforts after the catch at times. He profiles as a future PPR savant in fantasy football leagues.
Motor – Cook did not have a high usage rate during his time with the Georgia Bulldogs, which could be why he looked so fresh on each snap. Cook is not the type of guy to ever take a play off. He never pulls up short and is always looking to hammer out the extra yards. He will have to prove that the motor can replicate his intensity when given an NFL-sized workload.
Vision – The biggest reason that I believe Cook will be successful in the NFL is his superb vision. He regularly sees holes before they even develop, oftentimes looking like he has a crystal ball. It is true that the offensive line he ran behind features NFL players, but guess what? So does every team in the league. Yes, he will have to compete against a higher level of defensive talent, but he was as beneficial to the offensive line in college as they were to him.
Potential – Like a few others in this class, Cook never got the chance to show what he is fully capable of in college. He split touches with Zamir White, but flashed franchise running back potential when he did see the field. He’s the type of unproven prospect that feels like a powder keg ready to explode. It is scary to think of what Cook could do with 20+ touches a game.
Contact Balance – The biggest issue that I found with James Cook is how easy it is to knock him off center. Cook doesn’t shy away from contact and does well to shake defenders in space, but he doesn’t adjust well to the initial contact. Sometimes he’s pushed towards the sideline or even stopped in his tracks before he’s able to get momentum built up.
Strength/Frame – Cook is tall, but he is slight in terms of weight. He is south of 200 pounds and due to being nearly 6’, you can tell when you look at him. Cook is not skinny by any means, but it begs the question as to whether or not his frame is ready to assume a full workload. It would do wonders for Cook to add weight and lower body strength in order to be able to power through piles rather than get swallowed up.
Production – Cook did not receive a lion-share of the touches at Georgia. This is not the fault of Cook, but it is a major question mark nonetheless. His efficiency translated with the increase in touches each season, but until he totes the ball more often, this will hang over his head as a “weakness” in his resume.
James Cook has done well to get out from under his brothers’ spotlight. He was a key member to an offense that contributed to a national championship, providing some of the most exhilarating highlights of any Georgia player in 2021. Cook possesses elite vision and versatility that franchises look for when they opt to take a running back early. Dalvin was selected No.41 overall in 2017, and while that may be a bit on the high side, there’s a chance James is able to match it. I have him with a strong day two grade and I can see a world where James Cook becomes the best running back in the 2022 NFL Draft.