Vikings running back Dalvin Cook was a full participant in Minnesota's Organized Team Activity practices and minicamp, which wrapped up last week.
Cook's rookie campaign in 2017 was cut short by a torn ACL in Week 4, and he struggled with a nagging hamstring injury last season. When healthy, however, he garners plenty of attention – and for good reason.
Former NFL running back-turned analyst Maurice Jones-Drew recently **ranked all 32 RB1s heading into 2019**, and he tabbed Cook at No. 10. Jones-Drew wrote:
The hiring of [Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor] Gary Kubiak in Minnesota bodes well for Cook. Throughout the years, Kubiak has turned unheralded backs into 1,000-yard rushers, including former sixth-round pick (and Hall of Famer) Terrell Davis and Mike Anderson (in Denver), Steve Slaton and undrafted free agent Adrian Foster (in Houston) and Ray Rice (in Baltimore). Cook is one of the more naturally talented backs Kubiak has worked with. Look for the third-year veteran to be maximized in this year's offense – IF he can stay healthy.
Cook was the highest-ranked NFC North running back on Jones-Drew's list ahead of Detroit's Kerryon Johnson at 12, Green Bay's Aaron Jones at 13 and Chicago's David Montgomery at 27. Jones-Drew said he expects Montgomery to beat out Tarik Cohen for the starting spot in the wake of Jordan Howard signing with Philadelphia.
Topping the group at Nos. 1-3 were Saquon Barkley (Giants), Alvin Kamara (Saints) and Le'Veon Bell, who signed with the Jets this spring after not playing during the 2018 season.
Jones-Drew said that Barkley's rookie season "speaks for itself." Minnesota will face Barkley and the Giants, coached by former Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur, in Week 5.
He totaled a league-high 2,028 scrimmage yards and topped off his first season with the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Barkley is the undisputed focal point of the offense now that Odell Beckham, Jr., is in Cleveland. The uber-talented second-year pro should have another tremendous year with an improved offensive line blocking for him.
SB Nation calls Vikings 'legitimate contenders' to win 1st Super Bowl in 2019
SB Nation's Christian D'Andrea called 2019 "the year of the first-timer" after the Toronto Raptors won their first NBA title and the St. Louis Blues won their first Stanley Cup.
Will the NFL see a franchise take home its first Lombardi Trophy this season? D'Andrea pointed out that 12 teams have yet to win a Super Bowl and **sorted those clubs** by their chances to make it happen.
D'Andrea placed four teams in the "actual, legitimate contenders" category, including the Vikings.
He opined that the Vikings could "win anywhere from six to 14 games, and it wouldn't be terribly surprising either way."
D'Andrea also included the Falcons, Texans and Browns as legitimate contenders. He tabbed the Chargers as "most likely champion" of the 12 teams. According to D'Andrea, teams not expected to vie for their first title this season are the Cardinals, Bengals, Lions, Jaguars, Bills, Panthers and Titans.
PFF tabs Vikings, Patriots as highest-graded tacklers in 2018
According to analytics site Pro Football Focus, the Vikings as a team tied for the league's best tacklers in 2018.
PFF posted a graphic via Twitter earlier this week that said Minnesota and New England tied for the highest-graded teams with a 91.8.
As for the other NFC North squads? The Lions ranked fifth with a grade of 88.1, the Bears came in 11th (81.8), and the Packers were 22nd (59.3).