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Dalvin Cook Makes 'Top 100' Debut at No. 21


EAGAN, Minn. — Dalvin Cook made another impressive debut.

The fourth-year Vikings running back earned his first placement on NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2020 list and landed at No. 21 overall.

"I really base my game off speed, all my plays, all of my runs, speed, speed, speed," said "The Chef" who landed a spot ahead of "The Cheetah" Tyreek Hill.

The annual list, which was created in 2011, is determined exclusively by players' votes.

Teammates, opponents, and former teammates who are slated to become opponents in 2020 all vouched for Cook's special recipe.

"What he does on the field is jaw-dropping," said Vikings fullback C.J. Ham.

Safety Anthony Harris noted Cook's first-step explosion, long speed to finish runs and ability to "stop on a dime."

"A lot of times when he's catching those screens, he's catching them at a dead stop, and goes 0 to 100 in a hurry," Harris said.

Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan added: "His balance, his acceleration, his stop and start is really second-to-none."

Highlights shown included Cook's 31-yard gain on a screen against Washington and his 75-yard touchdown run at Lambeau Field in Week 2.

"That was one of my better runs all season. I got up on the safety and just ran right by him," Cook said of beating Darnell Savage in the open field.

Green Bay edge rusher Za'Darius Smith and former Packers linebacker Blake Martinez, who signed with the Giants this offseason, witnessed the play and spoke of Cook's talents.

Smith added: "He has speed, man, and he's a guy who can hit the edge real quick."

Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter concurred, adding, "It's unbelievable how he's able to pick up ground while going around the edge and still go faster than everybody."

Martinez described how Cook's versatility can challenge opponents.

"You can kind of pigeonhole certain guys where, 'OK, he's in to pass, he's in to pass protect, he's in to run the ball downhill.' He can do it all," Martinez said. "He's able to get out of the backfield and make catches, make guys miss, do multiple things that not many guys could do."

Former Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who is now with the Colts, compared the way Cook accelerates through the hole to Adrian Peterson, who starred for Minnesota from 2007-16.

Peterson said of Cook: "He's quick, he's fast, and he runs the ball extremely physical."

Panthers defensive end Stephen Weatherly, who played for the Vikings from 2016-19, said Cook is "definitely the type of guy that can get the ball and go 90 [yards], 88, outrun DBs, run through linebackers."

Cook rushed for a career-best 1,135 yards on 250 rushes and scored 13 of his 17 rushing touchdowns in 2019. His 53 receptions and 519 yards through the air also are personal bests.

"I think people pretty much underestimate my power and how much force I run with," Cook said. "I get up on guys pretty quick and try to do what I do, and if I've got to lower my helmet, by any means, I'm going to do it."

On the heels of his first career Pro Bowl, Cook garnered the highest ranking out of five total Vikings that were listed in 2020: Eric Kendricks at No. 83, Harrison Smith at No. 64, Kirk Cousins at No. 58 and Danielle Hunter at No. 40.

Cook is no stranger to dazzling in a debut.

It was 2017 on Monday Night Football when he rushed for 127 yards, a franchise-record for a rookie in his first game. He also set the team mark for most rushing yards by a rookie through the first three games of a season with 288 (topping Peterson's 103 in his NFL debut and his 271 through the first three games of 2007).

Unfortunately for Cook and the Vikings, the phenom tore his ACL in his fourth pro game.

He worked his way back to open 2018 but suffered a hamstring injury in Week 2 that hampered him for much of his second season.

In 2019, however, Cook stayed healthy into December, providing a dynamic dual threat.

He missed the final two games of the regular season but returned to start his first postseason game and shined against the Saints. Cook rushed 28 times for 94 yards and two scores in his first playoff appearance.

"This year was definitely a starting point for me in my career, and I've got to keep building from it," Cook said. "I think the ceiling for me is so high and I can just keep learning and getting better."

The countdown concludes on NFL Network Wednesday night at 7 p.m. (CT) when players 10-1 are revealed over the course of two, one-hour episodes.

The listing of the players in the 30-21 grouping were as follows:

30. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay

29. Quenton Nelson, G, Indianapolis

28. Richard Sherman, CB, San Francisco

27. Jamal Adams, S, Seattle (was acquired on Saturday from the New York Jets)

26. Von Miller, OLB, Denver

25. T.J. Watt, OLB, Pittsburgh

24. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas

23. Cam Jordan, DE, New Orleans

22. Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City

21. Cook