Dalvin Cook is a great running back, that much is certain.
Where does he fall among other top backs around the league? ESPN's Jeremy Fowler recently rolled out his running back rankings, explaining that he "surveyed more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players to help stack the top 10 players." Fowler wrote:
Here's how our process worked: Voters gave us their best 10 to 15 players at a position, then we compiled the results and ranked candidates based on number of top-10 votes, composite average, interviews, research and film-study help from ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen. We had several ties, so we broke them by isolating the two-man matchup with additional voting and follow-up calls.
Fowler placed Cook at No. 3 on the list, coming in behind Tennessee's Derrick Henry and New Orleans' Alvin Kamara.
According to Fowler, the highest ranking given to Cook by those surveyed was 1; the lowest ranking was 7. In 2020's edition of these position rankings, he came in at No. 6.
Cook followed a contract extension with his best season yet, posting career highs in attempts (312), rushing yards (1,557), rushing touchdowns (16) and yards per carry (5.0).
He did all this despite missing two games. A full season would have pushed him closer to an 1,800-yard clip.
"I always look for versatility – catch the ball out of the backfield, run outside the tackles and display explosive traits," said an AFC exec who voted Cook at No. 1. "Cook exhibits that better than anyone else."
Cook's 91 rushing first downs [in 2020 ranked] second to Henry's 98 despite 66 fewer carries (378 to 312). He has caught at least 40 passes in each of the past three years and is a one-cut dynamo in the red zone, producing 222 yards on 58 carries inside the 20, highest among backs with more than 30 red zone attempts.
Vikings fans also are likely familiar with the next name on the list, Nick Chubb. He and the Browns will visit U.S. Bank Stadium in Week 4 under the guidance of former Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who is entering his second season at the helm in Cleveland.
After he ranked seventh last year, Chubb's dominance was on full display during Cleveland's playoff run, helping him jump three spots. Evaluators wanted to see more and got it, with Chubb averaging 5.6 yards per carry for 1,067 yards and 12 touchdowns in just 12 games.
Chubb is good for a 20-plus-yard run nearly every week, with 12 such runs on 190 attempts, or once every 15.8 runs. Henry averaged [a run of] 20-plus yards on every 23.6 carries.
The Browns lined up and gave Chubb the ball when they wanted to reach the end zone. Chubb's 15.8 rushes per touchdown led the league among volume backs.
The rest of the rankings were as follows, starting with No. 5: Christian McCaffrey (Panthers), Saquon Barkley (Giants), Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys), Aaron Jones (Packers), Joe Mixon (Bengals) and Josh Jacobs (Raiders).
Trapasso tabs Wyatt Davis among Day 2-3 draft picks 'who could earn key roles'
Just because someone wasn't drafted in Round 1 doesn't mean he won't make a significant impact in the NFL.
Examples of later-round draft picks becoming longtime starters are all across NFL history (Tom Brady, anyone?), and it's sure to prove true again with the 2021 class.
CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso took a look at each NFC team and tabbed a rookie "picked after Day 1 who could earn a key role" with his respective team. For the Vikings, he highlighted Wyatt Davis, whom Minnesota selected out of Ohio State at 86th overall.
Trapasso offered an "impressive stat to know" about each player. For Davis, he pointed out that in 2019 and 2020, the guard allowed a pressure on just 4.7 percent of his pass-blocking snaps. Trapasso wrote:
Davis' 2020 wasn't as good as 2019. He'd probably even admit that. But his film was still pretty darn boring. He's your classic squatty, well-balanced guard with solid – not freaky – quickness and adequate power. And he'll absolutely be given a chance to win one of the starting guard spots.
Trapasso said the Vikings need an immediate upgrade at guard.
In that wide-zone blocking scheme, guard play is damn important. Actually, while I'm on this topic – I need to defend guards for a second. They are valuable! Let's end the narrative that tackles and centers really matter, but guards are essentially replaceable. Offensive lines are weak-link systems. If there are four good blockers and one bad one – regardless of where he's aligned – the whole unit will suffer. Guards matter!