Every year, it seems there are players with plenty of potential who put it all together and have a stellar season.
Defensive end Danielle Hunter fell into that category a few seasons ago, as did wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.
Now it could possibly be Dalvin Cook’s turn, as the Vikings running back is coming off a monster performance in Minnesota’s Week 1 win over Atlanta.
Chris Wesseling of NFL.com looked around the league and listed his top 10 most transformed players — guys that are bounce-back candidates or unheralded role players thrust into the 2019 limelight so far — and put Cook at the top of his list.
Wesseling, who said Cook is “already serving notice that this season will be drastically different,” said the running back appears to be a perfect fit in Minnesota’s new-look offense.
Returning from an ACL injury that derailed his rookie campaign, Cook never found a sustained groove behind a beleaguered offensive line and shaky play-calling last season. He looked reborn this summer in godsend Gary Kubiak’s outside-zone run scheme, exploding for an 85-yard touchdown run in limited preseason action.
That momentum carried over to Week 1, as he sliced and diced Atlanta’s defense for 120 yards and a pair of scores on 23 touches, showcasing physicality, agility and an extra gear that were too often missing in 2018. After the game, star wideout Adam Thielen was understandably biased in his praise: “That’s the strength of our team. We have one of the best running backs in the league, if not the best.”
Cook racked up 111 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries, adding nine yards on a pair of receptions.
He scored a touchdown in each half as Minnesota cruised to a 28-12 victory in the season opener.
Cook had tallied 969 rushing yards and four touchdowns in his first 15 games in the NFL, which were spread out over two seasons.
But by getting a pair of rushing scores Sunday, he has already matched his season-high as he had two rushing touchdowns in 2017 and two more in 2018.
Other players on Wesseling’s list included Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who the Vikings will see in Week 9 at Arrowhead Stadium.
Bears defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris was also included. Minnesota will face Chicago twice in NFC North play in 2019, including Week 4 at Soldier Field.
A pair of Raiders (tight end Darren Waller and linebacker Vontaze Burfict) were also on the list (Oakland visits Minnesota in Week 3), as were Cowboys receiver Michael Gallup and Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton.
The Vikings travel to Dallas for Sunday Night Football in Week 10 before turning around and hosting Denver at U.S. Bank Stadium in Week 11.
Reid, Seifert predicts Vikings win in Week 2
Border Battle No. 118 is set for Sunday at Lambeau Field, where the Vikings and Packers will renew their longstanding rivalry.
And although it’s only Week 2, first place in the NFC North is up for grabs as both Minnesota and Green Bay are 1-0.
A ESPN panel of five NFL analysts recently looked at Week 1 trends and forecasted what to expect for Week 2, making a few game predictions along the way.
Jason Reid and Kevin Seifert each chose to project the winner of the Vikings-Packers game, and both experts sided with Minnesota.
I love what the Vikings are attempting to build in the running game with Dalvin Cook; I'’m not as down on Kirk Cousins as, apparently, most people who watch the NFL. Without much of a running game last season, Cousins completed 70.1% of his passes for almost 4,300 yards with 30 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. I mean, I get that the Vikings didn’t make the playoffs, but Cousins can play. The Vikings didn’t need Cousins to do much in their blowout of the Falcons. He’ll do more this week. And if Cook also does his thing again, the Packers will go down at Lambeau Field.
I like the Vikings’ chances of using Cook to possess and move the ball against the Packers’ tough defense, minimizing the pressure on Cousins. And I don’t see many quick fixes in a Packers offense that had one good quarter in Week 1 against the Bears.
Minnesota is 5-1-1 in its past seven games against Green Bay, which includes a 2-1-1 record since 2015 at Lambeau Field.