Dalvin Cook Is Worth the Risk in the First Round of Fantasy Football Drafts

Last year, Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook had an average draft position (ADP) in the second round. He's going to be drafted much, much higher in 2020.

Through Week 10, Cook was fantasy's RB2 in half-PPR leagues, just 29 points behind Christian McCaffrey and his record-setting pace.

Cook's production dropped considerably after Week 10, before a left shoulder sprain ended his regular season in Week 15. Nevertheless, he still finished the campaign as the RB5. Not bad value for a second-rounder.

Instead of cooking up a 'cook' pun, I'll get straight to the meat of this piece -- what cookin' can we expect from Cook in 2020?

Current ADP

In the three months between the Super Bowl and now, Cook has an ADP of 4.47 in Best Ball leagues on BestBall10s -- the fourth back off the board. In 991 drafts tracked by the site during that span, the Florida State product never fell below the eighth pick.

Considering that 4.47 is inside the top-five (I know, my college degree is paying off), Cook is going to cost drafters a pretty penny. Is he worth it? Let's take a look at his production.


The 2019 season was essentially a tale of two halves for Cook. Here's a look at how he fared in the first half versus his injury-shortened second half.

Dalvin Cook's 2019 Weeks 1 through 8 Weeks 9 through 15
19.5 15.7
Rushing Yards
102.9 52.0
Yards Per Rush
5.28 3.32
Rushing Touchdowns
1.1 0.7
Targets 4.3 4.8
3.6 4.0
Receiving Yards
36.6 37.7
Yards Per Reception 10.1 9.4
Receiving Touchdowns
0 0
Rushing NEP
30.55 0.01
Total NEP
45.04 10.99
Rushing Success Rate
46.75% 36.56%
Avg Opponent Run D Rank
16.3 21.0
22.5 16.8

That's not a slight dip in production -- it's a huge drop across the board, especially with regard to efficiency. It's not as if he was suddenly facing stiffer competition -- in fact, his schedule got easier as his numbers plummeted.

Cook suffered an SC joint sprain in Week 11 and never saw more than 46 percent of snaps in a game after that. Obviously, that helps explain some of the second-half struggles -- though it's worth noting that his efficiency started dipping prior to the presumed injury.

However, none of that alleviates the concerns for a player with an injury history that reads like a Harry Potter novel. Since 2014, Cook has suffered four shoulder injuries, a torn ACL, a sprained hamstring, and an ankle sprain. Not great, Bob!

From Weeks 9 through 15, Alexander Mattison bested Cook in Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) (the expected point value added with his rushes), Rushing NEP per play, and Success Rate (the rate of rushes that added to his team's expected points total -- i.e. were successful). That, too, is concerning.

All that said, even when Cook struggled, he was still a productive fantasy player. From Weeks 9 through 15, the 24-year-old was the RB12 -- thanks in large part to his scoring prowess. That mitigates some of the risk associated with drafting him so high.


The fact that Minnesota had the third-lowest pass-to-run ratio in 2019 -- and subsequently traded receiver Stefon Diggs -- makes Cook one of the most appealing options in all of fantasy. It means that he's one of the few players with a realistic shot at finishing as the RB1.

Our editor-in-chief, JJ Zachariason, projects Cook to post 1,069.9 rushing yards, 53.2 receptions, 534.7 receiving yards, and 13.3 total scores. That would have amounted to an RB5 finish last year, which, coincidentally (or not), is exactly where Cook finished in 2019.

However, projections are based on the player taking the field for 16 games -- which is not something most people would bet on with Cook. Drafters need to weight his upside with the risk that you won't get that elite production during the most crucial stretch of the fantasy season.

I, for one, am willing to take that risk because after McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, and Ezekiel Elliott are off the board, Cook still is the best bet to be 2020's RB1.