A look at how James Cook could emerge as the top pass-catching running back in the 2022 NFL Draft
James Cook, brother of NFL running back Dalvin Cook, was born and raised in Miami Florida. He attended the prestigious Miami Northwestern, as well as Miami Central High School, where he was a 4-star recruit. Cook was rated the #3 all-purpose in the nation back by 247Sports, earning him top honors among all other Florida running backs. Among all other high school prospects, Cook came in at #96, making him one of the top RBs in the nation. He received offers from 16 Division-1 schools, including Florida State, Alabama, USC, Miami, Florida, Ohio State, and many others. Cook was committed early to Florida State, where his brother was a star RB, but later flipped his commitment.
James Cook chose to attend college at Georgia, where he immediately became a contributor. During his freshman season, Cook had 41 carries for 284 yards and two TDs. He averaged 6.9 YPC and also pitched in 8 catches for 89 yards. Through his first three years on campus, Cook served mostly in a complimentary role having limited touches (less than 50 carries and 20 receptions) during each of those seasons. Despite the limited work he received, Cook was able to produce well when given the opportunity, averaging no less than 6.1 YPC in any of those three seasons.
Cook returned for his senior season, where he earned himself a much larger workload. In 2021, Cook rushed for 728 yards on 113 carries (6.4 YPC) and 7 TDs, while also hauling in 27 catches for 284 yards and 4 TDs. The increase in opportunity helped Cook burst onto the scene in the 2022 NFL Draft class and was the start of his ascent in the rookie running back rankings.
While many fantasy managers are looking for their next work horse running back, the truth is, the 2022 class is very top heavy and lacks realistic work horse prospects. This doesn’t mean we should get caught sleeping on players like James Cook, though. Truly one of the most versatile prospects in this class, Cook has qualities that could help him be an immediate fantasy contributor. Cook is a versatile back with great speed and has show the ability to catch well, making him an intriguing change of pace running back prospect. Most believe that Cook will run around a 4.5 40-yard time, but if he is somehow able to run sub-4.5, Cook could get a boost to his NFL and fantasy outlook.
One of the biggest concerns with James Cook is his size. Coming in a 5′ 11″ and 190 lbs, we would like to see Cook add a bit of bulk to his frame. Cook could struggle in pass protection, which could eat into his opportunities to see the field. On the bright side, Cook spent his entire career working in a committee, so he should enter the league with less miles and, potentially, fresh legs. He never took a beating and Georgia often gave him the ball in space and let him utilize his speed and vision to earn his yards.
A realistic draft projection for Cook is probably somewhere in the 3rd-4th round. With the NFL relying heavily on RBBC and dual RB concepts, Cook has a real shot at making an impact on your fantasy rosters in year one as a pass catching back. Of course, it will be important to keep an eye on his combine performance, as well as where he lands in the draft. James Cook could easily be a running back who continues his ascent in the rookie running back rankings as the off-season progresses.
Thank you for reading this breakdown of James Cook. Where do you have him ranked amongst rookie running backs in the 2022 NFL draft?
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