Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs should jump at chance to draft FSU RB Dalvin Cook

Two of the first things that stood out about Dalvin Cook were his shoes — shiny and gold.

They carried him to 223 yards and four touchdowns in Miami Central High's 52-7 win over Armwood in the 2013 state title game. They flashed as he capped an 80-yard score by somersaulting into the end zone.

After that day in Orlando, I watched him in garnet and gold as he attacked former Bucs great Warrick Dunn's records at Florida State. I saw Cook at his best (169 yards, four touchdowns against eventual national champion Clemson) and his worst (two lost fumbles in the Rose Bowl). I put him on my Heisman Trophy ballot — twice.

I'm not an NFL scout or a draft guru. But after covering Cook for three-plus years, I know enough to know this: If Cook is available Thursday at the No. 19 overall pick, the Bucs would be foolish not to draft him.

It's not just his numbers: 48 touchdowns and an FSU-record 4,464 rushing yards, most by an ACC player in three seasons.

It's how Cook amassed those statistics. He rushed for 38 touchdowns and more than 3,400 yards over the past two seasons despite playing behind a mediocre offensive line.

Cook turned routine plays into big gains, as the best backs do in the NFL. Over the past two seasons, his 35 rushes of at least 20 yards ranked second in the country (and two ahead of Stanford's Christian McCaffrey).

When the Seminoles needed him to become a better receiving threat, Cook obliged; his 488 yards last season ranked second on the team.

The pedestrian numbers he put up at the NFL scouting combine don't reflect his career spent in a conference with some of the nation's top run defenses.

Worried about his speed? His average touchdown covered 26 yards. Fifteen covered at least 35, including a 75-yarder at Clemson and a 59-yard catch at Miami. Slow backs can't do that.

There's a reason Florida coach Jim McElwain called him the most explosive player in the country. And that was before Cook racked up 153 yards and a touchdown on his Gators in November.

"He's a special, special player who is going to play a long time at the next level," said McElwain, a former NFL assistant coach.

It's easy to spotlight Cook's performances in some of FSU's biggest tests. In 2015 he faced two defenses (Clemson and Florida) with 10 starters who could be on NFL rosters this year. He shredded the Gators for 183 yards and two touchdowns, and he torched the Tigers for 194 yards and a score. In the Orange Bowl, he put up 207 yards and a touchdown on a Michigan defense that started at least five draft picks.

Those showings overshadow Cook's most impressive trait: consistency. Consider the sleepy home game in November 2015 against North Carolina State. It would have been easy for a banged-up Cook to relax against a ho-hum opponent a week after his team's ACC title hopes ended.

Instead, Cook saved the Seminoles. One play that began with a nearly botched handoff ended with him bouncing off four tacklers on a 30-yard touchdown that sparked a run of 27 unanswered points (and a 34-17 win). Cook was a threat to do that on any play, in any game.

No, Cook is not perfect. There are rumblings about his character — he was found not guilty in 2015 of misdemeanor battery after being accused of punching a woman — even if folks around FSU say those concerns are overblown. It's fair to question his durability after hamstring and shoulder injuries hampered his college career. Ball security at times was an issue.

But after covering 16 of his games over three-plus seasons, I can't see him failing in the NFL.

Going back to high school, everything Cook has done has been golden.

Contact Matt Baker at [email protected]. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

Comments
NFL’s new anthem policy requires players to stand on sideline or remain in locker room

NFL’s new anthem policy requires players to stand on sideline or remain in locker room

ATLANTA — The NFL and the owners of its 32 teams enacted a new national anthem policy Wednesday designed, they said, to compel players to stand if they’re on the sideline for the playing of the anthem prior to a game."Clearly our objective as a leagu...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Bucs bring back Lakewood’s Bernard Reedy to compete for WR/KR job

Bucs bring back Lakewood’s Bernard Reedy to compete for WR/KR job

Lakewood grad Bernard Reedy, who handled the Bucs' kickoff and punt returns for much of last season, is back with Tampa Bay again.Reedy, 26, was signed on Wednesday, one day after the Bucs began OTA workouts. Thomas Sperbeck, the former Boise State r...
Updated: 10 hours ago
NFL policy: Players can stay inside during anthem if they won’t stand

NFL policy: Players can stay inside during anthem if they won’t stand

NFL owners passed a new policy Wednesday with the hopes of moving on from boycotts and political turmoil related to some players protesting by not standing during the national anthem before games.Under the new policy, NFL players are not required to ...
Published: 05/23/18
New Super Bowls: Arizona in 2023, New Orleans in 2024

New Super Bowls: Arizona in 2023, New Orleans in 2024

And you thought our headline would be "Mariota hosts NFL draft before Winston."The NFL owners are meeting in Atlanta this week, and that means a new batch of future Super Bowls getting announced for their homes.A year ago, Tampa got the huge news, an...
Published: 05/23/18
Winston: Bucs’ Ryan Jensen ‘one of the toughest, meanest, baddest centers’

Winston: Bucs’ Ryan Jensen ‘one of the toughest, meanest, baddest centers’

It's hard to miss new Bucs center Ryan Jensen at OTA workouts this week, with his long red hair visible from across the field even when he's wearing a helmet."Any recommendations for anti frizz shampoo and conditioner?" Jensen wrote on Twitter with a...
Published: 05/23/18
Gerald McCoy appreciates help on D-line, but knows it will take more than names on paper

Gerald McCoy appreciates help on D-line, but knows it will take more than names on paper

TAMPA — He's 30."I know. I'm getting old," Gerald McCoy said Tuesday, shaking his head.He's still a young man, of course. But in football years, McCoy has finally reached a black balloon birthday. This is his ninth season with the Bucs, which i...
Published: 05/22/18
HBO: Ex-Buc Scot Brantley battling Alzheimer’s, claim denied by NFL

HBO: Ex-Buc Scot Brantley battling Alzheimer’s, claim denied by NFL

Former Gators and Bucs linebacker Scot Brantley, also once a popular sports radio host in Tampa, is battling Alzheimer's Disease and has been rejected from the NFL's concussion settlement, according to tonight's episode of HBO's "Real Sports with Bry...
Published: 05/22/18
Bucs’ Mike Evans: Yards after catch must improve in 2018

Bucs’ Mike Evans: Yards after catch must improve in 2018

Mike Evans is one of just three receivers in NFL history to open his career with four straight 1,000-yard seasons, but he understands one area where he can make a big improvement in 2018: yards after the catch."I think last year was my worst year in ...
Published: 05/22/18
Gerald McCoy: Sorry, but Vita Vea is Maui from Moana

Gerald McCoy: Sorry, but Vita Vea is Maui from Moana

If you've been dipping your toes in the "Gosh, Vita Vea looks a lot like the guy from Disney's Moana" pool, Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has jumped in all the way.The Bucs' 347-pound rookie is massive, has a family history on the Pacific island...
Published: 05/22/18
Jason Pierre-Paul, Brent Grimes absent as Bucs open OTA practices

Jason Pierre-Paul, Brent Grimes absent as Bucs open OTA practices

The Bucs started another chapter of their offseason Tuesday with the first OTA (organized team activity) practice at One Buc Place, with veterans Jason Pierre-Paul and Brent Grimes as the only healthy players absent from what is officially a voluntar...
Published: 05/22/18