How good would the Bucs be with running back Dalvin Cook?
It nearly happened. Tampa Bay was set to select Cook in the first round, but Alabama tight end O.J. Howard unexpectedly tumbled to them with the 19th overall pick. Howard was one of the cleanest players in the draft due to his production and character and was projected to be gone with the first 10-15 picks.
The Bucs were very familiar with Cook, who as a teammate of quarterback Jameis Winston at Florida State. Had he come to the Bucs, running back Doug Martin may not be on the roster instead of serving a three-game suspension. Cook lasted until the ninth pick in the second round, most likely due to some off-field concerns.
But Cook has quickly proven to be a strong Rookie of the Year candidate. In his first game, Cook broke Adrian Peterson's record for the most rushing yards by a rookie in his debut when he gained 127 yards in a 29-19 win over the New Orleans Saints.
Last week, Cook disappeared from the Vikings offense in the first half but rushed for 61 of his 64 yards after intermission. The Vikings, playing without starting quarterback Sam Bradford, lost 26-9 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. In fact, 105 of Cook's 127 yards also came in the second half against the Saints.
Cook is third in the NFL in rushing with 191 yards on 34 carries (5.6 yard average) and his 95.5 yards per game average ranks fourth.
"First of all, Dalvin has been a great kid since he's come in here,'' Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "He's come in here and worked hard. He's studied hard and prepared hard. Our expectations were really high for him and he at least met those expectations. Every week he does something. He shows great speed and acceleration. I think he continues to get better each week. We're extremely happy and pleased with his progress so far.''
Meanwhile, the Bucs plan to continue to use the running back by committee approach with Jacquizz Rodgers (19 carries for 67 yards, 1 TD), Charles Sims (2 carries for 2 yards) and Peyton Barber (10-47 yards).