Wish the Bucs had taken Dalvin Cook? Read this

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) carries the ball in the second quarter Monday night, Sept. 11, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn.  (Jeff Wheeler/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) carries the ball in the second quarter Monday night, Sept. 11, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. (Jeff Wheeler/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)
Published Sept. 22, 2017

It will happen sometime Sunday afternoon.

Maybe he will take a handoff and juke his way around a defender. Maybe he will burst into a hole, put his head down and barrel over a linebacker. Maybe he'll take a swing pass and race 80 yards down the sidelines for touchdown.

And when he does, that's when it will happen.

Someone will say, "Man, that guy would look in a Tampa Bay Bucs uniform.''

He's Dalvin Cook.

Not that long ago, we were certain that he would be wearing a Tampa Bay jersey today. We were positive he would playing for Bucs, not against them.

Think back to last spring.

The Bucs desperately needed a running back. Cook was a sensational one. He played right up the road in Tallahassee. He was buddies with Jameis Winston.

It was perfect. It made sense. The only thing that could wreck the plan is that Cook was too good and wouldn't be available at No. 19.

It was all set to happen

Then it didn't happen.

With Cook sitting there for the taking and much of Bucs Nation clamoring for him, the Bucs passed. They took Alabama tight end O.J. Howard.

They absolutely made the right call.

Oh, some days, the Bucs might feel a pang of doubt. Maybe even Sunday.

There will be times when Cook dazzles and Bucs backs fizzle. Cook will show up on highlights looking like the best running back in the NFL and every team, including Tampa Bay, will wish they had someone that good.

Some believe he's a generational back, like Adrian Peterson or Barry Sanders.

Cook might be so good that Tampa Bay sports fans bring up Buster Posey.

Yep, the baseball player.

Around these parts, the greatest draft mistake was when the Rays passed on Buster Posey to take Tim Beckham.

Sorry. This is not that.

O.J. Howard is no Tim Beckham. He's going to be a star. Howard slipped in the draft. He was too good to pass up.

"O.J. is going to have a very bright future,'' Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said.

So will Cook, who went to the Vikings in the second round (41st overall).

"We consider him a game-wrecker,'' Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith said.

Everybody considers Cook a game-wrecker.

"He's not a 'run-and-get-out-of-bounds' guy,'' Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "He's a 'get-that-extra-couple-yards' guy. Anybody like that, you've got to bring your big-boy pants with you.''

Cook has changed Minnesota's offense. It's only a couple of weeks, but he's third in the NFL with 191 yards rushing and has three carries of more than 20 yards.

"Bring an extra set of pads because it's going to be a physical day, and that's the type of style offense they have, very physical offense that gets downhill in the run,'' McCoy said.

So why didn't the Bucs take him when they had a chance?

They certainly thought about it.

"A lot,'' Koetter said when asked how much time he spent looking at Cook throughout the draft process. "I spent a lot.''

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The Bucs running back situation then and now can best described as murky.

Doug Martin, their best back, has two games left on a four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. If and when he comes back, who knows what kind of back Martin will be? His career has been consistently inconsistent and sprinkled with injuries. When healthy and motivated, he's among the best in football. Other times, when either injured or less motivated, he's nowhere near that.

That's why the Bucs certainly considered drafting Cook despite Cook having some major red flags. There were some arrests in his teens for things such as robbery and criminal mischief and mistreating pit bull puppies. There was another incident involving allegedly brandishing a firearm at someone, although no charges were filed.

And then, most serious of all, while at FSU, he was accused of punching a woman outside of bar. Cook was ultimately found not guilty, but there were many who thought Cook was too big of a risk to draft.

Perhaps that's part of the reason 40 other players were taken ahead of him.

Would the Bucs have taken Cook? Maybe. But the point became moot when Howard was available. No one expected it.

The mistake would have been passing on Howard.

He's an elite tight end. He can block. He can catch. And this must be factored in as well: Howard has an sterling off-field reputation.

Howard appears to have a good chance to play a decade or more in this league and play it at a high level. Finding a tight end like that isn't easy.

Meantime, Cook plays running back, a position with a short shelf life. And a position where it might be a tad easier to find productive players.

For years, the two will be compared around here. That comparison will be even more discussed until the Bucs find a reliable running back.

There's no doubt that some days Cook will have a flashier game.

But, in the end, here's the guess: Cook will be a good player. But Howard will be a great one.

Passing on Cook wasn't easy. But Howard made it easier.

And right.

Contact Tom Jones at Follow @tomwjones