NFL Next Gen Stats released its latest in-depth dive into the league’s most explosive players. Among the frontrunners was Minnesota Vikings quarterback Dalvin Cook, who was ranked the most-explosive running back in the NFL.
Nick Shook of NFL.com took on the task of defining what explosiveness means. In short, speed plus productivity. Shook set three criteria:
- a minimum of 100 carries in 2019
- at least 20 carries and 10 or more yards
- the defining metric: percentage of runs where a player surpassed 15mph.
Running backs in zone schemes have more time to build up speed, but Cook was the most notable of all, according to Shook.
Runs of 10-plus yards: 25. 10-plus run pct: 10. 15-plus mph pct: 29.2.
It should be of little surprise to anyone that a few running backs operating in zone schemes will appear on this list. The most notable of these backs is Cook, who flourished in a Vikings offense that committed to two-tight end sets and allowed Cook to build up speed on his carries. Cook averaged 10.93 mph at the line of scrimmage on runs in 2019, the second-highest mark among running backs in the NFL with a minimum of 100 rushes. That build-up helped him rip off 25 runs of 10-plus yards and put together a rush efficiency — the distance traveled by the ball carrier on a run play divided by the net yards gained — of 4.2, proving the angles taken on zone runs inside and outside (such as stretches) weren’t for naught.
Cook, coming off his first full season without injury landed his first Pro Bowl selection, ran for 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns on 250 carries in 2019.
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No. 1 Was Not Cook
Although Cook was the top-ranked running back, there was one player above him in on the list — and it wasn’t even close.
While some of the NFL’s top running backs had plenty of 10-plus yard runs, some missed the list due to not reaching 15 mph as frequently.
Those clamoring for Nick Chubb should know that, while he had 39 runs of 10-plus yards, his 15-plus mph run percentage fell below the top 10 at 12.4 percent, partially as a result of his nearly 300 carries. The same goes for Ezekiel Elliott (who posted a mark of 11.3%), Derrick Henry (14.9%) and Saquon Barkley (15.7%).
Cooks’ understudy, Alexander Mattison, earned some mention on the story following a rookie campaign where he rushed for 462 yards on 100 carries. Mattison had 15 rushes of 10 or more yards, just missing the list.
The Vikings backfield duo combined for the second-most 10-plus yard runs of any team with 40, trailing on the 49ers’ Mostert and Matt Brieda’s 41.
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