Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook just got some major props.
“Damn, Cook can play,” he said. “Contact don’t bother him. You’ve got to get him down. He’d be better than Zeke in Dallas.”
The executive ranked Cook the best running back in the league among a group of 50-plus executives, coaches and scouts who participated in ESPN’s poll. Cook finished sixth cumulatively, ranking as high as No. 1 and as low as No. 8.
Here’s what ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler gathered:
Cook plays in a wide-zone scheme that has featured many productive backs over the years; But make no mistake, Cook could thrive just about anywhere.
“Damn, Cook can play,” said one NFC exec who voted Cook No. 1. “Contact don’t bother him. You’ve got to get him down. He’d be better than Zeke in Dallas.”
Cook gets knocked for durability, missing 19 games in three seasons. But he still finished in the top nine among backs in carries, receptions, touches, scrimmage yards and touchdowns despite missing two full games and parts of others. Cook had 15 carries inside the 5-yard line and scored in 11 of 14 games.
“What makes him scary is pushing off the perimeter and hitting that cutback,” an NFC exec said. “That system allows him to do that, and he’s best in that setup.”
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley was the top-rated running back in the league, followed by the Carolina Panthers‘ Christan McCaffrey at No. 2, Elliott at No. 3, No. 4 Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints and No. 5 Derek Henry of the Tennessee Titans.
Elliott garnered several first-place votes but was also ranked as low as No. 11 among pollers.
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How This Impacts Dalvin Cook’s Contract Negotiations
Although it is just one NFL executive, his praise of Cook undoubtedly proves that Cook’s value is seen across the league. This can only help his case in holding out for a new contract that’s comparable to his peers this offseason.
Elliott makes $15 million a year under his new contract, which is the second-highest in the NFL only under McCaffrey’s $16 million annual salary. Barkley, entering the third year of his rookie contract, will make $8.6 million compared to Cook’s $2 million salary in 2020.
Henry recently signed a $10.2 million franchise tender that will expire next season. Henry, Kamara and Cook are all among the NFL’s elite running backs who will undoubtedly be seeking long-term second contracts.
Fowler reported that Cook felt disrespected by the Vikings’ initial offer, which was “well below $10 million.” ESPN’s Courtney Cronin also reported that Cook would “gladly take” an extension around $13 million a year, setting Cook’s price somewhere in the range of $9 to $13 million a season.
Under the NFL and players’ association’s new collective bargaining agreement, if Cook were to miss any day at training camp, he would lose his eligibility to be an unrestricted free agent in 2021 offseason, which would hurt his chances of finding a better deal elsewhere.
Follow Trevor Squire on Twitter: @trevordsquire