Dalvin Cook

Dalvin Cook

Preseason

Chance of Injury in 2020: question mark 96%
Chance of Injury per Game: question mark 18.2%
Projected Games missed for 2020: question mark 3.4
Durability: question mark 1

High Risk

3
2
1
1

Dalvin Cook Player Overview

Dalvin Cook was born in West Little River, Florida, and attended Miami Central High School along with Devonta Freeman. However, Cook joined the football team as a sophomore and did not team up with Freeman.

Cook played running back and corner his senior season and rushed for 1,940 yards and 34 touchdowns while making three picks on defense. Cook was also involved in track and a top-sprinter. Rivals made him a five-star recruit, and Cook decided to pick Florida State as his college of choice. Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, and LSU, among others, had an interest in him.

Cook as a true freshman (2014), rushed for 1008 yards on 170 attempts and scored eight times. In his sophomore year, Cook averaged 7.4 YPC at FSU, breaking Warrick Dunn’s FSU single-season rushing record of 1,242 yards in only ten games. In his junior season, Cook’s success continued, rushing for 1,765 yards and scoring 19 times.

Cook suffered multiple injuries during his time at FSU, although his stat-sheet doesn’t seem to reflect it much. In his freshman season, he tripped in the weight room and tore the labrum in his shoulder.

Then during spring practice in March of 2016, he re-injured the same shoulder. It is unclear if he underwent surgery, but unlike quarterbacks (this is the same type of injury that Andrew Luck had), running backs don’t require as much range of motion and arm strength that a torn labrum would need. So in the long-run, this is not overly concerning.

He would forgo his senior season and declare for the 2017 NFL Draft.

At the Combine/FSU Pro Day, Cook ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash, and the Minnesota Vikings decided to make him their 2nd round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

In his first NFL game, Cook set the Vikings’ rookie debut rushing record (set by Adrian Peterson) by rushing for 127 yards on 22 carries. Unfortunately, three contests later, in Week 4 of the 2017 season, Cook left the game with a torn left ACL.

Based on reports, Cook was lucky in that any additional damage to the knee, which can include other ligaments or meniscus, was minimal. Famous orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews completed the ACL reconstruction surgery in early October, only four days after the injury.

Typical recovery for an NFL running back returning from a routine/simple ACL reconstruction (meaning no additional meniscal tears or other ligaments) is 9-12 months. Remember, most NFL running backs recovering from an ACL tear seem to take about two full years until they finally look ‘100%’ and ‘back to their old selves.’

The newly built ligament, usually made from either the patellar tendon or a hamstring tendon, is never really as stable or as perfect of a fit as the original ACL. Still, for most people, they hold up quite well.

Studies have shown that there is a 9% re-tear rate (of the new ACL graft) and a 21% tear rate of the opposite ACL over the next two years. You’re probably wondering why I would care about the opposite ACL? Well, that’s what happened to DeShaun Watson; he tore one ACL in college and the other ACL in the NFL less than two years later. It happens.

The good news is that Cook’s ACL tear has been over two years, so theoretically, his risk is no longer as elevated as it was.

Upon returning in his first season after ACL reconstruction surgery, Cook struggled with hamstring injuries. He suffered a mild, grade 1 hamstring strain in Week 2. These usually take at least two weeks to start to feel better, ideally closer to three for an NFL running back. Cook returned from the injury in less than two weeks later, definitely too soon, and suffered a worse reinjury to the same hamstring, causing him to miss an additional four games.

Taken from last year’s Injury Draftguide article on Cook, I (Dr. Morse) wrote, “I think this is Cook’s breakout year. He should be 100% back from his ACL injury, and as long as he continues to strengthen his hamstring in the offseason, with a bolstered Vikings O-line doesn’t hurt, he should be good. Draft with confidence.”

Cook’s ADP as the 11th RB off the board in 2019, and he ended up finishing as the RB6, despite missing the final two games of the regular season. There is a chance he would have finished as the RB2 overall in PPR leagues if he played an additional 1.5 games. So my hunch was correct!

Cook was one of only three RBs in the NFL in 2019 to rush for over 1,000 yards as well as catch for over 500 yards (CMC, Fournette). His final 2019 line was an impressive 250-1,135-13 rushing and 53-519-0 receiving.

However, Cook suffered a couple of injuries in 2019 that prevented him from playing all 16 games and completing his fantastic season. After Week 11’s game, he was reportedly dealing with a chest injury, which I (Dr. Morse) discussed here.

Details are limited, but he was possibly dealing with a mild sternoclavicular sprain, which takes 1-3 weeks to heal. Thankfully, he had the Week 12 bye to give him additional time to recuperate, and the injury was not severe enough for him to miss the upcoming game.

In Week 13, Cook exited the game early after suffering a new injury, this time to the left shoulder. He likely re-injured his sternoclavicular sprain from the couple weeks prior as he landed awkwardly on his shoulder. In addition to the SC sprain, he possibly suffered a shoulder sprain, also known as an AC sprain (acromioclavicular).

The combination of SC and AC sprains, or chest and shoulder sprains, are quite uncomfortable, depending on the severity of ligament damage. Cook’s was likely a grade one in that he was able to suit up the following week.

I would not be surprised if he had tons of rehab that week, possibly a cortisone injection into his AC joint (top of shoulder), as well as playing with a modified brace to help keep the collarbone (which connects the AC and SC joints) from popping out.

The problem with these sprains is that they take longer than 2 to 3 weeks to scar down fully (they don’t heal ‘per say’). So, given the nature of his position, he was a high risk for re-injury to this shoulder/chest for the next couple of weeks.

Less than two weeks later, Cook did just that - he injured his right shoulder. The problem is, the collarbones/clavicles span from each shoulder and connect at the sternum/breastbone. So if he had injured his left AC joint and left side of the sternum (left SC joint), the bone was already working overtime to try and heal the recent injury.

Another significant fall, which he sustained in Week 15 versus the Chargers, was all it took to reaggravate that same SC injury. In actuality, Cook injured his right shoulder. As a result, he’s wounded both shoulders and his chest in just over a month. The injury is analyzed here.

Cook rested for just over two weeks (missing Weeks 16 and 17) before suiting up in the NFC Wild Card game against the Saints. While two weeks is not enough time for his shoulder and chest injuries to fully heal, he proved that he didn’t need to be 100%.

Cook looked refreshed, rushing for 94 yards on 28 carries, adding in two TDs and catching three passes for an additional 36 yards in a big win.

Offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski left the Vikings for the Browns, so Minnesota will now have Gary Kubiak calling the offense. Kubiak joined Minnesota as the Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor to Stefanski. Expect more zone blocking, outside stretch runs, play-action fakes, and bootlegs. The run sets up the pass.

Cook is vying for a new contract as he heads into 2020 on the last year of his rookie deal, and recently stated that he may consider holding out for a new contract. Monitor this situation closely. If he’s playing he will lead the Vikings backfield, but if not Alexander Mattison would slide in as the lead RB and Mike Boone will serve as his backup.

Cook’s talent offers double-digit touchdowns, and extensive touches in the run and pass. There are two tricky situations here for Cook. First, he did not score more than six touchdowns total in his first two seasons, before busting out in his third season. Second, are the injuries.

The offensive line remains intact. Left tackle, Riley Reiff continues to start while Brian O’Neill looks promising at the right tackle. The Vikings did draft Ezra Cleveland from Boise State as a left tackle for depth at this point. At guard, Pat Elflein and Joe Kline while Garrett Bradbury starts at center.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins doesn’t have the strongest arm, so look for Cook to get plenty of dump-offs. However, it's a crowded situation in the intermediate zone with Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith, Adam Thielen, and rookie Justin Jefferson.

Cook has a high floor. Any RB that can catch as well as he does will make up for any deficit in touchdowns through receptions and yards after the catch. His ceiling is at maximum. Cook could efficiently finish as top-three RB with the volume he will receive and the potential to put up 1,800 total yards and score 15 times.

The offense as a whole is better than average. The Vikings finished with 24.6 points per game, which was 11th and mid-range when considering total yards and total yards per play.

At this time (June 8th) Cook has announced he won't participate in any NFL activities until he gets a “reasonable” contract extension.

Final Prognosis:

Sports Injury Predictor places a 56.8% chance that Cook misses at least 50% of one game this upcoming season. They project him to miss a total of 1.8 games in 2020.

It’s safe to say that Cook hasn’t exactly been the ideal picture of good health. Cook has two significant shoulder injuries requiring surgery (in college), a torn ACL, a couple of hamstring injuries costing him a total of 5 games, and then a chest and two separate shoulder injuries that caused him to miss crucial Weeks 15 and 16 of the 2019 season.

He has played in only 60% (29) of the possible 48 games.

When he’s healthy, there is no question that Dalvin Cook is an elite NFL running back.

My injury risk score for him this upcoming season is 5 out of 10, the same as my 2019 score for him. Cook is not the safest RB, but also not the riskiest.

If he stays healthy, he has a chance to be the number one running back in the NFL, and he is on a Minnesota Vikings team that loves to run. As a team, they ran the fourth-highest rate and fifth-most rushing attempts per game. Cook also averaged 3.06 yards after contact per attempt, and he was only 1 of 7 RBs to break 60 tackles throughout the season.

Injury Risk: Moderate. 5/10.

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Dalvin Cook Injury History

Date League Injury Details
Dec 15, 2019 NFL Shoulder A/C Joint Sprain Cook exited Week 15 against the Chargers with a shoulder injury and missed two games
Sep 27, 2018 NFL Thigh Hamstring Strain Grade 2 Cook re-injured his hamstring and missed 4 games.
Sep 16, 2018 NFL Thigh Hamstring Sprain/Pull Unspecified Grade 1 Cook missed 1 game.
Oct 1, 2017 NFL Knee ACL Tear Grade 3 Coach Mike Zimmer described Cook's injury as "a normal, typical ACL (tear)." He underwent surgery on October 9, 2017.
Mar 31, 2016 Non-NFL Shoulder Labrum Tear Cook re-injured his shoulder in spring practice.
Oct 24, 2015 Non-NFL Pedal Ankle Sprain/Pull Unspecified Grade 1 Cook missed 1 game vs. Syracuse.
Mar 8, 2014 Non-NFL Shoulder Labrum Tear "He went up the steps, tripped in the weight room and put his hand down to catch himself at an angle,” coach Jimbo Fisher said.