Vikings Draft Florida State Running Back
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — After sitting out of the first round, the Minnesota Vikings didn't want to wait any longer.
Dalvin Cook was sliding down the board, making available the kind of dynamic running back the Vikings drafted 10 years ago and just recently let go.
Minnesota traded up seven spots to the 41st overall pick Friday night and grabbed Cook, the Florida State star whose stellar college career came with off-the-field questions. They sent one of their fourth-round selections, No. 128 overall, to Cincinnati to move ahead in the second round and get Adrian Peterson's long-term replacement.
"We felt that he was just too talented of a player not to take a swing," general manager Rick Spielman said, before making another trade in the third round to slide up nine spots and select Ohio State center Pat Elflein at No. 70 overall.
The 5-foot-11, 213-pound Cook was a first team Associated Press All-American last season as a junior and totaled 38 touchdowns over the last two years for the Seminoles. He averaged more than 138 yards rushing per game over his final two seasons.
"You've got to accept things as a man, and I just was waiting my turn," Cook said.
Though the Vikings signed Latavius Murray in free agency last month, he's coming off ankle surgery. The versatile Jerick McKinnon returns for his fourth year in the NFL, too, but only Cook has the skill set to be what Peterson, who signed with New Orleans this week, was in his prime. Cook was the third running back taken in this draft, after LSU's Leonard Fournette and Stanford's Christian McCaffrey went in the first round.
Cook's ability was right there with them, but he came with some red flags , despite being found not guilty of misdemeanor battery just before the 2015 season following a bar fight earlier that summer. After an exhaustive vetting process, Spielman spent another 45 minutes on the phone with Cook on Friday morning once the possibility of picking him became clearer.
"I was more eager for him just to get to know the person and for him to know, if he drafted me for the Minnesota Vikings, he was getting a guy who's going to represent the organization the right way," Cook said.
Spielman said he believes Cook has "woken up a little bit" about his career and life.
"I truly believe that he's on a mission coming up here and he's going to be a great football player for us," Spielman said.
The character concern was nothing like that surrounding Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who was caught on video punching a woman in the face three years ago. Mixon was still available when the Vikings moved up to take Cook, but they weren't interested. Mixon went instead to the Bengals.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher eagerly vouched for Cook, too.
"I never had issues with Dalvin. He was never disrespectful, allowed you to coach him hard, was never late, was always really good with other teammates, affected guys on our team in a positive way," Fisher said.
Long touchdowns, including a 70-yarder that was one of his four scores against eventual national champion Clemson last year, were a specialty. He dealt with hamstring and shoulder injuries last season and has not proven to be an exceptional blocker. Fumbles were an issue, too. But Spielman said Vikings doctors were satisfied with Cook's condition and that he believes the pass protection and ball security skills can be effectively taught.
When offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu were informed earlier in the day that Cook was a possibility, Spielman said, their jaws dropped.
"Overall as a talent, with the ball in his hands and as a receiver, we felt he was one of the most complete running backs in this draft," Spielman said.
The Vikings had another third-round pick, No. 86, waiting for them later Friday. They sent their fifth-round selection to the New York Jets to move up for Elflein, who filled another hole on the offensive line. If he's ready to start as a rookie, veteran Joe Berger could move back to right guard.