To count down the days until Vikings rookies, quarterbacks and select veterans report to Mankato on July 23, we will reveal our ranking of the 17 most important Vikings players heading into the 2017 season. Look for the next player on our list every weekday morning at Access Vikings.
This list, created by Matt Vensel and Andrew Krammer, is not a ranking of the best players on the team, though sheer talent is obviously an essential factor. It is a ranking of the players whose upcoming season will have the biggest impact on the franchise, whether it’s in 2017 or beyond.
Coming in at No. 6 on our list is running back Dalvin Cook.
Sam Bradford is an impressive all-around athlete. In addition to being a pretty good quarterback, Bradford was an AAU basketball teammate of Blake Griffin, was a peewee hockey standout and is a scratch golfer.
He would not, however, be someone you’d fear in the 100-yard dash.
Yet, when you pull up Pro Football Reference and look at the longest runs for the Vikings last season, their running backs only mustered three that gained more than Bradford’s 24-yard scramble in Week 17.
Coveting explosive plays on offense, the Vikings traded up in the second round to draft Dalvin Cook, a two-time All-American who broke loose for a run of 50 or more yards 10 times during his Florida State career.
Those wheels turned heads on the second day of last month’s three-day minicamp, when Cook got loose down the right sideline and could not be caught by cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who runs a 4.4 40-yard dash.
Of course, the Vikings saw more in Cook than simply speed. They were willing to take a chance on Cook, who fell out of the first round due to character concerns, in part because they feel he can be a more versatile backfield weapon than future Hall-of-Fame castoff Adrian Peterson.
Cook can run out of the shotgun, which is a requirement in today’s NFL. He is a legitimate receiving threat out of the backfield, something that despite his immense physical gifts Peterson somehow was never able to become here. And they hope that with coaching Cook can be trusted in pass protection, enabling him to become a true every-down back.
The Vikings, who signed Latavius Murray to a three-year, $15 million deal in free agency and still have Jerick McKinnon on the roster, might not ask Cook to be a 300-touch player as a rookie (though don’t rule it out).
But when they do give the 5-foot-11, 213-pound back the ball, he will be a threat to break free for big gains, something that in 2016 were few and far between for McKinnon, Matt Asiata and the offense as a whole.
The Star Tribune’s ranking of the 17 most important Vikings in 2017:
6. Dalvin Cook, RB
11. Trae Waynes, CB
16. Pat Elflein, C/G