Dalvin Cook Named a Top-10 Running Back Heading into 2023

The Vikings Could Be Shaking Things Up in Their RB Room
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs on the field during warmups before a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the offseason, one of the biggest debates in Vikings fandom has regarded what the team should do with running back Dalvin Cook. Some have argued Minnesota should trade the veteran RB while others want to keep him around for at least one more go in 2023.

Those in favor of keeping Cook around will be happy to see that Trevor Sikkema of Pro Football Focus recently released his list of the top-32 running backs in the NFL, and Cook was actually named a top-10 running back. Here is a look at the full top-10:

  1. Nick Chubb
  2. Derrick Henry
  3. Christian McCaffrey
  4. Josh Jacobs
  5. Jonathon Taylor
  6. Saquon Barkley
  7. Aaron Jones
  8. Tony Pollard
  9. Austin Ekeler
  10. Dalvin Cook
Top-10 Running Back
Oct 30, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) and offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw (71) react after a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

And here is Sikkema’s reasoning behind Cook’s ranking:

The narrative around Cook seems to put him on a level that does not appropriately respect how good of a player he still is. In 2022, he tied his career low in yards per carry, but it was still a healthy 4.5. Plus, he earned 3.2 yards after contact, which was the second-highest mark of his career. Nick Chubb (122) is the only back who has had more explosive runs than Cook (112) over the past three seasons. At worst, he’s still a top-10 talent at the position.

Sikkema makes an important point here. While 2022 may have been a bit below Cook’s standards in terms of production, it wasn’t a bad season by any means. 4.44 yards per carry may be a career low, but he was still only one of five backs to record 260+ carries and still average at least that many yards per carry.

Additionally, health has to be taken into account with Cook. Every year of his career, he has gotten knicked up enough to miss at least a couple games here and there, but in 2022, despite another issue with his shoulder popping up, he played all 17 games of the regular season.

Dalvin Cook Trade
Nov 6, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports.

It also must be noted that the surgery he underwent this offseason supposedly ensured that the shoulder is now 100% healthy moving forward, so hopefully, it won’t cause issues anymore.

That being said, the fiscally responsible move for the Vikings is to either get Cook to agree to take a pay cut or move on. This is especially the case after re-signing Alexander Mattison. With Mattison in Minnesota long-term, it makes less sense to dedicate $14.1 million to Cook, a cap hit that ranks third in the NFL at the position.

By trading Cook after June 1, the Vikings can save $11 million against the cap, and with Austin Ekeler agreeing to re-do his deal with the Los Angeles Chargers, there should be buyers out there for a back as talented as him. One such team could be the Denver Broncos, who currently have former Vikings assistant general manager George Paton as their general manager.

No move is imminent as of now, and it will be interesting to see how the Vikings approach the situation as training camp draws closer.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.