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Dalvin Cook-to-NY Jets rumors ignore several crucial factors

Dalvin Cook, NY Jets, Vikings
Dalvin Cook, New York Jets, Getty Images

The rumors about Dalvin Cook going to the New York Jets are ignoring crucial points

For the last few weeks, the rumors connecting the New York Jets with Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook have steadily been heating up. There does not seem to be anything verified, but the smoke is undoubtedly there – and it seems many fans are intrigued about the idea.

With Breece Hall coming off an ACL tear, the thought process is that Dalvin Cook can be a dynamic weapon to shoulder much of the workload as Hall works his way back to full speed. Although the Jets drafted Israel Abanikanda, their other running back depth includes Michael Carter, who had a terrible year last season, and 2022 undrafted free agent Zonovan Knight. Those names certainly aren’t flashy, and all of the Jets’ running backs besides Hall had poor numbers last season. It would seem like the Jets could use some more depth.

However, a closer look at Cook’s numbers tells a bit of a different story. Would the Jets be receiving Dalvin Cook the productive back, or just Dalvin Cook the name?

By the numbers

Proponents of Cook will note that he ran for 1,184 yards, the sixth-most among running backs, and eight touchdowns, tied for 11th. However, here are some of his underlying metrics and ranks among 43 backs with at least 100 attempts last season.

  • EPA per rush: -0.14 (T-39th)
  • Rush yards over expectation (RYOE) per rush: -0.75 (41st)
  • DVOA: -10.8% (T-35th)
  • DYAR: -24 (36th)
  • Rush success rate: 48% (T-30th)
  • Yards after contact per attempt (YCO/A): 3.18 (12th)
  • Elusiveness rating: 63.8 (16th)
  • Yards per route run (YPRR): 0.75 (T-25th)
  • Drop rate: 9.3% (34th)
  • Pro Football Focus pass-blocking grade: 47.3 (25th)

Without digging any deeper, the statistics tell a solidly consistent story of a below-average back. His yards after contact per attempt seem almost anomalous in the grand scheme of his inefficiency, even though they produced a decent elusiveness rating. According to these numbers, Cook would be a net negative.

His pass-blocking PFF grade is also of note. Carter has been a subpar pass blocker in his two NFL seasons, and Abanikanda was atrocious in pass protection in college. Knight flashed in this area but had only 18 pass-blocking reps. If the Jets feel that they need an upgrade in running back pass protection, Cook is not their man.

Success rate is another metric to look at. It indicates that Cook simply did not gain yardage efficiently. Football Outsiders defines a run as successful if it gains 40% of the required yardage on first down, 50% on second down, and 100% on third or fourth down. Considering that Michael Carter had the third-lowest success rate among backs last season at 40%, it would make sense if the Jets want an upgrade. However, even though Cook was better than Carter, he was still well below average.

There’s very little there to make you think that he would be a good signing, and certainly not a trade candidate.

Running back decline

The running back career trajectory is pretty well defined at this point. A back can usually make a significant impact from the get-go, and the peak years are between 21 and 26-27. Past that point, they often start to show signs of decline, and 30 is the kiss of death for most.

Cook is entering his age-28 season, which is usually where backs begin to decline. His previous three seasons in totality, though, already show a measure of decline. Here are his rankings in 2020, 2021, and 2022, respectively, in various areas.

  • YPA: 5.0 (T-7th), 4.6 (T-11th), 4.5 (T-17th)
  • Yards after contact per attempt: 3.33 (9th), 2.73 (T-35th), 3.18 (12th)
  • Missed tackles forced per touch: 0.219 (T-9th), 0.190 (21st), 0.201 (T-18th)
  • Explosive run rate: 14.7% (4th), 14.4% (8th), 11.3% (16th)
  • First down rate: 29.2% (6th), 22.4% (31st), 11.3% (40th)
  • EPA per rush: 0.03 (T-9th), -0.08 (28th), -0.14 (T-39th)
  • RYOE per rush: 0.73 (3rd), -0.06 (26th), -0.75 (41st)
  • DVOA: 15.6% (8th), -7.6% (40th), -10.8% (35th)
  • DYAR: 335 (2nd), 11 (39th), -24 (36th)
  • Yards per route run: 1.37 (9th), 0.85 (T-36th), 0.75 (T-25th)
  • Drop rate: 5.9% (21st), 11.6% (T-44th), 7.8% (28th)
  • PFF pass-blocking grade: 45.5 (32nd), 52.7 (25th), 47.3 (25th)

There was quite a precipitous decline evident in his numbers from 2020 to 2021, and 2022 was generally on the lower end of the average.

No matter what his rushing yards or touchdowns say, Cook is a poster boy for the running back aging curve. The Jets would be wise to take note of that and pass, regardless of what they think about their own running back room.

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