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

The heart says “yes” to Dalvin Cook, but if the New York Jets use their heads, they will see the clear answer is “no”

The Dalvin Cook-to-New York Jets rumors continue to get louder and louder. Cook is liking Jets-related tweets on a daily basis (though he is also liking Dolphins-related tweets) while reporters on ESPN are speculating about the Jets being a great landing spot for Cook.

If you’re about to hop aboard the hype train, don’t save me a seat. I’ll be completely honest: I think signing Cook would be a bad idea for New York.

With Cook, I think fans and media are just chasing the allure of a big name instead of really thinking this through. They see a shiny object and they want it. That’s how NFL fanbases operate.

But if you dig deep into Cook’s analytics – rather than merely going off his reputation and surface-level information such as his Pro Bowls and fantasy stats – it becomes difficult to see how he actually makes the Jets a better team.

Allow me to run through a few reasons why I believe Cook would not be a worthwhile addition for the Jets.

Cook was not an efficient rusher in 2022

In his peak years from 2019 to 2020, Cook was undoubtedly a star running back. I won’t deny that one bit, and it’s because the evidence existed beyond just his name recognition, Pro Bowls, and fantasy stats.

But that evidence is no longer present. Over the past two years, Cook has shown significant signs of decline even if his box-score stats still looked impressive on the surface. The 2022 season saw Cook rank near the bottom of the league in most of the important analytics for running backs.

If you do a quick Google search for Cook’s 2022 stats, you immediately see 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns. That’s enough for most people to say he played well. But in metrics that actually matter, Cook’s rushing efficiency in 2022 was quite poor.

Here are some of Cook’s rankings in 2022 among 42 running backs with at least 100 carries, according to NFL Next Gen Stats and Football Outsiders.

  • EPA (Expected Points Added) per rush: -0.20 (39th)
  • DVOA: -10.8% (36th)
  • Rush success rate: 48% (33rd)

Metrics like EPA and DVOA are far more accurate than raw yardage when it comes to measuring a player’s impact on his team’s chances of winning the game. The disparity between Cook’s yardage totals and his EPA/DVOA rankings suggests he recorded a lot of empty yardage and was not nearly as helpful to his team as his raw counting stats might suggest.

Making matters worse for Cook is the fact that his Vikings offensive line was considered strong in the run-blocking department. As a team, Minnesota earned the third-best run-blocking grade in the NFL at Pro Football Focus.

Out of the 52 running backs in the league with at least 80 carries, none had a worse disparity between their personal EPA per rush and their team’s PFF run-blocking grade.

Additionally, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, Cook had the 10th-highest “expected” yards per carry among 42 qualified running backs, which means he was consistently placed in positions where he was expected to do well. Cook’s actual yards per carry of 4.4 seems solid, but his RYOE (Rushing Yards Over Expected) per carry was -0.1, meaning he averaged 0.1 fewer yards per carry than expected. This ranked 30th out of 42 qualifiers.

With two consecutive years of decline as his age-28 season approaches, he’s probably only going to get worse

Cook’s massive drop-off in 2022 followed a large decline in 2021, when he dropped to mid-tier production after posting star-caliber production in 2019-20. In each of the past two seasons, Cook experienced large declines in all three of DVOA, EPA, and RYOE.

  • DVOA: 2022; -10.8% (36th/42), 2021; -7.6% (40th/50), 2020; 15.6% (8th/47)
  • EPA per carry: 2022; -0.20 (39th/42), 2021; -0.06 (21st/50), 2020; 0.03 (9th/47)
  • RYOE per carry: 2022; -0.1 (30th/42), 2021; 0.2 (14th/50), 2020; 0.6 (8th/47)

So, he has taken a steep nosedive in two consecutive seasons.

It’s a well-known fact that NFL running backs tend to peak at the very beginning of their careers before they start declining somewhere between their fifth and seventh seasons. This chart from Pro Football Focus is a great visualization of the running back position’s early decline.

via Pro Football Focus

With Cook entering his seventh season, it’s not a good sign that he has already been declining for two consecutive years.

Cook’s chances of playing well into the latter stages of his career are especially bleak when you consider the heavy amount of mileage that is already on his tires.

The PFF article I linked above states that once a running back reaches 1,500 carries, it is a strong sign that a drop-off is coming. It says, “In the PFF era, there have been 27 seasons where a running back had at least 1,500 carries going into the season — only seven of those seasons resulted in positive RYOE.”

Cook is on pace to cross that threshold in 2023. For his career, he has 1,282 carries, which is seventh among active players. Notably, he ranks second among all players (trailing only Derrick Henry) with 1,075 carries over the past four seasons.

Cook has been worked into the ground and has already declined for two straight seasons. Signing up for his continued descent would not be wise.

The right way to manage running backs in the NFL is to draft them, run them into the ground, and say goodbye. Jets general manager Joe Douglas has strongly adhered to this philosophy. He has drafted a running back in each of his four drafts with New York, and he has barely spent any money on veteran running backs in free agency.

Douglas is doing it the right way. Signing Cook would be a departure from his smart philosophy.

Too many fumbles

Cook is a fumble machine. He is tied with Melvin Gordon for the lead among running backs with 16 fumbles over the past four years.

Cook has 19 fumbles in his career, and of those 19 fumbles, 14 were lost; the Vikings went 6-8 in games where Cook lost a fumble. Seven of the eight losses were by seven points or less. One fumble can be the difference between winning and losing, and in a season where the Jets are chasing a Super Bowl, can they really afford to have Cook’s fumble proneness on the team?

Some might argue that Cook’s high volume of touches is the explanation for his high total of fumbles. However, Cook’s ball security is still poor even when you account for how often he touches the ball. Since 2019, Cook ranks sixth-worst out of 31 running backs (min. 500 touches) with 1.29% of his touches resulting in a fumble.

Too many drops

Cook’s butterfingers extend to the passing game. He is third among running backs with 19 drops since 2019. His career drop rate is 10.1%, which is much higher than the 2022 positional average of 7%.

Aaron Rodgers loves targeting his running backs in the flat. It would hurt the Jets to have a drop-prone player like Cook being a frequent target of Rodgers’ dump-off passes.

Ineffective receiver

Cook’s drops are just one part of his overall struggles as a receiver. He posted bad numbers as a receiver over the past two seasons. He was a far more dynamic receiver in the past, but Cook’s decline in rushing efficiency over the past two seasons has translated to the passing game.

Since 2021, Cook has caught 73 of 105 targets for 519 yards and two touchdowns. Among the 50 running backs with at least 50 targets over this span, Cook ranks 49th in catch rate (69.5%) and 40th in yards per target (4.9). He also caught just 2-of-9 contested targets.

Cook ranked 30th out of 51 qualified running backs in receiving DVOA this past season, and 43rd out of 57 qualifiers in 2021.

Bad pass-blocking

Cook is a poor pass-blocker. Since 2019, he has allowed 26 total pressures, ranking as the second-most among running backs over that span. Among the 49 running backs with at least 100 pass-blocking snaps since 2019, Cook ranks 33rd in pressure rate allowed (9.5%) and 40th in PFF’s pass-blocking grade (47.8).

Rodgers is known for frequently making changes at the line of scrimmage. There will be plenty of instances where he sees a potential blitz and calls for the running back to stay in and block rather than running the route that was initially called for him. Because of the fact that Rodgers could audible the RB into a blocking rep at any moment, the Jets will need RBs on the field who Rodgers can trust to block. Cook does not seem to check that box.


The 2022 season was the first of Cook’s career in which he played every game. Prior to 2022, Cook missed multiple games in five consecutive seasons.

One reason many say the Jets should add Cook is that he would alleviate some of the pressure on Breece Hall as he recovers from his ACL tear. As someone who has only played 74% of possible regular season games in his career, Cook isn’t necessarily the most reliable player to have behind Hall.

The Jets need to avoid being enamored by the shiny object

Look, I get the appeal of Cook. He is a household name, has cool highlights, shows up in the Pro Bowl every year, and has probably been on your fantasy team at some point. If the Jets get him, prominent social media accounts will post a graphic with him and the Jets’ other weapons that is captioned, “This Jets lineup is scary [insert the smiling face with horns emoji]”.

But if you weed out the noise and focus on who Cook really is as a football player at this stage of his career, I just don’t see how he makes the Jets a better team.

The Jets should stay the course with their young running backs. Every player in the Jets’ backfield is on the upward side of the running back career arc and Douglas should keep it that way. Rely on runners whose best days are ahead of them, not behind.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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2 months ago

Great work Michael.
I was in the “if he’s cheap enough…” camp, and now I’m in the “hell no” camp

Harlan Lachman
Harlan Lachman
3 months ago

I like the quote, “…while reporters on ESPN are speculating about the Jets being a great landing spot for Cook.” followed by, “With Cook, I think fans and media are just chasing the allure of a big name instead of really thinking this through.” I think this summarizes the tripe available to Jet fans on ESPN with their chief garbage producer, Cimini, more interested in creating crises, playing the fan boy only to later criticize for doing what he appears to recommend, and wasting bytes as opposed to the in depth analysis and news gathering on this site. Nice work.

2 months ago
Reply to  Harlan Lachman

Thank you! I have been saying these things about ESPNquirer for a long time. You couldn’t be more right. The same people who told them to “Suck for Sam” are the same people who hammer them when things don’t work out.