By GARY SHELTON
No offense to Dalvin Cook, but I hope scouts look at his surgically repaired shoulder and shake their heads.
I hope they look at his 40-times, where six backs were better, and come to the conclusion that he is Pee-Wee Herman in cleats.
I hope they look at his verticle jump and decide they need a better rebounder.
I hope the scouts of the NFL find flaws all over Dalvin Cook. I hope they think he’s slow and has questionable hands and an awful Wunderlict score. I hope he yells at medical workers and says that he likes to fumble because linemen need to work on their recovery skills. I hope he admits that he knows Roberto Aguayo.
I hope all of these things, because I hope that Cook plummets in the draft like a rock in a pond. I hope 18 teams shake their heads and pick somebody else. I hope they look at Dalvin Cook and mistake him for Trent Richardson. Maybe Reggie Bush.
I hope these things,so the Tampa Bay Bucs can fair-catch the falling Cook at No. 19 in the draft. Sports Illustrated, Bucky Brooks of NFL.com, SB Nation and Bleacher Report all updated their mocks today. All of them had Cook falling to the Bucs.
If I were Jason Licht, I wouldn’t take any chances. I’d spread rumors. I’d photoshop pictures. I’d borrow Laremy Tunsil’s drug-smoking helmet and plant it in his hotel room. I’d have liquor store clerks swear that Dalvin was with Johnny Manzel six of seven nights last week, and with Ray Lewis on the seventh. I’d hire the Russians to hack into the computers and erase all of those big days Cook had for FSU.
Because, bottom line, the summation of Cook is this: The guy can play. I don’t care what his 40-time says. I don’t care how he runs the cones. I don’t care how scores on a test that asks him what color a firetruck is. I want a football player, not a Jeopardy contestant.
I don’t trust a lot of information that is out there, I’ll be honest. But I trust my eyes. And they say that Dalvin Cook was the best running back in the country last year.
What we are seeing is the old “paralysis by analysis” routine. The more scouts have poked and prodded Cook, the more questions they have had. It’s as if the league itself is trying to talk its way out of Dalvin Cook. Next thing you know, someone will call the tape a liar, as if Jimbo Fisher made the whole thing up.
But that was ballplayer against Michigan, against Clemson. In all, Cook had nine 100-yard days, five 150-yard days and two 200-yard days. No, there were no cones on the field for any of them.
Think about it. Is there another player in the draft you’d feel as good about plugging into the Bucs’ starting lineup for game one next season?
Oh, the odds are against Cook. Heck, last year, Laremy Tunsil tried the Willie Nelson Draft Training Kit, and he still went 13<sup>th</sup>. At some point in the draft, the hysteria stops.
Odds are, it will happen with Cook, too. I’ve seen mock drafts with him as high as fourth. That’s not only to high for the Bucs, it’s too high to reach given their draft position. But when you consider that a lot of running backs don’t go very high anymore, and that Cook hasn’t blown the doors off, you could see him slipping. Two years ago, Todd Gurley fell to 10<sup>th</sup> and Melvin Gordon to 15<sup>th</sup>.
Of course,that was nothing. From 2011-2014, the NFL didn’t take a back among its first 28 picks. The thought was the careers are too short, the punishment is too great and the average back is too good to waste premium picks.
Still, when you consider the shape the Bucs are in. They would be foolish to waste any more money on Doug Martin. Two failed drug tests means the next one is on the team. Are you really going to risk millions of dollars on that?
Cook is the perfect blend of need and talent. No, it isn’t because he went to FSU. That’s just where most of us saw him. He is one of those breathtaking runners who would make quarterback Jameis Winston – his old teammate – even better. This year, FSU lost some football games, but Cook was consistently the best player on the field.
Hey, I’m on record as saying the Bucs could use a great wide receiver to go opposite Mike Evans. If Cook isn’t available, I still think that’s smart. But if the team can close the door on questions about its running attack, I say they should take the chance.
Is Cook fast enough? Did you ever see him hauled down from behind?
Are his hands good enough? Is his Wunderlicht high enough? Is he prepared if the NFL’s Competition Committee decides that cones should be added to make the play better?
Bottom line: He can play.
If it anyone gets the chance, he should play here.
(Gary Shelton is one of America’s most-honored and distinguished sports journalists. Gary has spornamed the Associated Press Sports Editors’ No. 1 national sports columnist twice, has been a top five finisher five ot,her times and was chosen by sports editors in the top 10 columnists eight different years. He has been selected Florida’s Sportswriter of the Year six times. He was a columnist with the St. Peterburg/Tampa Bay Times for 25 years after joining the newspaper from The Miami Herald. Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls and 10 Winter and Summer Olympics, The Masters, the World Series, the Stanley Cup Finals and national championship in college football and basketball — all on multiple occasions over the past four decades. He currently has his own website — garysheltonsports.com — blanketing all sports in the Tampa Bay area. He is among the most creative and thoughtful and opinionated, and hard-headed, columnists you’ll ever read. And funny. And one of the good guys. Don’t ever miss his columns, interviews and stories on garysheltonsports.com. Gary has agreed to be an occasional contributor to woodypaige.com.)