Dalvin Cook Fantasy Football Outlook Value 2021

Dalvin Cook still has yet to play a full 16-game slate in his career, but he finished as the RB2 in half-PPR scoring last season as he racked up over 1,900 yards from scrimmage and 17 total touchdowns. The Vikings lost offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski and replaced him with Klint Kubiak, but Cook saw more touches and was more efficient under the new coordinator. Despite plenty of offensive talent around him, Cook is still the focal point of the Vikings’ offense and is deservedly being drafted as one of the first running backs off the board again in 2021.

2020 Recap 

RUSH YDSRUSH TDSRECSREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
1,55716443611315.822.6

Dalvin Cook averaged a whopping 22.3 carries per game last season as the Vikings were still a run-first team despite two elite wideouts in Adam Thielen and rookie Justin Jefferson. Cook ran for over 100 yards in eight of his fourteen games and caught over three passes per game as well. Additionally, Cook had the second-most rushing yards in the league tied with Alvin Kamara for second in the league in rushing touchdowns. Cook’s creme de la creme came in Week 9 of last season as he took 22 carries for 206 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Lions and added another 2 catches for 46 yards.

2021 Projection 

RUSH YDSRUSH TDSRECSREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
1,587.61752.9492.72363.121.4

It’s hard to know whether or not Dalvin Cook will play all 17 games in 2021, but I currently have him projected to do just that. Cook has never played a full slate in his four-year NFL career and he’s played in just 14 games in each of the past two seasons. Regardless, as long as Cook is out on the field, he will continue to be one of the most talented and productive running backs in football. I currently have Cook down for a career-high in rushing yards and he could be in competition to take the rushing title away from Derrick Henry this season.

ADP & Auction Value 

ADP: 2, Round 1, RB2

Auction Value: $67

If it weren’t for a hopeful full return to health for Christian McCaffrey, I’d be pushing for Dalvin Cook as the number one overall pick in fantasy. He has scored 19+ fantasy points per game for two straight seasons now and finished with fewer than 13 half-PPR points just once all season and just once in 2019. That level of consistency is hard to come by in fantasy football and it makes Cook worthy of a top pick in the draft.

Floor

Dalvin Cook has averaged 20.1 carries per game over the past two seasons which would be good for 340 carries across 17 games. Cook’s career YPC is 4.7 and if he maintains that level of efficiency he will be good for almost 1,600 rushing yards. Cook has also averaged just over one touchdown per game across the past two seasons so I have him down for about the same amount. Those numbers would give Cook 262 fantasy points on the ground alone. Cook has also averaged just over 3 catches per game throughout his career so let’s give him 51 catches as a baseline. His career YPR is 8.2 so that would give him around 420 receiving yards. With all of those baseline numbers in mind, Cook could be good for around 330 half-PPR fantasy points or 19.4 half-PPR points per game. Only three running backs averaged that mark last season – Alvin Kamara, Derrick Henry, and Cook. His baseline is inarguable as a top-five back, and that’s a floor that’s rare in fantasy.

Ceiling 

Last season, Dalvin Cook saw 312 carries and 44 catches, 356 total touches, in 14 games. That’s over 25 touches per game. Cook likely won’t see more volume than that, but could his efficiency improve this season with the additions that were made on offense? Minnesota spent their first-round pick on offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw who should be a better run-blocker than Riley Reiff, the starter last season. With the defense getting some key pieces back from injury, Minnesota could lead the league in rushing attempts this season if their defense improves. It’s also difficult for opponents to stack the box against Cook with the elite play from Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson on the outside. Cook’s ceiling is as the RB1 and top scorer in all of fantasy football this season as he has the talent and situational opportunity to get that done.

Minnesota Vikings Offense 

Minnesota VikingsLast season, the Vikings scored 26.9 points per game, the 11th-most in the NFL, and accumulated 6,292 yards from scrimmage, the fourth-most in the league. Kirk Cousins put together one of his better professional seasons as he completed 67.6% of his passes for 4,265 yards and 35 touchdowns to 13 interceptions – that’s the 6th-most passing touchdowns in the NFL. Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson were two of the better receivers in the NFL. Jefferson caught 88 balls. for 1,400 yards and 7 touchdowns in his rookie season which represented one of the best debut campaigns in NFL history. Thielen, meanwhile, caught 74 balls for 925 yards and 14 touchdowns, the third-most touchdowns in the NFL. Kyle Rudolph is now on the Vikings, leaving Irv Smith Jr. as the new starting tight end. Olabisi Johnson and Chad Beebe could provide some additional pass-catching value at wide receiver. The Vikings’ offensive line is mostly intact from last season with Christian Darrisaw, the rookie offensive tackle out of Virginia Tech, representing the only new starter on the line. 

Strength of Schedule  

The Vikings face a middle-of-the-pack schedule for running backs this season with some tough matchups and some easier matchups on the slate. Luckily for Dalvin Cook, he torched just about everybody no matter how good their defense was last season. The Packers (28th) and Lions (31st) ranked in the bottom five defenses in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs last season. In two matchups with Green Bay last year, Cook averaged 34.5 half-PPR points and in one matchup with Detroit, he scored 38.2 half-PPR points. The Bears (10th) fared much better defensively against RBs. Cook also has to face the 49ers (5th), Rams (7th), Cardinals (16th), and Seahawks (17th), all average to elite run defenses from the NFC West. In the AFC, the Vikings play the AFC North which is home to the Steelers (3rd), Browns (6th), and Ravens (13th), three above-average run defenses, as well as the Bengals (19th) who are more beatable. Rounding out the Vikings’ schedule are the Chargers (14th), Panthers (24th), and Cowboys (26th), three beatable run defenses. Matchups don’t matter a ton for Cook with how dominant he is and how much of a workload he’s guaranteed, but it’s nice to know he’s not facing a crazy-difficult schedule this year.

Bottom Line

In each of the past two seasons, Cook has finished as a top-five half-PPR running back in total fantasy points and top three in points per game. Last year, he led the NFL in half-PPR fantasy points per game among running backs and wide receivers. He’s being drafted as the elite commodity that he is and the previous injury issues earlier in his career shouldn’t scare you away from drafting him – he seems to have figured out how to modify his training and maintenance to keep himself mostly healthy. Cook has arguably the best locked-in workload in the NFL should he stay healthy, and he has the talent to take that workload and finish as the RB1 in per-game fantasy points yet again.

2021 Fantasy Football Player Outlooks
  
I've been writing about sports for Lineups since the beginning of 2020 and on my own website since 2018. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. I've been playing fantasy football for as long as I can remember and am now in far more leagues than any person should take part in. There are few things that give me as much joy and excitement as fantasy football, and I'm excited to share my input with you in your journey towards a championship.

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