After sitting out of the first round, the Minnesota Vikings didn’t want to wait any longer.
Dalvin Cook was still available, the kind of dynamic running back Minnesota drafted 10 years ago and just recently let go.
The Vikings traded up seven spots to the 41st overall pick Friday night and snagged Cook, the Florida State star whose stellar college career came with off-the-field questions. They sent one of their fourth-round selections to Cincinnati to move ahead in the second round and get Cook, Adrian Peterson‘s long-term replacement.
“He was just too talented of a player not to take a swing,” general manager Rick Spielman said, before making another trade in the third round to slide up nine spots and select Ohio State center Pat Elflein at No. 70 overall.
The Vikings made two more deals, with Kansas City and San Francisco, to net extra picks for the final four rounds Saturday while giving up their second third-round selection.
“We were constantly on the phone,” said Spielman, estimating he had between 20 and 30 conversations with other teams.
The 5-foot-11, 213-pound Cook was an All-American last season as a junior and totaled 38 touchdowns over the last two years for the Seminoles. He averaged more than 138 yards rushing per game over his final two seasons.
“You’ve got to accept things as a man, and I just was waiting my turn,” Cook said.
Though the Vikings signed Latavius Murray last month, he’s coming off ankle surgery. Jerick McKinnon returns for his fourth year in the NFL, too, but only Cook has the skill set to be what Peterson, who signed with New Orleans this week, was in his prime. Cook was the third running back drafted, after LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey went in the first round.
Cook’s ability was right there with them, but he came with some red flags, despite being found not guilty of misdemeanor battery just before the 2015 season following a bar fight. After exhaustive vetting, Spielman phoned Cook for another 45 minutes Friday morning once the possibility of picking him became clearer.
“I was more eager for him just to get to know the person and for him to know, if he drafted me for the Minnesota Vikings, he was getting a guy who’s going to represent the organization the right way,” Cook said.
Spielman said he believes Cook has “woken up a little bit” about his career and life.
“He’s on a mission coming up here,” Spielman said.
The character concern wasn’t quite like that surrounding Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who was captured on video punching a woman in the face three years ago. The Vikings weren’t interested, and Mixon went instead to the Bengals.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher eagerly vouched for Cook, too.
“He was never disrespectful, allowed you to coach him hard, was never late, was always really good with other teammates, affected guys on our team in a positive way,” Fisher said.
Long touchdowns, including a 70-yarder that was one of his four scores against eventual national champion Clemson last year, were common. He had hamstring and shoulder injuries last season and has not proven to be an exceptional blocker. Fumbles were an issue, too. But Spielman said Vikings doctors were satisfied with Cook’s condition and that he believes the pass protection and ball security can be effectively taught.
When offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu were informed earlier in the day that Cook was a possibility, Spielman said, their jaws dropped.
“Overall as a talent, with the ball in his hands and as a receiver, we felt he was one of the most complete running backs in this draft,” Spielman said.
The Vikings sent their fifth-round selection to the New York Jets to move up for Elflein, who was the first offensive lineman drafted by the Vikings in the first three rounds since 2012.
If he’s ready to start as a rookie, veteran Joe Berger could move back to right guard. Or the 6-foot-3, 300-pound Elflein, who only switched to center as a senior and won the Rimington Award for the best player in the country at the position, could play there and Berger could stay at center.
“I can play either very well, so wherever I can fit in and help the team, that’s my goal,” Elflein said.
Like Cook, Elflein is a player without eye-popping numbers from the scouting combine. They both excelled for powerhouse programs, though, and passed the eye test as prospects looking the part of a pro.
Not a bad start for a team that ranked last in the NFL with an average of 75.3 yards rushing per game.
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.