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Fantasy Football Stock Watch: With Latavius Murray sidelined, Dalvin Cook is headed towards a workhorse role

The Wolf currently has the former Seminole as his RB33, but expect Dalvin Cook to get a gigantic bump in the rankings after taking advantage of Latavius Murray’s absence during the first week of training camp. Cook is catching the eye of his teammates and coaches, and currently possesses workhorse potential in Minnesota.

A succession of poor decisions off the field, ball security issues on the field and a mediocre combine dropped the uber-talented Dalvin Cook all the way to pick No. 41 to the Minnesota Vikings — who let Vikings legend and seven-time All-Pro Adrian Peterson walk in free agency, while adding goal line hammer Latavius Murray in March.

After Christian McCaffrey came off the board, us at the Roto Street Journal were pleading for a team like the Bucs, Raiders or Packers to select Cook. Once the Vikings drafted Cook, the fantasy community broke out in a cold sweat. Minnesota does very little to help out their running backs: from their porous offensive line, to their up-and-down passing situation and blah-scheme, it’s tough to be a running back for the purple and gold.

The Wolf was especially hurt by this combination, stating:

Cook landed in arguably the worst spot possible with Minnesota. Indeed, the talent is there, but that’s about all he has working in his favor. The team dished out oodles of money for Latavius Murray, who will undoubtedly be involved, especially near the stripe. Additionally, the line is among the worst in football, and there’s little else really threatening defenses or creating TD opportunities. Throw in a bland, vanilla scheme, and Cook will be relying on his own high-end abilities to produce any fantasy value in 2017.

Although Murray had the highest percentage of carries inside the 5-yard line last season (81.8 percent in Oakland), we didn’t take the severity of his ankle injury into account before grading out Cook’s situation. The reason why Murray took multiple free agent visits was to prove to teams in person that the bone spurs in his ankle were not serious, and the Vikings took the bait. The former Raider underwent surgery on his ankle a week after signing and was expected to be ready for the start of training camp.

Fast forward to the start of training camp, and Latavius Murray is still MIA. In fact, on July 31st, Murray put no timetable on his return and would only commit to the regular season. After missing the entire offseason program and the start of camp with his new team, a frustrated Murray stated that he’s “behind the 8-ball.” He went onto say, “if I’m not healthy, there’s no point in me being out there. If I’m not good out there, I can’t help the team regardless.”

Meanwhile, the rookie running back is taking full advantage of his opportunity by taking the majority of the first team reps and he’s caught the attention of his teammates and coaches.

“The first thing the veteran players I’ve talked to about him say is, ‘This guy gets it.’” coach Mike Zimmer explained after a practice. “He understands protections, he works hard, they see how he interacts in the locker room, and that’s part of it. And then, when you have a special player—like when we got [linebacker Anthony] Barr—they say, ‘Hey, man, this guy is different than other guys.’

“That’s kinda how he is. They see him out there on the field with the other guys, and it’s like, ‘There’s something different about this guy, the way he runs, accelerates, the creases he can get to.’ He’s got a tough mentality. Players can see exceptional athletes. When they go out there and they’re going against guys, they can see: This guy is pretty good.”

As one can see, it’s safe to say that Dalvin Cook has earned the staff’s trust, and with Murray still sidelined, he’s truly entering a workhorse role. The cause for concern is still there, as he has a tendency to fumble, and once Murray joins the team, he’s likely to vulture 7-10 touchdowns from the 5-foot-10, 210 lb rookie. The offensive line still sucks and the scheme is still as vanilla as can be, but with his elite pass catching skills, he could definitely see 250-plus touches. In fact, Vikings beat writer Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune said, “don’t rule out” 300 touches for the rookie.

Cook will bring big-play ability (10 50-plus yard runs at Florida State), elite hands for a runner (79 receptions in three seasons) and every-down potential (766 touches in three seasons) to a Vikings team that desperately needs a legitimate playmaker. Don’t forget about his blazing speed, which was on display when he dusted cornerback Xavier Rhodes — and his 4.4 40 speed — down the sidelines during a drill at practice.

And for those who are questioning his pass blocking potential, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur actually praised that area of his game:

“He’s got a great background in it,” Shurmur said. “I think the last time we visited here, we talked about how he has a really great foundation coming from Florida State, so he understands the big picture, he understands our terminology as to who we’re blocking and he really has a good feel for the game.” “I don’t see any elements of running back play that he can’t be very good at, and pass protection is one of them.”

Giving a rookie running back the keys to the backfield from day-one is not always easy, but it looks like Dalvin Cook has earned the trust of his teammates and most importantly the coaching staff. Expect a significant rise for Cook in The Wolf’s next Running Back Rankings and Big Board — and hey, maybe this wasn’t the worst landing spot after all.

The Fantasy Stock Market never stops turning, and we’ll be tracking every single move with our Fantasy Stock Watch. Best of all, our industry-leading (and FREE) Draft Guide will be updated and re-released mid-August with all these important alerts, just in time for your drafts. To keep up with breaking fantasy football news, be sure to follow us on TwitterInstagram and Facebook

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