Preseason Week 2 Flames: Dalvin Cook’s fantasy value about to reach boiling point
There’s a large contingent of football fans that staunchly believe preseason games are completely inconsequential. To these naysayers, they’re nothing more than an evaluation phase for head coaches looking to comprise the best final roster. However, most fanatics would vehemently disagree. Exhibition action gives owners the opportunity to gain invaluable insight into potential sleepers and busts. In an attempt to decipher the meaningful from the meaningless, here are my top Flames from Preseason Week 2 (Updated throughout the weekend).
Dalvin Cook, Min, RB (39.1 ADP, RB16) – Cook is no bumbling Swedish Chef. He explodes through creases, decisively evades would-be tacklers, churns his legs through contact and owns dependable hands. With Latavius Murray still working his way back from a prolonged siesta, the greenhorn is firmly planted atop the Vikings’ depth chart. And it’s very unlikely anyone threatens his standing any time soon.
Showcasing his wares against Seattle’s first-string defense Friday night, Cook routinely sliced and diced his way through traffic. On eight touches (one reception) he rolled up 50 total yards. His 15-yard downhill dart through the left sidehighlighted his best run.
Speaking objectively, Cook’s situation is far from impeccable. Minnesota’s revamped offensive line, which ranked bottom barrel in run-blocking last season per Player Profiler, is transitioning from a power to a zone scheme. Encouragingly, it showed some nastiness Friday. Complicating matters is the looming Latavius question. Once healthy, will the former Raider wrest away goal-line touches? Frankly, there is no definitive answer.
At this juncture, Cook is virtually locked into at least a 250-touch workload. If the pieces of the puzzle come together quickly, it’s entirely possible he, and not Leonard Fournette, Joe Mixon or Christian McCaffrey, emerges as the rookie RB to fawn over. His ADP has spiked 17.2 spots since July 22 and will only climb higher. Expect a top-15 campaign at a minimum.
Doug Martin, RB, TB (81.7, RB31) – Springy, elusive and quick through the hole, Martin resembled the running back of 2015, a campaign in which he totaled 1,673 combined yards, seven touchdowns and the eighth-most valuable per game RB output. On five carries versus Jacksonville, he totaled 30 yards and a TD. He also chipped in two catches for 13 yards. At his ADP, owners are salivating at his prospects post-suspension. However, caution needs to be exercised.
Remember how abominable Martin was last year? The ‘Muscle Hamster’ barely spun the wheel ranking RB54 in yards after contact per touch, RB60 in juke rate and RB28 in per game scoring. Even more eye-gouging 36.8 percent of his runs went for 1-yard or less. The offensive line looks much improved and DeSean Jackson’s presence will only tax defenses, but overreaching for his services isn’t recommended. There’s no guarantee Martin returns Week 4 to a voluminous workload. Jacquizz Rodgers starts hot and a full-blown RBBC unfolds. Take a chill pill.
Christian McCaffrey, Car, RB (33.3, RB14) – Chunk gains. That’s what the CMC Football Factory cranks out. Evident Saturday in Tennessee, the mislabeled and misunderstood Swiss Army Knife cut through Titan defenders and chewed up real estate effortlessly. On five touches, the rookie amassed 73 total yards and a TD. McCaffrey easily navigated tight spaces between the tackles and sprinted past defenders as a screen receiver in the open field. His combination of elusiveness, vision, hands and speed are special. Said ad nauseam since the NFL Draft, he isn’t Danny Woodhead the sequel. Yes, he’s a white guy, but his skill set and multidimensionality remind me of throwbacks Charlie Garner and Reggie Bush.
Jonathan Stewart limits McCaffrey’s ceiling, but it’s very likely the youngster earns 12-14 touches per game from the onset. And before you ask, yes, Cam Newton will throw to him, often.
For now, Fournette, Cook and Mixon rank slightly higher in standard leagues. However, in PPR, McCaffrey could eclipse a number of quality rushers, finishing inside the position’s top-12. At the current moment, I refuse to budge off my original fearless forecast – 153 carries, 632 rushing yards, 61 receptions, 512 receiving yards and 5 total touchdowns.