After taking care of their top need with their last remaining first-round prospect, the Buffalo Bills seemed to have run out of second-round prospects when pick 57 came up. They traded down not once, but twice, picking up two sixth-round picks before drafting Georgia running back James Cook 63rd overall.
Who is Cook? Brother of Dalvin Cook, he shares the same loose hips and top-gear speed as his brother, the Minnesota Vikings star. Unlike Dalvin, who was a bell cow at Florida State, James spent his whole Georgia career as a change-of-pace back behind more famous names like De’Andre Swift and Zamir White. Taking on greater prominence in 2021, he tallied up 1000 yards from scrimmage and 11 TDs as the Bulldogs made their way to the National Championship.
Noteworthy is Cook’s receiving skillset. He had 67 career catches for 730 yards and six TDs. Furthermore, he didn’t just pick up those catches out of the backfield like most running backs. He was lining up out in the slot and even out wide against cornerbacks. Cook will be what the Bills thought they were going to get with J.D. McKissic—a change-of-pace runner whose biggest selling point is the way he can run the full passing portion of the playbook. He could even take snaps the same way Isaiah McKenzie does, picking up handoffs on jet motion.
With a smaller build at 5’11” and 199 lbs, Cook won’t be a primary runner for the offense if the Bills can help it. That’s not why they picked him. They did it to create a personnel mismatch. He’s a RB who you can’t defend like a typical RB. And he gives the Bills a faster player they didn’t have in Devin Singletary and Zack Moss. With a 4.42 40-yard dash and a 10’4” broad jump, White would leave those two in the dust, even if he’s not as effective between the tackles.
And if Cook does show the upside to play a typical RB role? Well then the Bills are all set when Devin Singletary enters free agency next year.
Adding two more sixth-round picks before selecting Cook, which helped ice the pain from seeing the Bills spend an extra fourth rounder last night, definitely helps the reception of this selection.
Could the Bills have taken a different option? It seems like the top receivers were already gone, but the team did have most of their choices of tight ends and linebackers. Of course, whether it’s a TE, RB, or LB, the player they pick isn’t going to start this year. The same goes for an offensive lineman or defensive lineman or safety. But Cook, as a pass-catching running back, might just be the best positioned player to contribute as a rookie, compared with all the other options on the board. And with the Bills in a Super Bowl window, you can’t discount that.