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2022 NFL Draft Film Room Notes: Buffalo Bills RB James Cook

Does he have “captain” potential?

So my analytics failed me in the second round. The Buffalo Bills selected Georgia running back James Cook. All of the top experts agree that running back is not the same as tight end or wide receiver. Despite the fact that I was wrong, apparently the world didn’t come to an end, which is weird. So we may as well take a look to see what Cook will bring to Western New York.


Play 1

There are a couple things I like here. James Cook’s feet keep moving and taking wide, deliberate steps, even as he’s getting low to the ground in anticipation of contact. At the moment of the pause, both feet are planted to make a sharp cut. The left quickly jabs out and establishes a new direction. The second thing I like is that there’s a focus on moving up the field the entire time. Cook doesn’t go side to side, he cuts diagonal and then forward again.

Play 2

Cook looks to have a couple options here. If the lane is open before the blocker (QB D’Wan Mathis) he’s good to go. If not, follow Mathis and get what he can. He makes a good choice in following his QB to the edge. I especially like how close he is to the block as he cuts by. If you’re looking for space in this situation you’ll hit the bench before you find it. That’ll be more true in the NFL, so this is a great thing to see.

Play 3

I won’t go too far into commentary mode here. I’m trying to highlight a small shift in change of direction as that hand approaches. It’s not much, but enough to get a bit of space.

Play 4

I’ve seen a lot written about how Cook will bring a pass-catching threat to the backfield and I can’t say as I disagree. More to the point though is what I can say. Without a more extensive look, I’ll call my opinion incomplete. The passes I saw showed off good hands. I also saw Cook lined up all over and running a decent variety of routes. That said, I didn’t see anything remotely like a highlight. I saw enough to suggest the potential is there, but this clip is a nice disclaimer. Without a play call and surrounding talent to spring him, highlights won’t just appear.

Play 5

This clip is here for one reason. This is a good cut and it’s incredibly smooth. Cook is very fluid.

Play 6

I also liked Cook’s decision-making ability. While he tends to seek out falling forward, he’s cognitively fast enough to know when a better path exists. There’s a shoulder twitch that suggests he considered cutting upfield.


Summary

The Bills have had varied results from their running backs under head coach Sean McDermott. Remember, it wasn’t long ago that they tried to force a power game with Frank Gore on the roster. The James Cook pick suggests that Buffalo may have realized that wasn’t a good match for their team. Cook isn’t dominant enough to think that offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey will be under the impression he can work from any scheme. The alternative then is the team believes Cook is a match for what they intend to run.

The Bills love to pass. The Bills have liked fast and agile players, committing to this extreme even more last season. Cook appears to be a player who will thrive in certain systems. I think he’s a good fit in Buffalo.