The Buffalo Bills have relied on “steady” players at running back for a few years now. What I mean by that is this: the team tends to prioritize players who won’t lose yardage on a given carry over a player who might break a big gain. Essentially, the team seems to want players who consistently move forward, even incrementally, over players who seek the big play and, in the process, may end up with a few runs that keep the team behind the chains.
Throughout that time, the Bills have lacked a true game-breaker at running back, especially as it relates to the passing game. Buffalo hasn’t had a true dual-threat weapon coming out of the backfield since before LeSean McCoy hit the age-30 wall. That seems like it’s about to change.
In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we profile that dual-threat back—a rookie poised to make a big impact on the offense.
Name: James Cook
Height/Weight: 5’11” 190 lbs
Age: 22 (23 on 9/25/2022)
Experience/Draft: R; selected in the second round (No. 63 overall) of the 2022 NFL Draft by Buffalo
Acquired: Second-round draft choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Cook signed his rookie contract, a four-year pact worth a total of $5,832,057 overall. For the 2022 season, Cook carries a cap hit of $1,060,374. Buffalo is on the hook for a dead-cap charge of $2,391,590 if he doesn’t make the roster. That number represents the entirety of the guarantees in Cook’s deal.
2021 Recap: Cook saw greater usage as a senior than he had in any prior season of his collegiate career, and he made the most of the uptick in touches. He set career highs in carries (113), rushing yards (728), rushing touchdowns (7), receptions (27), receiving yards (284), and receiving touchdowns (4) en route to helping the Bulldogs win the National Championship. He appeared in all 15 of Georgia’s games, starting three.
Positional outlook: Cook joins a backfield full of returning players—with one exception. Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, Taiwan Jones, and Reggie Gilliam all return, with veteran Duke Johnson serving as the veteran newcomer of the group. Raheem Blackshear signed as an undrafted free agent.
2022 Offseason: Cook is healthy and he has attended all OTAs to date.
2022 Season outlook: Cook is exactly what Buffalo lacked in the backfield. He is explosive (4.42-second 40-yard dash, 10’4” broad jump at the combine), he is a talented receiver (67 receptions for 730 yards and six touchdowns in his college career), and he doesn’t have a ton of mileage on his body (just 297 touches in his four-year college career).
As far as complementary pieces go, Buffalo found exactly the right person to fit their needs in the backfield. Singletary should see the majority of the early-down work, and he may even see an uptick in short-yardage carries depending on what the Bills do with Moss, who could be a gameday inactive or a surprise release at the end of training camp.
Of all the new weapons on offense, Cook is the one I’m most excited to see in a Bills uniform. I’m not going to go crazy and compare him to Alvin Kamara, who caught 81 passes for 826 yards and five touchdowns in addition to rushing for 730 yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie in 2017, but I think that Cook is going to fill that kind of role in the team’s offense. If teams want to take away Stefon Diggs...and Gabriel Davis...and Jamison Crowder...and Dawson Knox...then Cook has the potential to turn three-yard check-downs into massive gains. Cook is going to be a major player in Buffalo’s attack, and he’s going to cause major headaches for opposing defenses right away.