The Washington Redskins entered the past offseason looking for a dynamic running back -- or at least hoping to somehow find one. They didn’t. They did find a good story in Robert Kelley. They continued to watch Chris Thompson develop into a good third-down back.
But they could still use a dynamic runner. It made sense that Mel Kiper Jr. projected in his latest mock draft that Florida State’s Dalvin Cook would go to the Redskins. But Cook comes with definite warnings that can’t be ignored and could make this pairing unlikely.
One NFC defensive coach whose team faced the Redskins last season mentioned a few times how the Redskins needed a dynamic runner -- someone who threatened the defense and demanded more attention.
Could Cook be that guy? The Redskins would have to make the selection with their fingers crossed. Cook was dynamic in college, rushing for 4,464 yards and 46 touchdowns. He can catch well enough, too. He is explosive.
For starters, don’t just focus on the size with Cook (he’s listed at 5-foot-11, 206 pounds), especially when it comes to some of general manager Scot McCloughan’s previous draft choices at running back. McCloughan has shown and said he’s willing to take guys of lesser size at certain positions (wide receiver Jamison Crowder, for example). Along the lines, they need to be big.
Cook certainly would give the Redskins something they need. Kelley was a good find and a tough runner, but he can’t match Cook’s potential (which means nothing if other issues arise). Look what Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman did for Atlanta’s offense, especially the passing game.
The Redskins will enter the draft eyeing defensive help, especially along the line. It’s where they must focus (by the way, the guy I think would be an excellent signing in free agency: tackle Calais Campbell).
But it was the same way last season, and they still took who they considered the best player available: a wide receiver. McCloughan won’t deviate from that mindset. If Cook is that guy, so be it. He would improve the offense. If the Redskins lose one or both of their free-agent receivers (DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon), then adding Cook would give the offense a potential playmaker.
So drafting someone with his skill set makes sense.
But there are caveats, and they could be big: Cook has had multiple off-field issues that will factor into any team’s decision. He was charged three different times (robbery, firing and possessing a weapon on school property, misdemeanor battery), but the first two charges were dropped and the third resulted in him being found not guilty. He was also charged with criminal mischief, along with Florida State teammates, stemming from a BB-gun incident on campus. He was cited for improper care of three pit bull puppies as well. McCloughan has stayed away from players with such checkered pasts in the draft.
Cook also fumbled 13 times during his college career. That’s a lot. (But running back Alfred Morris fumbled frequently in college, too, and it was not a big issue in the NFL.) And Cook has battled shoulder issues in the past. Kelley would remain a factor because there could be concerns about Cook’s durability.
All of that could add up to a lot of worries. Good running back options exist after the first round, and free agency often affects anything that happens in the draft. Even though the Redskins could use what Cook offers, McCloughan would have to deviate from some past thinking with draft choices to pull this off. (It's not about having choir boys; it’s about having pros and players always available.) But there's no doubting this: Cook's skills are desirable.