Lynne Sladky/Associated Press
Strengths: Quickness, agility, balance, vision, route running and receiving.
Weaknesses: Off-field issues.
Cook is Marshall Faulk on the field and a case of coaching insomnia the moment he leaves the team facility. His rap sheet includes a charge of assault against a woman (he was found not guilty), a criminal mischief charge involving a BB gun and broken car windows and a citation for mistreatment of puppies (he paid a fine).
That leaves us with little to talk about for the rest of this slide. Either Cook’s past is a long list of misunderstandings and immature moments that are long behind him, making him a Rookie of the Year favorite and a perennial Pro Bowler, or he is a risk to get involved in some Greg Hardy-meets-Michael Vick situation that makes us nauseous for weeks. Or perhaps something in between.
This MMQB.com feature by Robert Klemko underscores the perils of assessing a prospect’s character based on the churnings of the three-beer gossip mill at the combine. Cook was likely the victim of a stealth-marketing smear campaign to make him look like a higher-risk individual, particularly from a “football character” standpoint (good employee and good human can be two different things), than he really is.
These guerilla marketing efforts for prospects, pro and con, are real and common. A well-circulated rumor at an Indianapolis cigar bar full of scouts and coaches is worth a dozen glowing puff pieces in the media.
That said, there are enough documented issues surrounding Cook to establish a pattern of behavior that typically does not mix well with money, increased fame and stepping out from the protective umbrella of a college program.
I don’t think Cook is really a risk to end up leading off on CNN. He is a risk to end up like Aldon Smith, however: terror on the field, maybe a great guy in the locker room, but a victim of his own dubious choices after sunset. And that’s based on BB guns, barroom incidents and neglected puppies, not hearsay.
That said, the Vikings running game was utterly miserable last season: 75.3 yards per game, 3.2 yards per attempt (both league lows), just six plays of 20-plus yards. Free-agent arrival Latavius Murray is a pretty good back, but he never quite claimed a featured role for the Raiders, and their offensive line could actually block last year.
Character risks are baked into these grades as best they can be.