A look back at the 2017 NFL Draft has to be a painful exercise for the 29 teams that passed on three-time first team All Pro pass rusher T.J. Watt.
CBS Sports senior NFL writer Will Brinson thinks that Georgia running back James Cook, who the Buffalo Bills selected with the second-last pick of Round 2 in the 2022 draft, is going to be another younger brother of an established NFL star that teams are going to regret passing on.
“Here’s my James Cook hot take: James Cook is going to be the running back version of T.J. Watt,” Brinson said on a recent episode of the Pick Six Podcast. “(Cook) fell in the draft and the only reason he went as high as he did was because people were like, ‘Man, he’s Dalvin Cook’s brother.’ He’s just gonna be good because he’s Dalvin Cook’s brother. He looks and plays like Dalvin Cook. Like, Dalvin Cook is incredible.”
Seven defensive linemen went off the board in the 2017 draft before the Pittsburgh Steelers took T.J. Watt. As good as Myles Garrett has been for the Cleveland Browns, who took him with the No. 1 overall pick that year, he’s only managed two first team All Pro seasons.
The Dallas Cowboys took pass rusher Taco Charlton two picks before the Steelers scooped Watt. Charlton played just two seasons in Dallas, totaling only four sacks in two years. He’s been on three teams since and signed a one-year deal with the New Orleans Saints in April for the veteran’s minimum.
Cook’s landing spot in Buffalo has been one of the most universally celebrated draft picks on the 2022 draft because of the value and potential impact he make in the Bills’ offense as early as this season.
“Dalvin Cook fell in the draft (too),” Brinson said. I think (James is) gonna be good and people are gonna be like, ‘Oh, duh, of course he’s good, he’s Dalvin Cook’s brother. Why didn’t we see this coming?’
“That happened to T.J. Watt. He fell in the draft and people were like, ‘Oh my God. I can’t believe it. Another guy from this family is really good at football and we just completely whiffed on it. That’s so weird.”
Brinson did say at one point that maybe Watt is too good of a player to use an example for this “hot take.” But his point remained the same.
One of the reasons Cook didn’t go higher was partly due to the fact he shared a backfield with Zamir White, who led the national champion Bulldogs in carries (160), rushing yards (856), and rushing touchdowns (11). But White went in the fourth round to the Las Vegas Raiders – 59 picks after Cook was taken by the Bills – because Cook’s NFL profile is more appealing to NFL teams. Cook was a force in the passing game and Bills general manager Brandon Beane could barely contain his excitement about Cook’s potential as a pass catcher in Buffalo’s offense the night he drafted him.
“We really liked his skill set,” Beane said. “(He’s) a guy that’s got really good hands, very instinctive in the pass game. You can run all sorts of guys out in routes, it’s not that they can’t do it, but some guys just have the feel like a slot receiver. It’s the feel of what you’re getting whether to sit down in zone or run by your man. He’s got speed and if he gets a crease, you saw it. I watched a lot of Georgia football last year just because they were so good, saw him play live twice. You can feel his speed with a ball in his hand.”
Beane said after the draft completed that he probably talked too much about Cook’s ability as a pass catcher on Day 2 of the draft. The Bills think he’s going to add an important piece to the run game in Buffalo as well.
Two running backs went before Cook in this year’s draft: the New York Jets selected Iowa State’s Breece Hall and the Seattle Seahawks took Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker – both in the second round.
Cook is planning to spend a lot of time in the end zone.
“I’m versatile,” he said. “I can separate myself in the backfield and line up out wide and make the deep threats. And take the deep shots and go deep and score touchdowns. That’s what they’re getting in me – a touchdown maker.”
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