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James Cook
NFL Draft

Why James Cook Could Spark Interest From Bears At Senior Bowl

  • Bryan Perez
  • January 17, 2022
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There’s no debate over who the starting running back for the Chicago Bears will be in 2022. David Montgomery has ascended into a tier of players who can safely say their role as a first-teamer is safe, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the Bears won’t be in the market for some depth and role players at the position in the 2022 NFL Draft. Montgomery is currently backed up by Khalil Herbert, the 2021 sixth-round pick who filled in as the starter for four weeks while Montgomery was nursing a knee injury. He looked the part of a legitimate starter himself, so even the RB2 role is all but locked up next year. But what’s missing in Chicago is something different than what either Mongtomery or Herbert brings to the offense. It’s that dimension Bears fans are used to seeing from Tarik Cohen and his ability to be a legitimate wide receiver lining up as a running back. His lack of NFL size (5-foot-6, 179 pounds) has prevented him from ever being a true feature runner, but his ability to flip the field with one catch was an asset. Note the ‘was’ part. It’s very possible we’ve seen the last of Cohen in Chicago following a lost season in 2021 due to the torn ACL he suffered late in September 2020. The Bears could save more than $2 million against the salary cap by cutting ties with Cohen this offseason—and if they do, they’ll need to do a better job at replacing his lost production. One option that would make a lot of sense in this year’s NFL draft is Georgia running back and 2022 Senior Bowl participant, James Cook. The younger brother of Minnesota Vikings superstar Dalvin Cook, James will bring a similar dynamic to the NFL but in a smaller package. Cook is listed at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds—not incredibly undersized, but undersized nonetheless—and it’d be pretty surprising if he even weighed that much on game days. His physical stature will prevent him from ever being a legitimate bell cow in the NFL, and that’s OK. A team like the Bears wouldn’t need him to be. Instead, he’d be a fantastic offensive chess piece to make plays as a receiver out of the backfield, as he did in the CFP: What makes Cook even more exciting is that his talents as a receiver aren’t limited to just darting into routes out of the backfield. He can win as a route-runner on the outside too. Cook will have an opportunity to elevate his draft stock at the 2022 Senior Bowl. Don’t be shocked if he gets reps with the wide receivers as the league tries to get a handle on where his best fit as a pro will be. In fact, there’s a chance he ends up more wide receiver than running back in the NFL. And that’s why Cook would make so much sense in Chicago. He’s a two-for-one prospect for a team that needs help at both spots—wide receiver and pass-catching running back. Unlike Cohen, Cook is big enough to be an actual wide receiver. Tyreek Hill is 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds. Dionte Johnson is 5-foot-10 and 183 pounds. Jaylen Waddle? 5-foot-10 and 182 pounds. Stefon Diggs is 6-foot and 191 pounds. Cook is physically similar to all of those guys, each of whom has enjoyed high levels of success as wideouts in the NFL. Cook’s draft valuation is at or around the third-round range right now. The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs has him rated as a third-rounder at this point in the process; I currently have him as a fourth-round player. But that’s splitting hairs, isn’t it? A player with Cook’s versatility is hard to find, and if he has a strong showing at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine, he could ascend all the way into the second round. The Bears have bigger needs than a do-it-all third-down back that they’ll prioritize with their first selection, No. 39 overall. But once they’re back on the clock in the third round, Cook will be in play, especially if they fail to land a quality wide receiver in free agency.  The success of San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel will force teams to expand their vision for players with a dynamic dual skill-set, and Cook will benefit from that on draft weekend. So too will the offensive coordinator who gets to design plays for him in 2022.

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Bryan Perez