Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook nearly set a career-high with 205 rushing yards in Week 14’s victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers just one week after wide receiver Justin Jefferson set his new high watermark with 182 receiving yards in Minnesota’s loss to the Detroit Lions. The ridiculously productive duo continues to dominate opposing defenses on a near-weekly basis and it’s time to ask whether they’re the best running back-wide receiver combo in the NFL.
Jefferson and Cook have combined for 2,495 yards of offense and 14 touchdowns so far this season, a remarkable total considering Cook has missed three games due to injury. And it’s not like their statistical dominance is a one-off in 2021. Last season, the pair was arguably more impressive. In what was the final 16-game regular season, Cook and Jefferson totaled 3,318 total yards and 24 touchdowns. Cook nearly led the NFL in rushing and Jefferson set a new rookie record for receiving yards in a season. Let that sink in.
But here’s the rub: for all that production and statistical dominance, Cook and Jefferson haven’t been enough to get the Vikings into the tier of legitimate contenders in the NFL. They finished 7-9 in 2020 and are one game under .500 (6-7) so far this year. That has to hurt their case—at least a little bit—to be the most valuable duo in the league, right?
If we keep this analysis in the same division, the Green Bay Packers have an argument that their combination of Aaron Jones and Davante Adams is, in fact, the best running back-wide receiver duo in the league. Adams has 1,204 yards and seven touchdowns this season, and while Jones has been banged up at times this year, he’s still managed to run for 599 yards and four touchdowns. Jones has another 328 yards and five scores receiving, too. Last year, the duo combined for 29 touchdowns, five more than Cook and Jefferson totaled in their remarkable 2020 campaign. And then there’s that whole winning thing. The Packers are currently the top seed in the NFC, are running away with the NFC North, and have won 23 of their last 29 games. That matters.
If we head to the AFC, the Tennessee Titans duo of Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown stands out. Granted, health is a factor in this discussion and Brown has had issues staying on the field early in his career. Henry’s been a workhorse but may finally be showing signs of wearing down with the foot injury he suffered this year, but their production is outstanding. Henry and Brown combined for 3,216 yards and 28 touchdowns last year and were on pace to match or top those numbers before both players went down with an injury in 2021. Henry is still fourth in the NFL in rushing with 937 yards despite playing only eight games, and his 10 touchdowns had him tracking for close to 20 on the season. Brown, who’s played only 10 games this year, has 615 yards and three scores. And like the Packers, Henry and Brown have opened the Titans’ window of contention over the last couple of seasons.
Still, it feels like Cook and Jefferson have to be the pick. They don’t have the benefit of playing with Aaron Rodgers. In fact, they have the curse of playing against him twice per year. Opposing defenses know the Vikings' offense runs through the two of them, yet they remain unstoppable (literally). So while there’s certainly a case to be made for other combinations across the league, no pair has done more with less than Cook and Jefferson, who individually have an argument that they’re the best at their position.
What say you? Head over to The Draft Network’s Twitter and drop us a line. Who’s your pick for the best running back-wide receiver duo in the NFL?
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