You can’t win your fantasy football league in the first two rounds, but you can lose it. There aren’t many sure-fire elite talents to go around, and drafting early is all about minimizing risk while maximizing upside. Unfortunately, those type of players are in short supply and you eventually need to start drafting riskier players with higher ceilings. Dalvin Cook and Todd Gurley are going at roughly the same spot in fantasy drafts, and smart fantasy owners should draft Dalvin Cook over Todd Gurley.
Fantasy Football: Draft Dalvin Cook Over Todd Gurley
The Case for Dalvin Cook
Everyone knows just how good Dalvin Cook can be when he’s healthy. The former second-round pick is one of the most electric players in the league and is capable of making plays as both a runner and a receiver. Unfortunately, Cook has struggled to stay healthy through his first two NFL seasons. In 2017, Cook tore his ACL after just four games. Cook followed that up by battling a hamstring injury for the majority of 2018.
Despite his checkered past, Cook doesn’t carry an advanced risk of injury. No player is 100% safe from going down, but all of Cook’s injuries to this point have been fluky, one-time injuries. The ACL tear was nothing but bad luck, and it’s not uncommon for players to struggle in the following season. Cook spent the 2018 offseason rehabbing his knee and didn’t have time to get the rest of his body into football shape. Really, it’s not surprising that his hamstring acted up. Cook’s been completely healthy throughout the offseason and should be 100% for the start of 2019.
Additionally, the Vikings spent the offseason actively trying to improve their running game. The team fired former offensive coordinator John DeFilippo for throwing too often and installed a run-happy offensive coordinator in Kevin Stefanski. Additionally, the team brought in Gary Kubiak as an offensive advisor. Kubiak is notorious for bringing out the best in his running backs, so Cook should be better than ever in 2019. The Vikings also spent their first-round pick on center Garrett Bradbury, who should provide an immediate boost along the offensive line.
The biggest worry for Cook is third-round rookie Alexander Mattison. The Vikings drafted Mattison to be Cook’s backup, but the rookie has reportedly impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He could earn a portion of the workload, which could eat into Cook’s final line. However, Cook has seen the majority of the first-team snaps in the preseason and should continue to see a high workload. Cook is talented enough to keep Mattison on the bench as long as he stays healthy and on the field.
The Case Against Todd Gurley
When he’s at his best, Todd Gurley is the best running back in fantasy football. However, Todd Gurley won’t be at his best thanks to his arthritis. Unlike Cook’s injuries, this is a chronic ailment that isn’t going away, and the Rams know it. Early in the offseason, the Rams re-signed Malcolm Brown to a two-year, $3.3 million contract. Los Angeles didn’t have that much cap space at the time, but still found a way to incorporate Brown into the teams’ future.
They followed this up by adding Darrell Henderson in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Unlike Mattison, Henderson will likely see a decent workload right out of the gate. The Rams didn’t have much draft capital in 2019, so Henderson was actually their second pick of the draft. Ignoring other needs to draft a running back when you already have Gurley and Brown shows that the Rams plan on incorporating Henderson into the offense right out of the gate. He’s a talented pass-catcher and could take some third-down work away from Gurley.
A big reason for Gurley’s value in previous seasons is that he never left the field. Even when the Rams had a double-digit lead late in games, Gurley was on the field taking carries. If the Rams want Gurley to play a full season, that won’t be happening anymore. Los Angeles should still be one of the best teams in the league, so Gurley will end up missing some of those late-game touches.
Fantasy football is all about minimizing risk for players with similar ceilings, and Cook carries less risk than Gurley. Cook’s played in the preseason and is 100% ready for the start of the year. Gurley has yet to play a snap and nobody – including Los Angeles – knows how his knee is going to react to actual game action. Even if he can stay healthy, the Rams are going to manage his workload, which means Cook should have more touches by the end of the season. Gurley still has fantasy value, but Cook has a higher ceiling and floor.
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