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Under The Radar Breakout: The Curious Case Of James Cook

James Cook is one of the top young back in all of Dynasty Fantasy Football. Despite this he is being criminally overlooked. @ReflipeWThenuz breaks down the player and his potential value to your squads.

In Dynasty Fantasy Football, few things are more coveted than a young breakout running back. Sure, the quarterback is king in Superflex; we build around young receivers, and the top tight ends always fetch a nice price in TE Premium. The top young running backs usually shoot into the top two or three rounds of startup drafts. Furthermore, they command a hefty price on the trade market, where they can often go for multiple high draft picks despite their relatively short shelf life. So you can forgive me for stretching my head at the depressed value of Buffalo Bills running back James Cook. He has the proper draft capital, appropriate age, and requisite production to go extremely high in your dynasty drafts. However, for some reason, he is being criminally overlooked at his current ADP of 56.4 as of February 12th. For this article, I would like to break down the player and examine what I believe his true dynasty value should be.


As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, James Cook has the proper draft capital behind his name to excite dynasty enthusiasts. The talented Bills runner was selected in the second round of the 2022 NFL draft out of Georgia. The younger brother of fellow NFL star Dalvin Cook, James was tabbed early as a legacy player who would shine in college and at the next level.

James was a 4-star recruit according to and ranked as the #3 all-purpose back in the country coming out of high school. He chose the Bulldogs over a list of heavy hitter schools, including Florida State, Louisville, and Alabama, to name a few. 

Despite his lofty recruiting status, Cook shared the Georgia backfield with fellow NFL running back Zamir White. The dynamic duo was the catalyst of the first Bulldogs National Championship in decades when they helped Kirby Smart and company win the 2021 title. James was second on the team in rushing but led the squad in total yards, putting up over 1,000 total yards and 11 combined touchdowns. You will find his college stats below.

Rushing & Receiving Table
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 2/12/2024.

After helping the Bulldogs to the National Championship, it was on to the NFL Combine. Much like Dalvin, James Cook put on a show at the Combine. The highlight of his testing was when he blistered a 4.42 official 40-yard dash, cementing himself as a true speedster heading into the league. Sure, his vertical left something to be desired. But, the totality of his light usage in college, explosive film, and NFL Combine test results helped catapult him to the top of his class.

NFL Performance:

The Buffalo Bills have been a team waiting for the arrival of a dominant running back. It doesn’t take a genius to know that playing in the elements in upstate New York requires the running game to be a big part of the game plan for the second half of the year.

The Bills had found varying levels of success with runners they had drafted over the years. Players like Devin Singletary and Zach Moss played well but never reached the heights of LeSean McCoy or the legends that had played in Orchard Park before him. Enter James Cook.

Despite not starting a single game in his rookie campaign, James Cook made his presence felt. He had an electric 5.7 yp. average and managed to secure 21 catches despite playing behind Devin Singletary. While he was far from an RB1 for either fantasy or NFL purposes, he flashed enough for the Bills to allow Singletary to walk in free agency and give their second-round pick a shot at the job heading into 2022. 

So what did Cook do with his opportunity? He exploded onto the scene, finishing fourth in the entire league in rushing yards. His 4.7 ypc remained among the leaders for those with workhorse volume. Sure, his touchdown numbers were capped by his quarterback, Josh Allen, who routinely plunged into the endzone for scores. However, Cook’s elite receiving totals made up the difference in his fantasy numbers as he was well within the top 10 in receiving yards amongst all running backs. In total, James Cook finished third in total yardage by a running back in 2023. You can see his stats below. 

Rushing & Receiving Table
Games Rushing Receiving Total Yds
Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS Att Yds TD 1D Succ% Lng Y/A Y/G A/G Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD 1D Succ% Lng R/G Y/G Ctch% Y/Tgt Touch Y/Tch YScm RRTD Fmb AV Awards
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 2/13/2024.

Game Observations:

One thing that immediately stood out to me when watching James Cook play was the patience with which he ran the ball. You can see on a couple of the plays in this post that he is patient enough to set up his blocks and pick his way through the defenders. He isn’t blindly smashing into the backs of his offensive linemen like Trent Richardson.

As you can tell from his stats, James Cook is a valuable asset in the passing game. He has the speed and route-running savvy to split defenders and take the ball to the house when he gets it. As you can see below, he is a matchup nightmare for linebackers who struggle to keep up with his speed.

James Cook also brings the ability to stop on a dime and change direction. You can see on the play below that he immediately stops his forward motion, allowing the defender to fall in front of his path before darting back inside from some additional yards.

One area that Cooks certainly needs to work on is his blocking. He can struggle sometimes when attempting to halt blitzing defenders. This is not a lack of will as much as a lack of overall size and technique. Blocking was something he was asked to do infrequently, going back to his days at Georgia.


Final Thoughts: 

I have a confession: I am one of the managers who acquired Cook in a trade above. I took over an orphan team early this offseason and acquired James Cook for the 2.07 in 2024 and a likely late 2025 second. It was this cheap acquisition that caused me to dig into the player a bit more. After digging into the player and researching some of the trades where he has been acquired, I estimate that James Cook might be the best value in the current dynasty running back market. Due to his excellent production and high-value draft capital, there is very little chance Cook won’t expand on his breakout in 2023. Sure, he will never be a Christian McCaffrey averaging a touchdown per week, but he also doesn’t have to do that to be a valuable dynasty asset to your squads. At his current ADP, ranking, and cost to acquire, James Cook is my favorite low-end RB1 at RB2 prices in all of dynasty. Do yourself a favor and scoop him up wherever you can.

This is the area that I can’t understand when it comes to James Cook. Despite all of the quality production and profile he brings to the table, he still represents an excellent value for your dynasty squads. When you search the Dynasty Nerds Trade Browser you will find him going quite cheap relative to his age and production. When scrolling through the completed trades you can find him going for as little as a 2nd round pick or two. You can also see him being swapped for a 2nd and an inferior player. It is inexplicable to me why James Cook can be had for so cheap. Just look at some of these trades below. 

Thank you for reading this article! Please be sure to join the #Nerdherd, so you don’t miss out on any of the amazing things we have to offer Use my promo code “DynastyHolliday” for a 15% off discount. You will get rankings, extra podcasts, and access to our rookie film room. For just a couple of bucks more, you can get access to our revolutionary DynastyGM tool. So much for so little, why miss out on all the fun? Also, you absolutely must check out our new mock draft tool. Find it in your Apple & Android app stores. Follow me @ReflipeWThenuz for more dynasty content and other musings.

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