Dalvin Cook For Heisman

With one week left in the college football regular season, the Heisman trophy race is heating up. Florida State running back Dalvin Cook is certainly the ACC’s best bet at having their next Heisman winner after Jameis Winston in 2013. Here’s why Cook should be considered the best candidate, at least at the running back position. 

Dalvin Cook1851475147.58.016
Derrick Henry2491526138.76.121
Leonard Fournette
Ezekiel Elliott2321458123.56.317
Christian McCaffrey2601456140.55.97

*Comparing Cook to the four other running backs in contention according to ESPN's Expert's Poll.

When looking at Cook’s production it is important to remember that he achieved these numbers in one less game than the other backs he is being compared to. Cook left the game against Wake Forest after just two carries with a hamstring injury, and sat out the entire game against Syracuse with the same ailment. Even so, his numbers are extremely comparable to other top running backs. 

Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Cook only has 107 less rushing yards than the national leader, LSU’s Leonard Fournette. Impressively, Cook has done that with 54 fewer carries. In fact, Cook has the second highest yards-per-attempt in the nation among full-time running backs at 8.0 (Georgia Southern’s Matt Breida has 8.2 in an option-heavy running offense). Among Heisman candidate running backs, Cook’s YPA is by far the highest with Fournette in second place with only 6.6, nearly a full yard and a half behind. 

Yards-per-attempt is without a doubt one of the most important statistics for running backs. There’s nothing special about racking up huge amounts of yards in a run-heavy offense where the back is getting 30 attempts in a single game. Cook has only gone above 22 attempts in a game one time this season and is averaging just 18.5 attempts per outing. He is matching or besting all of his counterparts while getting about 20% fewer carries than them.

PlayerGamesAttemptsAttempts per GameTouchdownsAttempts per Touchdown
Dalvin Cook1018518.51611.56
Derrick Henry1124922.62111.86
Leonard Fournette1023923.91714.06
Ezekiel Elliott1123221.11713.65
Christian McCaffrey1126023.6737.14

Extrapolating Cook's numbers using his averages would give him an incredible 1,808 rushing yards if he were given the 22.6 attempts-per-game of Derrick Henry at his current rate of 8.0 yards-per-attempt. 

The only statistic that Cook is lacking in (comparatively) is touchdown production, where his 16 scores put him tied for 7th in the country and four behind the leader, Alabama’s Derrick Henry with 21. The “fewer carries” argument does have some merit in regards to Cook’s touchdowns; he is actually scoring more often than anyone else shown. His 11.56 attempts-per-touchdown is slightly better than Henry’s 11.86, and much better than Fournette's 14.06. 

Using his averages, Cook could have had about 35 more attempts in the time he missed, which would on average give him 3.03 additional touchdowns. Three more scores would be a huge improvement, putting him only two away from Henry. Ultimately this is all theoretical, but it still proves the point of just how good Cook is. 

On top of these standard statistics, Cook has some other very impressive numbers to look at. The graphic linked by this Florida State Football tweet showcases his big-play potential, and proves his worthiness of the title "College Football's Most Explosive Player".

I think the thing hurting Cook the most right now is his one missed game due to injury. Using his averages, here is how Cook's projected numbers would compare to other backs if he hadn't sat out any time:

PlayerGames PlayedAttemptsYPGYPAYardsTouchdowns
Dalvin Cook (projected)11220*1608.0176019.03
Derrick Henry (actual)11249138.7
Leonard Fournette (actual)10239158.26.6158217
Ezekiel Elliott (actual)11232132.56.3145817
Christian McCaffrey (actual)11260140.55.914567

*Adding 18.5 carries for the game against Syracuse and 16.5 for most of the game against Wake Forest (he had two carries, meaning he'd need 16.5 more to get to his average) yields 35 total extra carries.

In this world, Cook would without a doubt be considered the top running back. Still, its tough to give a performance award based on what could have been and projected numbers. Hopefully Cook can have a big game in the season finale against Florida and convince voters that he's the real deal.

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Either way, it will be a difficult task for the Heisman voters to compare Cook to the quarterbacks being considered. Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield is really the only quarterback in contention right now (Deshaun Watson isn't polling particularly well), and he is definitely putting up strong numbers. Cook should have the edge considering how much his team leans on him for offensive production. Mayfield is surrounded and helped out by star playmakers like RB Samaje Perine and WR Sterling Shepard. It very well may end up coming down to who is playing on the more high profile team at the end of the season.

The Heisman race is in turmoil from a running back standpoint. Leonard Fournette has drastically fallen off in the past t games, and Ezekiel Elliott is in hot water over his criticism of Urban Meyer and decision to not return to Ohio State this past week. Derr ick Henry only entered contention a few weeks ago. Dalvin Cook has been the only consistent threat at running back. If Alabama wins out, Henry will have the huge benefit of being on a playoff team, something that is always (for better or for worse) taken into account with the Heisman. If Alabama were to falter however, Dalvin Cook is waiting for his rightful spotlight. 

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