The Georgia Bulldogs’ 2021-2022 National Championship season brought a lot of relatively unknown players to national attention.
Running back James Cook III was a little-used change of pace back prior to this year. While he played in a lot of games, he saw only sporadic use. and spent most of his career at Georgia biding his time on a stacked depth chart. Cook got his chance as a senior and emerged as an unlikely weapon as both a runner and receiver for the Bulldogs.
Cook is undersized, but his quickness, agility, and
The New York Giants’ running back depth chart could be a question going into the 2022 season. Could Cook be an intriguing piece of an offensive overhaul?
Prospect: James Cook III
Games Watched: vs. Missouri (2020), vs. Alabama (2020), vs. Clemson (2021), vs. Alabama (2022)
Games Played: 41
Yards (YPC): 1,503 (6.5 per carry)
Yards (YPC): 730 (10.9 per catch)
Total Touchdowns (rushing/receiving): 20 (14 rushing, 6 receiving)
Games Played: 15
Yards (YPC): 728 (6.4 per carry)
Yards (YPC): 284 (10.5 per catch)
Total Touchdowns (rushing/receiving): 11 (7 rushing, 4 receiving)
Best: Athleticism, contact balance, vision, receiving
Worst: Size, play strength
Projection: An important change of pace back with scheme versatility
James Cook III is an undersized but highly athletic and versatile running back prospect from the University of Georgia.
Cook usually ran out of a shotgun alignment and is at home in zone blocking schemes. He shows great patience behind the line of scrimmage, waiting for his blocks to be established. Cook is quick to identify holes, showing great vision to track and anticipate defenders, as well as pick out cutback lanes. He has more than enough quickness and burst to capitalize on his vision and mental processing, and has the ability to change direction remarkably quickly.
While Cook is undersized, his quickness, vision, and contact balance allow him to be effective running in traffic. He does a good job of lowering his center of gravity and is able to weather glancing blows or run through arm tackles. Cook is able to pick up tough yardage, though he does it with quickness and using his agility to alter defenders’ angles.
Cook is a very good receiving back, both out of the backfield and split out as a wide receiver. Cook runs good routes and is even able to use his route running to create separation down the field. He is a natural “hands” catcher who routinely extends to catch the ball away from his body and looks the ball into his hands. Cook is also a willing pass protector and doesn’t hesitate to take on defenders or use his body on cut blocks.
Teams will want to ask why it took so long for Cook to see consistent snaps in Georgia’s backfield, though the lineage of players preceding Cook offer a ready answer.
A bigger concern will likely be Cooks’ size and play strength. He is relatively undersized at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, and teams will likely wonder about his ability to handle a larger workload. Likewise, he is much more effective as a cut blocker in pass protection and can be overwhelmed when asked to block linebackers or bigger safeties one-on-one. Teams will also need to be careful of the situations in which they use Cook. He isn’t a “pile mover” and isn’t ideal for short-yardage situations in a power offense.
Overall Grade: 7.5
James Cook III likely projects as a number two, or important “change of pace” back at the NFL level. He would likely have been called a “third down back” in previous years, though modern offenses have recognized the usefulness of pass catching runners on all three downs.
Cook will have the most value for teams that run zone blocking schemes and make heavy use of their running backs in the passing game. Cooks’ ability to effectively play receiver will allow his future offense a wide variety of options with regards to alignment, motion, and misdirection. While Cook likely isn’t the same caliber of player as Alvin Kamara has been in the NFL, he offers a similar skillset in his ability as a runner and receiver.
And Cook is an exciting runner in addition to his upside as a receiver. He plays quickly and is tougher to bring down than his size would suggest. He is very capable of picking his way through the traffic at the line of scrimmage and breaking off big runs for chunk yardage in the open field.
Despite being a fourth-year senior, Cook hasn’t had many touches in college. Nearly half of his 297 collegiate touches (230 carries, 67 receptions) came in his senior year (113 carries, 27 receptions). That low touch rate should mean that he enters the NFL with quite a bit of tread on his metaphorical tires.