Will James Cook Deliver for the Bills and Fantasy Teams in 2022?
As the third RB selected in this year’s draft class, James Cook landed with the Buffalo Bills at spot No. 63. Buffalo has been attempting to upgrade at the position in recent years particularly with a pass-catching back, as they were rumored to be after Travis Etienne in 2020 and they nearly signed J.D. McKissic this offseason. Cook finds himself in a fantastic spot in a solid offense and Buffalo has their guy, a versatile back who has the potential for fantasy goodness right away.
James Cook the Bulldog
The volume numbers for Cook don’t necessarily flash among other RBs due to the timeshare system at Georgia, but what he did with his work was impressive. He rushed 113 times for 728 yards and seven touchdowns last season, but where he made the doughnuts was as a receiving threat. He nabbed 27 passes for 284 yards and four scores in 2021, with a hefty 10.5 yards per reception, and his 7.2 average yards from scrimmage was ninth among all college RBs last season.
According to Sports Info Solutions, Cook landed in the top 5 in total points rating per route and receiving total points per game, and the top 7 in yards per route run, as shown in this photo below.
Georgia utilized Cook all over the field, and his versatility is something to be excited about. The 22-year-old did it all, from swing passes to angle routes, slot work, and even out wide. While known for his receiving prowess, Cook has also shown breakaway ability as a rusher with decent burst.
What does James Cook Mean for Buffalo’s Offense?
The Bills would not have spent second-round capital on a running back if they don’t intend to feature him in their offense. GM Brandon Beane alluded to using Cook in a hybrid role, which is drool-worthy for managers in any points-per-reception format.
Brandon Beane said that they view James Cook as sort of a wide receiver. He mentions that the Bills didn't get JD McKissic and Cook is someone that could fill a similar role in the offense for the #Bills.
— Matt Parrino (@MattParrino) April 30, 2022
The Bills only targeted their backs at 15% and 14% in 2021 and 2020 respectively, and that should be elevated this year with a true pass-catcher at the position. Out of 62 qualifying backs, Devin Singletary ranked 60th with Zack Moss 48th in receiving grade via PFF.
Cook projects as a fantasy asset with standalone value, considering the Bills actively pursued a back of his archetype. There is also the built-in upside if something were to happen to Singletary. Add in the Buffalo offense as a whole and you have the perfect Zero-RB candidate, a guy who could certainly peak as the season chugs along, with a palatable price tag (UD RB42). Cook has legit potential to crack the top-36 fantasy backs this year.
We can’t toss Devin Singletary aside, and neither will the Bills. He should act as their primary back, with Cook taking over change-of-pace duties from Zack Moss and Duke Johnson. The rookie could steal high-value touches from Singletary in the passing game though, considering his inefficiency last year in that area. The veteran is currently being drafted as an RB3 in Underdog drafts which seems about right considering his three-down role is in question.
Moss and Johnson will most likely be left with scraps in this backfield and are nothing more than last-round stabs. Another player who may be affected by Cook’s arrival is Isaiah McKenzie, who has been used in a hybrid role in the past. If Beane’s comments about using the rookie as a WR come to fruition, McKenzie could see very few targets in this offense.
- The Bills spent significant draft capital on James Cook and they intend to deploy him in a hybrid-type role which is a confidence booster for fantasy purposes.
- Cook has the potential to be a fantasy RB3 or better, particularly in any format that rewards points for receptions. He is currently being drafted as RB42 in the 13th round, but I suspect that will change as the off-season rolls along.
- Devin Singletary gets a downgrade due to Cook’s presence but is still considered an RB3 due to his perceived role as the lead back. Both Zack Moss and Duke Johnson are relegated to dart throw territory, along wth WR Isaiah McKenzie.