TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Dalvin Cook would rather not make comparisons with other running backs.
This year’s draft class is particularly loaded and, in Cook’s mind, there’s a place at the next level for everyone.
But, asked if he feels he’s the best of the bunch, Cook didn’t hesitate.
“Definitely,” he said. “Every time I step on the field, I feel like I’m the best player.”
Cook made his case Tuesday when, along with 15 other former Seminoles, he worked out in front of NFL scouts and executives at Florida State’s annual Pro Day.
And he starred in the main event early in the day, when he ran two 40-yard dashes along with several other position drills inside FSU’s indoor practice facility.
Although official times aren’t recorded, most independent measurements released Tuesday had Cook clocking in a faster 40-yard dash than the 4.49-second time he had at the NFL scouting combine last month.
By the time he finished his routine in the early afternoon, Cook was satisfied with all he had done.
“I left everything on the field, and that’s the most important part,” Cook said. “Going out there, giving it your all, giving it everything you’ve got in your body. And I felt like I did that and I had a good overall day.”
With less than a month until the NFL draft begins on April 27, Cook is solidified as perhaps the draft’s top running back prospect and a lock to be selected in the first round.
Sports Illustrated, CBS and USA Today all rate Cook as the top player at his position – ahead of LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey – while NFL.com’s Charley Casserly projects Cook to go eighth overall to the Carolina Panthers.
Meanwhile, a few mock drafts have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selecting Cook at No. 19. Which, of course, would mean a reunion with former FSU teammates Jameis Winston, Roberto Aguayo and Javien Elliott.
That sounds just fine to Cook.
“Jameis is a player that I look up to as a role model,” he said. “To be in the backfield with him, it would be something special.”
Cook has run the pre-draft gauntlet in the last few weeks. After polishing off his collegiate career with an MVP performance in the Orange Bowl, he immediately began training for the NFL combine in Indianapolis.
Since then, Cook has traveled the country to meet and interview with teams while still working out and training as often as possible.
He estimated Tuesday that he’s met with the majority of NFL teams, including several head coaches and general managers.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so I’m embracing the whole experience,” Cook said. “…You’ve really got to be patient about it. It’s like going in to that first game.
“Right now, it’s like fall camp – just working hard, that’s how I’m treating the whole process – I’m in fall camp, getting ready for that first game. And that’s draft day.”
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, meanwhile, said any team that drafts Cook will be getting a “football junkie” who loves the grind of practice as much as he loves the glory of game day.
“He’s in tremendous shape,” Fisher said. “The things he does at the beginning of the game, he does in the fourth quarter. He takes himself to levels because of his competitive drive. It means something to him.
“We knew if we gave him the ball, good things were going to happen.”
No kidding. Cook claimed both single-season and career rushing records during his three-year career at FSU, and he had 10 career runs of at least 50 yards.
CBSSports’ Dane Brugler compared Cook to Hall-of-Famer Marshall Faulk, while Lance Zierlein of NFL.com compared him to fellow Miami native Edgerrin James.
And while Cook might not want to compare himself to other running backs in the current class, draft analysts were more than happy to do it for him.
“On the field,” ESPN’s Todd McShay said, “I think his tape was even more impressive than Fournette and anyone else in this class.”
Cook may have been the top draw at Pro Day, but he was hardly the only Seminole to attract a crowd.
Defensive end DeMarcus Walker and lineman Roderick Johnson both held heavily-anticipated workouts after sitting out the on-field portion of the combine last month.
Walker ran the 40-yard dash and other drills, and he impressed by loudly and violently tearing through tackling dummies – after which he exclaimed, “I came to put on a show.”
“Heck yeah,” Walker said with a smile when asked if he thought he boosted his draft stock.
“My film is awesome. My numbers, no one is better – D-tackle, D-end,” he said. “They just wanted me to come out and show it to them. That was my only thing. I had to come out here at Pro Day to show them.”
Quarterback Sean Maguire, lineman Kareem Are, fullback Freddie Stevenson, receivers Travis Rudolph, Kermit Whitfield and Bobo Wilson and cornerback Marquez White were among the other Seminoles to work out on Tuesday.
A few familiar faces participated in the event as well. Defensive back Tyler Hunter and tight end Kevin Haplea worked out, as did Marvin Bracy, the former FSU receiver who cut his collegiate career short to pursue a professional track career.
Bracy, Whitfield’s cousin, represented the United States at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Fisher said he was impressed by all the performances he caught during Pro Day, and noted that the spotlight that comes with playing at FSU may have helped some of the players feel better prepared for what is essentially one of the biggest job interviews of their lives.
“I thought they were crisp,” Fisher said. “I thought they were sharp. I think they came ready for the day. And I think part of being at Florida State helps with that. You’re used to playing in big environments and atmospheres and around big-time people, games, players. It’s kind of expected.
“They looked really comfortable to me today, and I thought they performed well.”