CFB Player Bracket: Dalvin Cook vs Derwin James
Today’s second-round matchup is unique in our 2016 CFB Player Bracket, as it is the first and only duel that has two teammates going against each other. The performance of these two Florida State stars will go a long way in determining how successful the Seminoles will be in 2016. Let’s see who comes out on top — defensive star Derwin James or offensive leader Dalvin Cook?
The case for Dalvin Cook
Cook is one of the most dynamic running backs in the nation and this is supported by the numbers as well: the Seminole gained 1,066 yards on runs that went for more than 15 yards, which was by far the most in college football. While, among the elite running backs, Christian McCaffrey is the most likely to have a long reception, Leonard Fournette is the most likely to break multiple tackles on a run, Dalvin Cook is the one back in the nation who is most likely to break off a big run.
Even Cook’s averages show how often he gets to the second level and how difficult it is to take him to the ground when he does so. Among running backs with at least 50 carries in the Power-5 conferences, Cook averaged the most yards per carry with 7.4. In addition, he was second to only North Carolina’s Elijah Wood in average yards after contact with 4.0. That’s right, Cook averages precisely four yards after contact.
The case for Derwin James
James is one of the most promising and talented sophomores in college football and is expected to be the leader of the Florida State defense in 2016, despite his age and experience. This is not even a projection based on glimpses of James’ play, but something that is expected from him after his overall performance in 2015. This is due to the fact that despite playing only the fourth most snaps on last year’s Seminole defense, James earned the highest grade on that unit with +29.8.
What makes James such an elite defender is that he is versatile and his play does not have a significant weakness. As a result, he was the only safety in the nation last year who earned a grade higher than +6.0 for his pass rushing, pass coverage and run defense as well.
Although James did not show up often on the stat sheet in pass coverage, he was very effective in that facet of the game. He did not record an interception, but neither did he allow a touchdown in coverage. In addition, he allowed a completion percentage of 47.1, which was among the lowest figures in the nation. However, what really set James apart from other safeties are his pass rushing skills. He is already a decent player at his position based on just his production in coverage and in defending the run, but his ability to go after the quarterback elevates him to another level. As a freshman, he recorded 19 total pressures and was credited with a pressure on roughly every third play when he was blitzing. As a comparison, he had six more pressures than USC’s Su’a Cravens on 48 fewer pass rush snaps.
The Verdict: Derwin James advances
What decided this matchup is how complete of a player James is. Whereas Cook is an outstanding runner, he is not a proven pass catcher out of the backfield and can be a liability in pass protection. On the other hand, James excels in run defense and pass coverage as well, while he contributes as a pass rusher too. However, despite James winning this matchup, fans in Tallahassee must be excited about both these players this year.