INDIANAPOLIS - Among Eagles fans, Dalvin Cook is one of the most talked-about NFL Scouting Combine prospects.
Cook's style - his vision, his quick change of gears, his "rare ability to cut it all the way back across the grain," as described in his NFL.com draft profile - maybe those attributes remind the Eagles' faithful of a running back they used to watch, LeSean McCoy.
But Cook, from Florida State, has a chance to do something in the draft McCoy couldn't do coming out of Pitt in 2009. Right now, Cook is widely projected as a first-round draft pick, just behind LSU's Leonard Fournette in what is touted as an exceptional draft class of running backs. Mock drafts often place Cook in the teens, right around where the Eagles pick. (A coin flip Friday at 12:30 p.m. will settle the 14-15 order between the Eagles and the Indianapolis Colts.)
Would the Eagles draft a running back in the first round? They lack a true No. 1 in the tradition of McCoy, Brian Westbrook or Duce Staley. But none of those guys was taken in the first round. McCoy was a second-rounder, Westbrook and Staley thirds. The Eagles haven't drafted a running back in the first round since taking Keith Byars 10th overall in 1986. Byars ended up working mainly as a receiver.
Conventional NFL wisdom warns against first-round running backs. It hasn't been a run-first league in a long time. Even good backs tend to have ridiculously short primes. (C.J. Spiller went four slots ahead of Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham in 2010 and ran for 1,244 yards in 2012. Three teams released Spiller last season.)
The ground is littered with overdrafted busts, such as Trent Richardson, taken third overall by the Browns in 2012. The Eagles are often held up as an example of a team that has found exceptional RB production after the first round, but there are plenty of others. Current Eagles personnel vice president Joe Douglas was with the Bears last year when they took Jordan Howard in the fifth round, three spots before the Birds nabbed Wendell Smallwood. Howard gained 1,313 yards on 252 carries as a rookie.
But one of the scouting combine topics du jour is whether Ezekiel Elliott has made it OK to go high for a running back again, after Dallas drafted Elliott fourth overall last season and he helped transform the Dallas offense, running for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Because of Elliott, Fournette definitely seems slated for the top 10. What will be the effect on Cook and the other three or four backs who seem to have first-round talent?
"It just goes to show, if a running back gets put in the right system, put in the right place, he can do a great amount of things for a team," Cook said Thursday, standing upon a combine podium. "I feel like if I get put in the right system, I can do the same things Zeke did."
NFL teams, including the Eagles, were eager to get a look this week at Cook's shoulders. He has had three surgeries, two during his Florida State career.
"My shoulders are stable, they're solid, I'm ready to go," Cook said. An NFL medical source confirmed that teams were satisfied with what they found.
Asked whether it was tough to be physical after shoulder surgery, Cook said: "My second time, I was, like, 'Man, I know I'm going to bounce back and be the player that I wanted to be.' But the first time going through it, it is (difficult). It's your shoulders. It's something you use every play, so the first time going through it, you really have to get the feel for it again. My second time, it was, like, 'Man, it's a rodeo for me, so I'm going to do it again.' "
Cook said he sees himself as having a similar style to Jamaal Charles, the workhorse back Kansas City released this week. Eagles coach Doug Pederson, who was Kansas City's offensive coordinator until last year, acknowledged Wednesday that the Birds will check out Charles as they look for running game help. (Charles, 30, has played only eight games the past two seasons. It's hard to see him fitting into the Eagles' attempts to build a foundation around quarterback Carson Wentz.)
"Jaamal's been banged up a lot, but when he was healthy, when he was full-go, I definitely patterned my game behind him, the things he did," Cook said. "Not a big back. Shifty. Can run downhill. Every-down back."
Cook clocked in at 5-10, 210 pounds in Indianapolis. Charles is listed as 5-11, 199.
Two negatives mentioned in Cook's scouting reports are blocking and ball security.
"My pass 'pro' is not a weakness, but it's a thing I can get better on," Cook said. "That's all about will and you wantin' to do it. That'll just take a little bit of time and me wanting to do it. That next level, the quarterback gets paid top dollar on the team, and you're going to have to take care of the quarterback."
Cook logged 16 fumbles at Florida State, two on the big Rose Bowl stage on Jan. 1, 2015, contributing to a blowout loss to Oregon.
"After the game, I faced the media, because it was something that's on me. You've got to take care of the ball as a running back," he said. "It's something that I watch a lot of tape on. It's always the man you don't see. When you're fighting for those extra yards, you've got to take care of that football, and 'chinning' the ball is something I worked on, and I feel like I improved on it."
Dalvin's younger brother, James Cook, is also a running back, who has committed to Florida State and is scheduled to enter in 2018. Asked what he would tell his brother about this process and the combine, Dalvin said he would tell him to savor it.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing. It's something that you always dream of and once you get here, take full advantage of it," he said. "Don't just be wanting to leave here. I wish we had another couple of days here. I'm having a lot of fun around these guys.
"This is the best competition in the country, so getting to know these guys is something different for me. I'm enjoying the process."