Editor's note: NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein will "dare to compare" prospects to NFL players throughout the college football season. This week, he provides a scouting report and comp for Florida State's Dalvin Cook, who earned an A+ for his performance on Saturday vs. Miami.
I ranked Dalvin Cook as my No. 2 running back to watch heading into the season. His yards per carry, touchdowns and explosive rushes are down from last season, but he's still one of the best in the game at creating yardage for himself when his offensive line fails to step up.
Cook has also made a habit of cranking up some of his biggest performances in spotlight games. He hung 194 rushing yards on Clemson last season, averages 163 yards rushing per game against Florida and has 588 yards along with 6 total touchdowns in 3 games against rival Miami. Here's a look at what NFL evaluators will see when they watch Cook's tape.
Cook runs with excellent patience and shows an ability to set his blockers up without doing much dancing in the backfield. Cook's quick-cut ability can torment linebackers who are overly aggressive in their pursuit. One of the things that will appeal to NFL teams is his ability to flourish in both zone (inside/outside) and gap schemes. When it's time to accelerate through the crease, he can flip the switch and get on top of linebackers before they know what hit them.
Cook can change direction with a degree of subtlety on the second level and rarely gears down much for his cuts. Because he maintains quality play speed, Cook can escape safety help and hit the big play. Cook had a touchdown run of 94 yards last year and has one of 75 yards this year. Cook hasn't been leaned on heavily as a receiver over the years, but his catch totals are up this year and he's made 4 catches for 25-plus yards so far in in 2016.
Cook has the build of an every-down back (5-foot-11, 213 pounds, per school measurements), but he's more of a slasher than an "impose-his-will" type of runner. Cook doesn't always accelerate into and through the tackle. He shows a willingness to give into the tackle a little too often. While Cook can run with some authority when needed, he might have to access that part of his game more often once he finds his way into the NFL, where he will be chased and tackled by speedier and more athletic defenders.
Ball security was a concern for Cook over his first two seasons after putting the ball on the ground seven times during that span, but he's fumbled only once this season. Still, scouts are keeping a close eye on how Cook takes care of the ball.
Cook was found not guilty of punching a woman outside of a Tallahassee, Fla., bar last year, but teams figure to do a substantial amount of digging around the alleged incident.
Cook has good size, terrific burst, elusiveness, the ability to play in every scheme and the talent to play on all three downs. When I take into account his body type, playing style and projected potential in the NFL, I see former Miami Hurricanes running back Clinton Portis. I know, Seminoles fans ... and I'm sorry.
Now, keep in mind that I'm talking about the Hurricanes and Denver Broncos version of Portis and not the version that the Washington Redskins turned into a grinder between the tackles. Portis had phenomenal one-cut ability in Denver's zone scheme, with the ability to bury defenses once he surged past the second level. I see those exact traits in Cook. Lateral agility and field vision are other qualities that both running backs share. The one area where Portis excelled and where Cook has to improve is in blitz recognition and pickup.