MOBILE, Ala. — Georgia tailback James Cook has unexpectedly pulled out of the Senior Bowl, a disappointment to several of the NFL teams that had wanted to see the Bulldogs’ tailback.
Georgia linebacker Quay Walker will also not participate during the Senior Bowl week of activity, but Walker’s absence is related to an injury and is viewed differently than Cook’s surprise decision.
The Bulldogs will still have a record number (six) of players participating in the practices, which take place Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday leading up to the game at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday (TV: NFL Network).
Cook’s scratch might ultimately end up costing him in the NFL draft, as teams were interested in seeing him take repetitions at wide receiver.
The more versatile a player is, the more teams he will draw interest from.
Cook showed a remarkable ability catching the football out of the backfield at Georgia, and he commonly took repetitions out of the slot in practices, as well.
Cook’s stock was on the rise the second half of the season, as he asserted himself as a runner and receiver and made a good case for himself as the Orange Bowl MVP in the 34-11 win over Michigan.
Cook had 144 yards and a touchdown on 10 touches in the victory over the Wolverines, including a 53-yard catch.
Against Alabama, Cook broke loose on a 67-yard run that changed the momentum of the CFP Championship Game, helping spark the Bulldogs’ 33-18 victory.
NFL analyst Todd McShay referred to Cook as “the most underrated RB” in the upcoming draft.
“He may never be the every-down starter for an NFL team, but he’s such a versatile weapon,” McShay said. “Love his vision and twitch as a runner and he’s a legit receiving threat in the slot and out of the backfield.”
UGA quarterback Stetson Bennett explained how Cook causes problems for opponents.
“He creates matchups that a lot of people can’t do, Bennett said. “Are you going to play a DB on him, or are you going to put a linebacker on him? That’s a tough decision for a defensive coordinator to make.”
NFL head coaches and general managers were hoping to see for themselves this week, but they will need to rely on game film.
Cook’s next opportunity to impress will be at the NFL combine (March 1-6). Cook will be looking to improve his 40-yard dash speed.
All of the Georgia backs were clocked above 4.5 seconds in the team’s unofficial offseason team combine last summer.
Zamir White, Cook’s backfield mate at UGA, also surprised many people earlier in the offseason evaluation process by declining an opportunity to compete at the Senior Bowl.
Typically, players who are not projected in the first half of the first round do not pass up the opportunity to compete one-on-one with other draft prospects with the NFL head coaches, general managers and scouts all on hand.