Should You Draft James Cook or Rachaad White in 2024


The fifth round is actually really, really strong for running backs in fantasy football. 

James Cook and Rachaad White are huge reasons why.

If you go WR/TE heavy to start your draft, both of these players should be on your radar in the fourth/fifth round. However, it is an interesting discussion when choosing between the two. Let’s break it all down, shall we?

James Cook, RB, Buffalo Bills

The Case For Cook

KANSAS CITY, MO – OCTOBER 16: Buffalo Bills running back James Cook (28) before an NFL game between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs on October 16, 2022 at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)

After splitting work with Devin Singletary in 2022, James Cook broke out during his sophomore year. He rushed for 1,122 yards and two touchdowns on 237 carries, while adding 44 receptions for 445 yards and an additional four scores. From a fantasy perspective, Cook was a top-12 running back, but it truly was a tale of two halves for him. During Weeks 1-10, Cook was the RB16 in fantasy, averaging 12 carries, 61.5 yards, 2.4 receptions, 14.4 touches and 12 PPR points per game. And during that stretch, he played 56% of the snaps and handled 54% of the rush attempts. Buffalo remained pass-heavy to open the season, ranking 11th in neutral script pass rate (59.6%) and eighth in early down pass rate (58.3%) during their first 10 games.

And then Joe Brady came along.

Brady took over the Bills offense in a Week 11 game against the Jets, and Buffalo transformed into more of a run-centric unit. From Week 11 on, the Bills actually ranked sixth in neutral-script rush rate (48%) and fell to 11th in early-down pass rate. During that span, Cook became more of a focal point of the offense, averaging 16.7 carries, 72.4 rushing yards, 3.7 targets and 16.7 PPR points per game. He was the RB8 in fantasy to end the season and saw an uptick in pass game usage in Brady’s offense. His target share rose by 4% once Brady took over, while his target per route run rate climbed to 23%. Brady helped Josh Allen take more of what the defense was giving him, rather than being impatient – and that benefited Cook’s receiving usage. During the first 10 games, Allen had a checkdown rate of 9.6%. But in Weeks 11-18, that checkdown rate climbed to nearly 12%. Buffalo’s power run game also took off, as 24.8% of Cook’s carries from Week 11 and beyond came off power concepts, the third-highest rate among running backs with at least 50 attempts. 

Bills Offense Carries Targets Touches FPPG
Without Joe Brady 12.0 2.8 14.4 12.0
With Joe Brady 16.7 3.7 19.6 16.7
Difference +4.7 +0.9 5.2 4.7

Entering the 2024 campaign, Cook should continue to see really strong usage in the pass game. For starters, Stefon Diggs and his annual 160-plus targets are now gone. And while it obviously isn’t a massive sample size, Cook saw his target share rise by nearly 4% when Diggs was off the field last season. Fifty-plus receptions is a very real possibility this season, while Buffalo’s offense shouldn’t look too dissimilar from last year, especially with a brand new wide receiver room. 

The Case Against Cook

Touchdowns can unlock a massive fantasy ceiling. 

Unfortunately, Cook just doesn’t project to score many.

Last season, he scored just two rushing touchdowns. He was rarely called upon when the Bills were in close. In fact, he ranked third on the Bills alone in carries from inside the five-yard line with four. Cook accounted for just 12.5% of Buffalo’s carries from that part of the field, while Allen finished seventh in the league in carries from inside the five-yard line (14). He handled 43.8% of the team’s inside the five carries, while Cook had one lone goal-line carry all year long. The Bills used Allen in the run game more during the second half, especially when in close. Once Brady took over, Allen handled 19% of the team’s designed rush attempts, up from his 10% rate from Weeks 1-10. 

Rachaad White, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Case For White

TAMPA, FL – NOVEMBER 06: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Running Back Rachaad White (29) carries the ball during the regular season game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 06, 2022 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

It’s pretty simple. Volume.

This past season, Rachaad White was essentially always on the field. His 78% snap share trailed only Christian McCaffrey among all running backs, while his 62% rush share ranked third at the position. White finished second in the NFL in carries (272), ninth in targets (70) and fourth in receptions (64). He averaged close to 20 touches per game, and Week 9 kicked off a stretch of tremendous volume. From Week 9 on, White averaged 18 carries and almost 22 touches per game. During that span, he also played nearly 80% of the snaps and handled 70% of Tampa Bay’s total rush attempts. He had six games with at least 20 carries during that stretch, while posting seven top-15 fantasy finishes at his position. Throughout the season, the usage in the pass game was great, as White posted a 13% target share, while ranking top-three in routes run. There simply wasn’t anyone else in the Tampa Bay backfield that was a candidate to take work away from White last year, and entering the 2024 campaign, I’m not entirely sure too much really changes. Sure, the Bucs drafted Bucky Irving in the fourth round, but he doesn’t project as a player who will handle more than a few touches per game.

The Case Against White

It would be more of a concern if Tampa Bay truly had competition in this backfield, but White’s inefficiency definitely raises some eyebrows. According to FTN Data, White averaged just 0.9 second level yards per rush, which ranked fourth-worst among all running backs with at least 75 carries last season. Just 7.7% of his runs went for 10-plus yards, which was the 12th-lowest rate. And finally, his 30.1% success rate was the third-lowest, ahead of only Jamaal Williams and Dameon Pierce. Last year, that didn’t impact his playing time or usage. But with Dave Canales now in Carolina, the Bucs have a new offense and a new system, making it a lot more likely that White could see a drop in usage if he continues to struggle on a per-touch basis. 

The Verdict

Simply put, I think James Cook is a better football player than Rachaad White. But, as we know, that doesn’t always lead to more fantasy production. If Cook wasn’t losing touchdown opportunities to Josh Allen, this honestly wouldn’t even be a discussion. But touchdowns are a huge deal, and no one is taking goal-line carries away from White. However, the loss of Dave Canales concerns me for White, and we saw Buffalo’s change in offense actually help Cook last season. While I started the offseason with White ahead in my rankings, I’ll be moving Cook ahead of him for the rest of the summer.

Previous Whitestone’s Waiver Watch: NFBC Main Event (6/10) Next Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions: The 2024 New York Jets