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Dalvin Cook loves the Buccaneers, but do they love him?

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NFL Combine - Day 2 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers keep getting linked to Florida State running back Dalvin Cook. Hey, the Bucs really do like spending high draft picks on players who played their college football at a Florida school, and Cook does kind of fit their needs.

It doesn’t hurt that the running back likes the Bucs, too. Cook talked to the media at the NFL Scouting Combine today and noted that he’d love to play with Jameis Winston for the Bucs, even saying that he and Winston, who he played with in college, still keep in contact.

A dream come true. Yeah, I did play with Jameis. It was like a half a year. The games and the experiences that we had it was something that I will always remember. He’s one of those quarterbacks he’s going to always make sure you’re doing the right thing. You’re on top of it. You’re being a player he knows you can be. He’s just one of those leaders that you just want to be around.

Cool. Also not too unusual: players usually say they’d love to play for local teams, and with former teammates. So this is an easy two-for-one for Cook.

The question is: do the Bucs love Cook enough to draft or even trade up for him? There’s two problems here: one are the vague but persistent rumors about some kind of off-field question marks. The other are the Bucs’ needs and how they view their running back situation.

With Doug Martin out of rehab and the Bucs vaguely optimistic about his ability to participate this offseason, do they want to spend a first-round pick on a running back? Especially when they still have Charles Sims, seem likely to re-sign Jacquizz Rodgers, and like Peyton Barber? How busy can your running back group get?

While running backs seem to becoming more prominent, the Bucs do have needs elsewhere and might be better served looking at wide receivers and tight ends — or safeties and defensive ends on the other side of the ball.

And even if they do turn out to want Cook, the final question is: will he even be available for them at number nineteen?

Ultimately, a lot of this will be determined by Doug Martin’s status, and the Bucs’ moves in free agency. If they sign a pair of backs, don’t expect them to target one high in the draft. If they fill all of their needs except running back in free agency — maybe they are targeting a back.

Meanwhile, we’re in wait and see mode.