Brandin Cooks: A Potential Rookie Steal
New Orleans came into the 2014 NFL Draft with the 27th overall pick, but didn’t end up picking there. General Manager Mickey Loomis traded up to the 20th overall pick and drafted former Oregon State standout wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
Not many rookies figure to make a large fantasy impact. Certainly, Johnny Manziel will be a player to watch and Bishop Sankey could have some value, but it might end up being Brandin Cooks who scores the most points of all of them.
The circumstances in New Orleans will allow Cooks to become one of the better options at receiver, especially in PPR leagues. The Saints are known to have one of the best passing offenses in the NFL every year. Last year, quarterback Drew Brees was third in the NFL in passing attempts and second in passing yards. Simply put, New Orleans will be throwing the ball a lot in 2014.
Saints Passing Offense Ranks
In 2013, rookie WR Kenny Stills had a big impact for the Saints, despite a crowded receiving corps and limited opportunities. It shows that New Orleans head coach Sean Payton is willing to allow a young pass catcher to get on the field and produce early on. To add some context here, Stills was a fifth-round draft pick and still managed to rack up the fourth-most fantasy points in standard scoring of any rookie receiver in 2013.
By comparison, Cooks was a first-round selection. Not only that, but New Orleans traded up to get him. While Stills is a split end, Cooks is a slot receiver, so the latter can likely expect more targets than Stills saw.
The final piece of the puzzle to consider when contemplating Cooks’ fantasy value is the make-up of the Saints’ roster.
Last year, slot receiver Lance Moore and offensive weapon Darren Sproles (who lined up in the slot 33 percent of the time) combined for 143 targets. Moore and Sproles put up 108 receptions, 1,061 yards and four touchdowns through the air in 2013. With both of them gone, someone will need to pick up the slack.
Look no further than Cooks.
The former Beaver was remarkably productive during his time in Corvallis. In 2013, he caught 128 passes for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns. While he’s not going to do that in his rookie season, it’s reasonable to see him rack up catches and yards.
Cooks will be especially valuable in PPR leagues, as he’s the kind of high-volume pass catcher that the Saints covet.
He ran a 4.33 second 40 yard dash at the Scouting Combine, which was the second-fastest of all times recorded. He also posted the fastest 20-yard and 60-yard shuttle times of anyone at the Combine, showcasing his ability to get in and out of his cuts quickly while maintaining balance and speed.
Cooks has a strong skill set. While he’s only 5’10” tall, New Orleans has made fantasy studs out of Lance Moore (5’9”) and Darren Sproles (5’5”). With both gone, it looks as though Cooks is next in line.
Past that observation, a number of analysts agree that Cooks will be a highly-targeted receiver in his first season.
The writing is on the wall. Cooks is in a position to be a key cog in the Saints offense.
Sean Payton has an interesting weapon at his disposal in this former college standout. While he may just be a rookie, Cooks will benefit from Payton’s creativity, Drew Brees’ golden arm and a fortuitous situation in New Orleans. The Saints’ offense won’t run through Cooks, per se, but he’ll certainly be an important factor. Don’t be surprised if Cooks is able to compete with some of the better slot receivers in the league for a spot on the fantasy leaderboards next year.
It may be tempting to take a flier on Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans, but Cooks is a great bet to pace all rookie wide receivers in production and, ultimately, fantasy points.