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Brandin Cooks Fantasy Football Stock Profile: Bringing Big Play Potential To A Championship Team

Brandin Cooks

Position: Wide Receiver

Former Team: New Orleans Saints

New Team: New England Patriots

 Movement Summary

In a very surprising move for a Belichick-run team, Brandin Cooks was shipped (along with a fourth rounder) to the Patriots for New England’s first and third round picks. The Saints receiving core was getting a little crowded with Michael Thomas, Willie Snead, and newly-acquired Ted Ginn Jr., and Cooks drew the short straw. And by ‘drew the short straw’, of course I mean ‘got traded to the team that’s won two Super Bowls in the last three seasons’. Not a bad deal for the 23-year-old Cooks, who will play out the final year of his four-year, $8.3 million deal in New England. Let’s see what his fantasy prospects are like in his new spot:

Talent: 9.5/10

Three players have accumulated 75 receptions, 1,000 receiving yards, and 8 TDs in each of the last 2 seasons: Odell Beckham, Jr.Antonio Brown, and Cooks. So yeah, the talent is there. Cooks has also benefited from a potent, pass-happy offense for the first 3 years of his career, so it’ll be interesting to see how effective he can be in a more balanced attack. When talking about Cooks recently, Patriots owner Robert Kraft was quoted as saying, “Since I’ve owned the team, the only player that could make an impact like that at wide receiver was Randy Moss,” which is essentially the highest praise possible for a young wide receiver. Cooks doesn’t possess Moss’ height (he’s just 5’10”), but his speed, hands, and explosiveness are undoubtedly Moss-esque.

Aside from his size, Cooks is a physical specimen. He had the best 40-yard dash time in his draft class at 4.33, and also topped his class in the 20-yard shuttle (3.81) and 60-yard shuttle (10.72). That 40-time is exactly what allows him to get open on streak routes — when he’s essentially just running in a straight line — and his quickness will be lethal in the Patriots’ quick-striking offense.

The perfect example of his elite speed is on display below: the quick stutter step at the line of scrimmage allows him to gain separation, and his incredible speed allows him to outrun the corner and safety and cruise to the end zone.

Breakdown that play a bit. When Cooks catches the ball at his own 30 yard line, the CB is 2 yards behind him, and the safety is closing in from the middle of the field. By the time he reaches the other 30 yard line, he’s created 5+ yards of space from both of them, and the play’s essentially over. Those are NFL defensive backs he’s running from there, and he’s making them look like peewee players with cinder blocks on their feet. THAT is speed.

Ultimately, Cooks’ size can leave him susceptible to struggling against physical, bump-and-run corners, but the intangibles can’t be ignored, and he presents a prolific weapon for New England’s offense.

Opportunity and Usage: 7.5/10

This is where Cooks’ stock takes a bit of a hit. Not because Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels won’t be able to work Cooks into their offensive scheme — they will, and he’ll get his opportunities. But part of the reason the Patriots are so difficult to beat is because they essentially choose a new player to feature every week. One week it’ll be Danny Amendola, and the next week it’ll be Chris Hogan or Dion Lewis. Now, Cooks will certainly get his week or two over the course of the season to rack up 9 catches, 150 yards and 2 TDs, but those will undoubtedly be balanced by weeks of 3 catches for 45 yards. That’s the main issue: you just never know.

Cooks certainly isn’t doomed, and in a way the plethora of weapons the Patriots employ will help in getting some attention away from Cooks and opening up more opportunities for big plays, but there’s certainly some risk involved.

Coaching Scheme: 8.5/10

This goes along with the Opportunity and Usage a bit. Josh McDaniels is a great offensive coach. Yes, he was given talents like Brady and Rob Gronkowski, but after that here’s his offense: a college QB, a college lacrosse player, a small, injury-prone receiver, and a few undersized running backs. And he turned that into a Super Bowl-winning offense. So there’s no doubt in my mind that McDaniels will be able to concoct a package of plays that are so perfect for Brandin Cooks, they’ll bring a tear to your eye. The problem is, we may not see those plays for weeks at a time because the Patriots love to emphasize different pieces of their offense each week. It’s why, aside from Gronk, the highest a New England pass-catcher has ranked in standard fantasy scoring over the past 2 years is 25th (Julian Edelman in 2016). Cooks will get ample opportunity to produce and showcase his talent in the Patriots offense, but McDaniels’ system could hinder his fantasy production a bit.

Surrounding Talent: 9.5/10

It’s hard to start your career with Drew Brees throwing passes to you and then upgrade QBs, but that’s exactly what Cooks is doing here. Tom Brady is defying everything we know about the football/Father Time relationship, and he recently told Robert Kraft he would love to play six or seven more seasons. With that confidence and considering how he played in 2016, don’t expect any drop-off in production for TB12. Gronkowski looks set to return from the multitude of injuries that kept him off the field for over half of last season, and although his health is arguably the biggest question mark in the NFL, he’s undeniably the best tight end in the league when healthy. NFL touchdown leader LeGarrette Blount looks unlikely to return and has been replaced by Rex Burkhead, who will join James White and Dion Lewis in a very talented backfield. And, of course, Cooks will team up with Edelman, Amendola, Hogan, and Malcolm Mitchell to create an absolutely terrifying receiving core. As far as talented offenses go, the Patriots are the cream of the crop, and Cooks only solidifies that heading into 2017. Having so many mouths to feed is the only real reason this isn’t a 10.

Risk: 9/10

As I highlighted with the statistic to start the “Talent” section, Cooks has been incredibly consistent over his first 3 years in the league. Part of the reason he’s been able to do this is health – since missing the last 6 games of his rookie season with a wrist injury, he’s yet to miss a game in 2 seasons. His size obviously leaves him susceptible to injury, but it hasn’t been much of an issue to date, so there’s no reason to think that won’t continue. And at just 23 years old, age will not be becoming a factor any time soon, so we can cross that off the list.

Overall, Cooks represents a low-risk, high-reward weapon for New England, which is exactly what prompted Bill Belichick to pull the trigger and ship out multiple draft picks for him.

Overall Stock Score: 44/50, B+

Ceiling Projection: 95 catches, 1,450 yards, 12 TDs

Floor Projection: 75 catches, 1,000 yards, 5 TDs

Bottom Line: Cooks finds himself in an offense that’s borderline overcrowded with talent, but with electric speed and phenomenal big play potential, he’ll certainly find a way to stand out in New England, and is definitely worth a look in the Round 3-5 area. Should he be groomed as Edelman slot replacement, Cooks would haul in massive reception totals and YAC, and have a real shot at reaching his lofty ceiling.

2017 Predicted Stat Line: 85 catches, 1,200 yards, 9 TDs

We used this formula to nail David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott in 2016. Check back for more Fantasy Stock Profiles throughout the off-season to stay ahead of your fantasy football league.

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