Brandin Cooks Fantasy 2016Back in 2014 I predicted Brandin Cooks would be the offensive rookie of the year. Little did I know my team had landed the wunderkind of that draft class, Odell Beckham, while Cooks quietly settled in as an afterthought behind a slew of 2014 rookie sensations. I may have been overzealous about Cooks’ rookie ceiling, but his NFL peak still stands to reach new heights. Coming off a sophomore campaign in which he caught 84 receptions for 1,138 yards and 9 TDs, Brandin Cooks is about to hit the third year stride we used to judge receivers on (before 2014 broke the mold).
Cooks’ calling card is his athleticism. Taking a closer look using PlayerProfiler’s Data Analysis tool, two simple filters put him in an elite class of wide receivers. He is one of nine players in the database with an Agility Score less than 10.90 seconds and a College Dominator Rating greater than 34-percent, joining names like Odell Beckham, Amari Cooper, Emmanuel Sanders and Alshon Jeffery. His off-the-charts lateral quickness gives him a distinct advantage in short and intermediate routes and helps him evade tacklers in the open field. This was evidenced by his 385 yards after the catch in 2015. On top of his agility, Cooks also possesses once-in-a-generation straight-line speed (4.33 40-yard dash) and has an estimated Nike SPARQ-x score in the 98th percentile. It is these characteristics that not only make Cooks a part of this class of wide receivers but also stand out among them athletically.
Big Man on Campus
Did I mention he’s only 22? Making him a dynasty treasure and very appealing at his current late-second, early-third-round ADP. For those that think Cooks can’t be a true No. 1, it is important to remember just how dominant he was in college and at a very young age. Let’s not forget, Cooks was a guy that beat out Odell Beckham, Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans for the Biletnikoff Award. He hauled in 128 catches for 1,730 yards and 16 TDs during that award-winning season (as a 20-year-old), showing he has all the makings to be a target hog at the next level.
Fact: Only 22 Division I players have eclipsed 1,700 yards in the last 60 years. Cooks was one of them.
The most exciting element of Cooks’ 2016 outlook is his opportunity. With Marques Colston retiring and Benjamin Watson gone, Cooks holds more rapport than anyone with Drew Brees. He’s the No. 1 receiver in an offense that threw the ball 699 times last season (second-most in the NFL), armed by a Hall of Fame quarterback with sublime accuracy (ranked second in completion percentage two years running). It wouldn’t be shocking to see Cooks receive a significant jump from his already respectable 129 targets in 2015. If he were to maintain his 65-percent catch rate, a 25-target bump alone would put him over the century mark in receptions.
To further cement his case for a continual rise, the marked improvement year-over-year (especially down the stretch of 2016) speaks for itself. Following his lackluster rookie campaign, Matt Harmon analyzed Cooks in his ever-popular Reception Perception. Cooks’ scores were underwhelming to say the least, but you could see he made strides as a sophomore on film. He got off to a slow start, but was absolutely lethal down the stretch. His ability to get open over the top in the second half of the season, was borderline unparalleled. The game splits really shine light on that.
In the final nine games of 2015, Cooks was on a near 90-catch pace for 1,234 yards and 14 TDs, which would have had him ranked as the WR6 in PPR formats. His numbers support his improved effort running routes on the field and the chemistry he continues to build with Drew Brees.
Harmon’s study also showed Cooks was at or above the league average on post, out and go routes as a rookie. As a sophomore, Cooks was even more productive running these routes. This evidenced an increased respect from defensive backs underneath and better route nuance from Cooks, selling the fakes that provided a window for him to beat defenders over the top. In fact, six of his nine scores came on deep post or go routes.
The Good Word
Brandin Cooks showed us all in college he belongs in an elite class of wide receivers. He has the statistics and awards to back it up. He also carries one of the more impressive athletic profiles in all of professional football, with one of the more appetizing opportunity shares in the league. The year-over-year improvement statistically and on film speaks for itself as well. If you don’t think Brandin Cooks can ascend to upper echelon WR1 status, you are kidding yourself. Don’t be the guy that regrets passing on Cooks come draft day. Buy all the Brandin Cooks stock you can and thank me later.
See where our in-house expert Gridiron Experts ranks Cooks for 2016.