This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NFLRankings or the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more 2014 Fantasy Football Rankings visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.
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Brandin Cooks 2014 Fantasy Football Outlook
The New Orleans Saints suggested all offseason that they might be headed toward more of a balanced attack. Then they went and spent their first round draft pick in the 2014 NFL Draft on a wide receiver.
They didn’t just draft any wide receiver, either. They went out and got the exceptionally athletic Brandin Cooks out of Oregon State. It’s one thing to go get a future replacement for an aging Marques Colston. But to go get a speedy, high twitch guy like Cooks? It’s beyond clear the Saints don’t really want to abandon their high-flying ways.
Of course, it’s impossible to read head coach Sean Payton. If we go off of the balanced approach his offense showed in the playoffs, then sure, they’re going to run the ball more and inevitably pass less. But if you go off of this pick, they’ll falling right back into that pass-happy trap.
Fantasy football owners don’t care, though. All they want to know is if Cooks is the real deal, whether or not he can get it done at a high level right away and what his fantasy value is looking like for 2014 and beyond.
Let’s break it all down for Cooks at the next level and assess his fantasy value for the 2014 fantasy football season, as well as Dynasty formats:
Talent and Skill-Set
Mike Evans and Sammy Watkins were the big name wide receivers in this year’s draft, but Cooks certainly wasn’t far behind. No one really had the size and catch radius Evans had to offer, but Cooks had every bit the speed and athleticism of any other top flight receiver in the 2014 NFL Draft.
That’s why the Saints took him and Drew Brees thinks he’ll be able to make an impact right away, saying,”There’s no doubt he’s a guy who has the ability to be a big contributor for us on offense this year.”
That isn’t just Brees being a nice guy or a swell teammate, either. He’s merely speaking the truth about a guy who has the shiftiness, elusiveness and vision to do major damage with the ball in his hands, while he also already had a good knowledge of the route tree and has proven to be a very reliable target.
Cooks’ main flaw is a lack of elite size, but size has never been a problem for Saints wide receivers in the past and Cooks doesn’t rely on stature for his game. Lance Moore got by producing just fine in New Orleans, while Cooks is the much better athlete and possesses better long speed, as well.
Truly, Cooks has a refined skill-set of a veteran receiver and will be able to do whatever the Saints ask of him right out of the gates. Needless to say, his solid polish combined with his elite athleticism bodes well for his fantasy value.
Role With Team
It’s always tricky trying to figure out a rookie’s role with their new team. For Cooks, it looks like he’s going to work his way into the offense as the number two or three option. Marques Colston is aging and arguably regressing, but he will remain as the number one wide receiver in the offense for now, with Cooks settling in with second-year wide receiver Kenny Stills as the second and third options. Both players have skill-sets that probably are best suited for the slot, but they also have the speed and explosiveness to lineup outside, as well.
That makes their exact roles in the offense to get 2014 started a little hazy, although it’s only natural to expect Stills to have a bigger role due to his experience. However, this is a New Orleans Saints offense we’re talking about, so who is second or third shouldn’t really matter. What matters is Jimmy Graham is option one, and then there’s everyone else. Depending on matchups and what Drew Brees sees, the ball will be divided up appropriately.
The exit of Darren Sproles should make things a little interesting, too. Sproles was a yearly threat for 60-70 receptions, and with him in Philadelphia now, those targets will now be split up between Cooks and Stills, with Pierre Thomas also stepping in Sproles’ old third down role (he was featured prominently last year, as well).
With Thomas being the main third down back, New Orleans could look to get their smaller, shifty receivers the ball more on slants and out patterns. If they do, that should keep both Cooks and Stills heavily involved in the offense. Even if that’s not the case, though, they both have the speed to take the top off the defense and will probably rotate on a weekly basis as far as making a significant impact. For now, we need to assume Cooks is the official number three wide receiver as depth charts have shown, and then merely track his status going from there.
Average Draft Position
Right now you can find Cooks somewhere in round nine of fantasy football mock drafts, just ahead of guys like Hakeem Nicks and teammate Kenny Stills, while still behind others such as Mike Wallace and Eric Decker.
Cooks clearly has loads of upside when you factor in his athleticism and the offense he plays in, so it wouldn’t at all be shocking to see his ADP steadily climb.
Redraft and Dynasty Value
In Dynasty leagues, Cooks has insane value and probably needs to be drafted in the first round of rookie draft leagues. The story is different for redraft leagues, though, as his 9th round ADP can attest to. That ADP makes a lot of sense given the fact that he has an unclear role to start his career and is in a system where there are a lot of weapons.
Cooks obviously has upside for some of the same reasons, as well as his own pure talent and athleticism. However, his ceiling as a rookie is probably going to be a low-end WR2. Draft him in round nine or later if you can as a solid WR3 with considerable upside and you won’t be disappointed.