May 29, 2014; Metairie, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston (12) and wide receiver Kenny Stills (84) run with teammates during offseason team activities at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
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 Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose.
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Who Do You Draft: Brandin Cooks or Kenny Stills?
The New Orleans Saints are getting a little more explosive on offense. Second-year wide receiver Kenny Stills is looking for a bigger role after impressing in spurts as a rookie in 2013, while the team added athletic Oregon State product Brandin Cooks in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Both of these young speedsters appear to be very much on the rise, and while they’re absolutely still behind tight end Jimmy Graham on the Saints’ passing totem pole, it’s worth wondering if they can ascend past Marques Colston.
Colston has been battling foot issues the past couple of years and has slowly turned into more of a pedestrian possession option. He’s benefited from the Saints’ offensive system more than the system has from him as of late, while his best asset appears to now be restricted to the red-zone.
Colston is still firmly expected to man down a starting spot on the outside, but it’s entirely possible he could start losing time on the field to younger and more athletic options like Cooks and Stills.
Former slot demon Lance Moore is gone after being let loose during free agency too, opening the door for either Stills or Cooks to take over as the team’s number two wide receiver. Whoever sticks in the third spot will also have some value worth considering from week to week thanks to how potent New Orleans can be, but one of them has to carry more fantasy value than the other.
For now, the rookie Cooks is projected to fill the slot role as the third receiver, with Stills operating as a field stretcher on the outside.
That basically means nothing. Both of these guys are smaller talents (six feet or smaller) and rely on speed, quickness and explosiveness to beat the opposition.
The most logical way to use them is to rotate them in their two roles. Both are equipped to win on the outside, beat corners deep and do major damage in the slot. It only will make sense to switch things up depending on matchups and allow them both to create mismatches in different areas on the field.
So, who holds more fantasy value going into the 2014 fantasy football season?
Unfortunately, that’s borderline impossible to predict.
On one hand, no quarterback had a better passer rating throwing to one receiver than Drew Brees did when he targeted Stills in 2013 (139.3). Stills was remarkably efficient, making the most of just 32 receptions by burning defenses for 641 receiving yards and five touchdowns as a rookie (good for 20.0 yards per catch).
Despite his limited opportunities, Stills posted four games with 75+ receiving yards. He never caught more than four passes in a single game.
While he has tremendous upside, it’s also worth wondering if Stills is equipped already in just his second season to handle a much bigger load. Will the efficiency be the same if he takes over Lance Moore’s old role and aims for 60+ receptions?
The good thing with Stills is we’ve already seen him dominate in flashes. He has a good rapport with Brees in place, knows the system and has experience he can hang his hat on. So far, Cooks has none of that.
Cooks is arguably the more complete talent, as he offers more versatility and can be moved around in different spots in the offense.
That versatility probably explains why he’s being taken in the ninth round in fantasy mock drafts on average right now, while Stills is taken two rounds later in round 11.
At least on the surface, Stills still comes off as a one-trick pony. He’s a deep threat who can either track the ball down the field or take a short catch and go the distance. Cooks appears to be able to do more, while as a rookie he carries that untapped upside and wonder.
In fantasy football, that limitless potential is what we tend to chase, which naturally puts Cooks just a little bit ahead of Stills.
Once we factor in the loss of Darren Sproles and Lance Moore, we start to see a good amount of receptions being left up for grabs (108, to be exact).
With Cooks projected as a “move” piece in the offense, it’s understandable that many see him as the benefactor here. For now, that’s how we have to value him, which should correctly give him a 1-2 round edge on Stills.
While Cooks appears to be the preferred option, remember that ADP (Average Draft Position) is very fluid and things can change leading up to week one. Of course, 1-2 rounds isn’t a great separation, while anyone with the skill-set both of these guys have could absolutely crush it in New Orleans’ system. In other words, Cooks is probably the one to own right now, but both of these guys should carry at least WR3 value heading into 2014.