FA Expectancy: Brandin Cooks

Cooks Patriots

Throughout the offseason, I will be preparing a collection of articles that will focus on free agents and trade candidates. The articles will discuss the player in question, and what the move does to their value, as well as what their landing spot means for their new and old teams.

Brandin Cooks – WR, New England Patriots

The talk so far of free agency didn’t come from a free agent but rather a trade that sent Brandin Cooks from the New Orleans Saints to the New England Patriots. Many people have been touting this as the greatest move the Pats have made since acquiring Randy Moss in 2007. Fantasy fanatics need little reminder of the 23 touchdowns Moss put up in his first year with the team. But should owners expect the same level of production from Cooks in 2017 and beyond?

Those who speak against Cooks have quickly pointed out that he played eight of his games in the dome with New Orleans along with three more games in Tampa, Charlotte, and Atlanta each of the last three seasons. The AFC East, save for sunny Miami, is not a forgiving environment to play in weather wise and people question how Cooks’ blazing speed will translate into the cold and snowy region of Foxborough. Even Michael Fabiano posted a tweet showcasing the split between Cooks’ games indoors and out over the last two seasons.

Fabs Tweet

This is a classic case of throwing out a fact without much context. Yes, the points per game are lower but there’s no understanding as to who the opponents were or who Cooks was matched up against. Cooks actually average more catches outdoors based on this infographic. Needless to say, people are asking the wrong questions about what Cooks means to the Patriots.

So what does Cooks mean to Patriot players?

The Patriots needed a player who could stretch the defense on the outside away from Edelman in the slot and running backs out of the backfield. Having said that I don’t see him being a DeSean Jackson, lid popping, type receiver in the scheme on a frequent basis. Go routes will always be a part of his route tree but I see Josh McDaniels moving him around more to be the intermediate/crossing route receiver; especially on 2nd and mid or 3rd and short downs to pull the safeties away from the middle of the field opening up the underneath for other receivers and backs. Other than Gronk this definitely deflates the number of targets available for other pass catchers. I don’t see Edelman being forgotten this year and he should still put up low WR2/high WR3 points but he could be let go after this season similar to his predecessor Wes Welker. The big hit goes to Malcolm Mitchell owners who are disappointed that they didn’t get a chance to see what he could produce in his second year. Barring a long injury next season to one of the other receivers it will be hard to have Mitchell be anything more than a bye week/flex play.

So what is Cooks’ value?

As painful as it would sound based on what he produced for fantasy purposes last year I see Cooks being in 2017 a slightly better upgrade at what Hogan was in 2016, but with 4.3 speed. The Patriots and specifically Bill Belichick don’t care about your fantasy teams and will use whatever players they think will help them one game at a time. What that means is that there will be games where Cooks will push double digit catch and have multiple touchdowns and then he will be less than stellar for the next two games. The one difference that will save Cooks owners will be that based on the capital the Patriots invested in him his floor will be higher than Hogan’s was on a week-to-week basis with the hope that he replaces Edelman after 2017. If he’s on a decent contract for multiple seasons and is available for a mid-1st or a package for lower picks and players he would be an interesting buy.

So what does it mean for Saints players?

One person leaves so that means more food at the buffet for the rest right? Not exactly. While Cooks did account for 117 targets last season Michael Thomas was actually targeted more with 121 (even Willie Snead got 104). While it is possible that Thomas pushes into the Mike Evans, Odell Beckham and Antonio Brown range of 180 targets it’s more likely that Thomas has a mild increase in 2017 while a new receiver is integrated into the offense with 70-80 targets. Based on this expectation it is probably not worth trying to acquire Thomas who will be at his peak price right now. Instead, scribble in your auction journals to try and acquire Willie Snead on a savvy 2 or 3-year deal. He’s already an early sleeper to push WR2 numbers next season and should have a good couple of years left with Drew Brees. I was lucky to grab Snead in a few of my leagues last year on multi-year deals that would likely cost double this season. As well, keep an eye on any receiver that is brought in either late in free agency or through the draft. Drew Brees loves to spread the ball around and any day two or three drafted receivers that the Saints add could be fed the 70-80 targets previously mentioned. That would be tremendous opportunity value for a player that could be a 3rd round rookie pick this season.


Make sure to continue to read more Free Agency Expectancy articles throughout the offseason to be prepared for your summer Auctions. Have a player that you want me to evaluate? Send me a message on Twitter @naandrews19.

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