The New Orleans Saints drafted WR Brandin Cooks in the first round this season after other WRs like Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, and Sammy Watkins were already off the board. I really like the chances of Evans and Beckham because they fill vacancies from free agency and fit their respective offenses well. But the pick I truly love is the Saints’ selection of Cooks because he can fill in for two playmakers the Saints lost.
This off-season, the Drew Brees-led offense saw the loss of Lance Moore as well as Darren Sproles — both of whom have been vital pieces in the offensive juggernaut that the Saints have become. Though Cooks is not a running back like Sproles is, Sproles was never a true running back. In his time with the Saints, Sproles saw more receptions in the flats than he ever saw handoffs. Both Sproles and Cooks use their small stature and speed to beat defenders, something the Saints are well aware of.
But as I mentioned, Cooks is not a running back, so he’ll likely be seeing plays that Moore would have. Moore saw diminished activity in 2013 after a 2012 season in which he was the 20th ranked fantasy WR. His production two seasons ago was due to seeing more looks from Bress in the absence of Jimmy Graham for a few games.
The point is, Brees loves to spread the ball around, but he also likes to lock down on a target. When a target like Graham is out, he’ll find a replacement. His tight end is not out, but with two of his targets that compiled for over 400 receptions in three seasons, he’ll be looking for a replacement that can easily fill the shoes.
Cooks could very well be that guy. As a consensus All-American and Biletnikoff winner last season at Orgeon State, Cooks led the nation in reception yards, taking in an average of 10 catches per game. Seeing that number of receptions will not happen in the NFL, as he would break the season receptions by 17 snags.
Between the two Saints departures over the last three seasons, they averaged about 8 catches per game. This is not to say he’ll get that many receptions, but that there’s a vacancy to be filled. I’d expect him to get roughly four to five catches per game; placing him in the area of 70 catches in the season.
Impossible, you say? Well, over the last three seasons after Sproles arrived on scene in the Big Easy, at least three receivers have taken in over 70 catches in a season — two of the seasons highlighted four receivers with over 70 catches as well. One of those receivers each year was Sproles, and Moore was always close when he played a full season.
Even if Cooks is outside of that number and is not his third favorite target behind Graham and Marques Colston, the fourth ranked Saints receiver has taken in at least 50 receptions. Odds are looking pretty good for Cooks to get his fair share of looks.
Assuming he does take on the role of Sproles and Moore, his average yards per reception should be in the range of thirteen yards per catch (similar to his college state line as well). So on the low end, he’d see about 650 yards and could see up to 900 yards. In that range, he should also be seeing around four touchdowns.
All of that is good for around 100 to 130 fantasy points — a welcome WR2-3 on any roster for a player being drafted on average in the 12 round as the 48th picked WR. Take a long hard look at this young man, as he could be vying with Kelvin Benjamin for the top rookie WR title.