|Class:||Junior||40 time:||4.4 (estimated)|
While much of the pre-draft hype in the 2014 NFL Draft class has gone to receivers like Sammy Watkins, Marqise Lee, and Mike Evans, a player that has largely flown under the radar is Oregon State wideout Brandin Cooks. The junior has not yet decided whether he’ll enter the draft or return to school for his senior season, but after leading the nation in receiving yardage and winning the Biletnikoff Award (given to the nation’s top receiver), it may be difficult for Cooks to improve his stock any further by sticking around.
Though he is generously listed at 5-foot-10, Cooks plays much bigger than his size. For starters, he has the outward appearance of a guy who would be limited to a slot role. Surprisingly, though, Cooks does most of his work lined up on the outside, and he is very good at it. He’s extremely physical, frequently tussling with defensive backs for contested balls and working his hardest to avoid being taken down. He is also a real weapon on streak routes as he’s able to get 30-plus yards down the field with ease and make catches. Cooks is also a surprisingly viable end zone threat as he does a good job of positioning himself well and finding a window to make a play.
That’s not to say Cooks is incapable of playing the role of NFL players who are more similarly sized, however. While Cooks doesn’t have quite the elusiveness of smaller slot receivers such as Andrew Hawkins or Tavon Austin, but he can be shifty and once he gets free of defenders it’s a lost cause as he has incredible straight-line speed. He can be used as a wild card in any offense as he’s shown the ability to be effective on screen passes and reverses at Oregon State.
Obviously the biggest knock on Cooks is going to be his size. There will be concern about his ability to hang with bigger defenders at the NFL level as well as his ability to keep his smaller body healthy for a full 16-game schedule. There can also be an argument made that Cooks is a one-year wonder; while he was very effective in 2012, picking up 67 catches for 1151 yards and five touchdowns, he didn’t really break out as an elite player until this season.
If he ends up entering the draft, Cooks will have to contend with a receiver group that is probably this draft class’ deepest position. However, his speed, game-breaking ability, and overall effectiveness as a college player should be good cause for him being an early-round pick.
- Plays like a big receiver in a little guy’s body; not just a slot receiver
- Not afraid to go up high and fight with defensive backs for contested balls
- Quality deep threat and good at getting open downfield
- A legitimate all-around offensive weapon; is a serious threat on screen plays and reverses
- Exceptional breakaway speed
- High-effort, powerful run blocker
- Has some punt return experience
- Undersized, especially for an outside receiver
- Not very elusive with defenders in his face
- Sideline-to-sideline speed is questionable and may get exposed by better defenders at next level
- Somewhat of a one-year wonder
There can be a strong argument made that Cooks was the best receiver in college football during 2013. He led the nation with 1730 receiving yards and finished second in both receptions and receiving touchdowns to Fresno State’s Davante Adams with 128 catches and 16 TDs. He also made an impact in the rushing game, gaining 217 yards on 32 attempts while scoring two touchdowns.
2014 Draft Projection: Second Round