Discount Doppelganger: Brandin Cooks

Matt Price


Editor’s Note: This article is written by a new writer to DLF – Matt Price. We’re looking forward to much more from Matt!

Based on current dynasty startup ADP at DLF, Brandin Cooks is currently going as the 22nd overall player off the board and as the 15th wide receiver. Why spend late second or early third round draft capital on Cooks when you can get similar production 28 picks later in the form of Jarvis Landry at the beginning of the fifth round?

Look, I’m not a Cooks hater. I actually quite like the player, but his price has just gotten too out of control for me to recommend selecting him in startups. Much of the argument in favor of Cooks paying off at his current ADP is based on opportunity in the Saints’ offense that lost three key pass catchers this off-season. The departures of Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills and Pierre Thomas theoretically create opportunity in the form of the 263 targets they are taking with them, but this is going to be a different offense. In addition to it being really, really, really hard to catch 100 passes, (only 40 players have done it in the last 15 seasons)  the following are factors to consider before projecting triple digit reception numbers from Brandin Cooks:

1.) Commitment to the Running Game

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During the NFL season, the players and coaches are going to war, but the off-season features the front office player personnel fighting the battles. During the non-playing season, the moves being made by the GM speak volumes about the direction of the team. Mickey Loomis made it pretty clear what the Saints want to do in 2015. Just look at the acquisitions of Alex Mack, Brandon Browner, Kyle Wilson and Anthony Spencer (as well as the drafting of Andrus Peat), plus a slew of defensive rookies and it’s easy to see the Saints want to get better on defense and run the football more this season.

The Saints threw the ball 659 times while only running it 406 times, which equates to a 62/38 pass/run split. I see the Saints running the ball quite a bit more in 2015 and because of that, I believe they will run fewer plays than the 1,065 they did in 2014. I am currently projecting them for 1,040 total plays and a 55/45 pass/run ratio – this drops Drew Brees to 572 passing attempts and provides 87 fewer targets for the receivers in 2015. There are still 176 targets unaccounted for, but we know Brees will spread those around to whoever the open receiver is. He has never been the kind of quarterback to zero in and feed one guy exclusively. In fact, Brees has never had a receiver catch more than 98 passes. Which leads me to the next point:

2.) More Opportunity, but Tougher Competition

In the Saints’ passing game, it is now clear Cooks is the most dangerous weapon and deserving of more attention from opposing defenses. The mere presence of Jimmy Graham took a lot of pressure off the other offensive weapons, including Cooks. Without the coverage having anybody like Graham to gravitate toward, Cooks will be receiving a lot more attention from the defense. Can he handle a defense’s top cornerback when he has to? Can he routinely get open against double coverage? We just don’t know yet. One thing on Cooks’ side here, though, is a relatively easy passing schedule. The Saints play just three games against top ten pass defenses from 2014.

Tougher competition not only comes from opposing defenses. It also comes from within. There may be plenty of targets to go around despite more emphasis on the run, but C.J. Spiller is sure to eat up a large chunk of them. The Saints will no doubt manufacture touches for Cooks to get him in space, but Spiller will also occupy some of those same kinds of targets. In the Darren Sproles role of Sean Payton’s offense I expect Spiller to see around 80 targets and wouldn’t be shocked to see upwards of 90.

For these reasons, I have a conservative projection for Brandin Cooks: 120 targets, 82 receptions for 1,072 yards and five touchdowns, which is good for 219 fantasy points and would have made him the WR17 in 2014 PPR leagues.

With a current ADP of 22nd overall and that of the WR15, I believe if you are drafting Brandin Cooks right now, you are doing so at or near his ceiling. Why do that when you can get Landry more than two full rounds later?

Landry is the only incumbent in the passing game, clearly has some chemistry with Ryan Tannehill and has become his woobie. Landry also has plenty of surrounding talent in the Miami offense to ensure he is unlikely to see many snaps against number one corners. He has already proven to be NFL durable and has an 84 reception season under his belt, so we know he can handle the volume. Detractors point to Landry’s low yards per catch average as a reason his upside is limited, but I have to wonder if that is mostly a product of how he was used and not the only way he can be used. Odell Beckham, Jr. isn’t the only LSU receiver from the 2014 draft class that can make spectacular grabs. A quick youtube search can show you how wrong it is to assume Landry can’t go up and make a play on the ball.

I project Jarvis Landry’s targets to slightly increase in 2015 as he becomes a full time starter: 121 targets, 89 receptions 1,014 yards, five touchdowns, which is good for 220.4 fantasy points and would have also made him WR17 in 2014 PPR leagues.

I just don’t believe in drafting Brandin Cooks in the late second or early third when you can get the same kind of production from Jarvis Landry in the early fifth.


matt price