Brandin Cooks is coming off of back-to-back 1,100 receiving seasons and is joining forces with arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time in the Patriots’ Tom Brady. So, he’s a lock to be a top 10 fantasy football WR in 2017, right?
Cooks may very well find himself under the Patriots fantasy conundrum, in which his individual numbers suffer due to the fact that the Pats already have so many other offensive weapons. Cooks is somewhat used to this, however, given that Michael Thomas matched his production last season in New Orleans, and Willie Snead is no slouch.
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Cooks and Thomas both went over 1,100 yards last season with the Saints and they both statistically had better seasons than the Patriots’ leading receiver Julian Edelman (who caught 98 balls for 1,106 yards and three touchdowns).
Edelman was targeted 159 times by Patriots quarterbacks. The player with the second most targets was James White with 86. Drew Brees targeted Thomas 121 times, Cooks 117 times and Snead 104 times in 2016.
Edelman was not exactly a fantasy stud last season, as he only had two 100-plus yard receiving days and both of them came late in the season. In fact, he didn’t have a game in which he cracked the 80-yard plateau until mid-November (a nine catch, 99-yard game against Seattle).
There will be plenty of days for the Patriots in 2017 where getting the ball to Edelman or Rob Gronkowski is at the forefront of the game plan and Cooks’ numbers will slip. Cooks, will have his days too – of course – but there may be outings in which he has fantasy duds.
All that said, Cooks is the best outside threat for Brady since Randy Moss – and when Moss was in Foxboro, the Pats smashed records. In 2007, Moss had an unreal nine games in which he eclipsed the 100-yard mark. More incredibly, Moss only had four games that season in which he failed to gain at least 50 yards receiving, but in two of those low yardage games he still managed to find the end zone.
The Pats’ offense looked different then, as there was no Gronk. But the 2007 team had Wes Welker at his peak and the underrated Dante Stallworth. There was plenty of competition for targets back then, too.
Where does Cooks rank?
Depending on what site you’re reading, Cooks hovering around the No. 20 mark in early 2017 WR rankings. Three CBS Sports fantasy writers recently had him going 22, 18 and 23 respectively.
He’s lumped around players like the Eagles’ Alshon Jeffery, the Bills’ Sammy Watkins and Oakland’s Michael Crabtree. As we get closer to August, expect Cooks to rise up many rankings. The potential for Cooks to have a 2007-Moss-like season will be too enticing for many fantasy GMs.