There it is … the kind of move everyone has been waiting for from the Houston Texans. Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks was acquired via trade to help replace DeAndre Hopkins. Note the emphasis on “help.” Few players can do it alone, and the well-traveled veteran doesn’t belong to that exclusive club.
Cooks has proven to be one of the most adaptable wide receivers in the NFL in recent memory. His talent transcends quarterback situations and offensive systems, but the “go” button is still want butters his bread. Few receivers have the jets Cooks boasts. When healthy, he’s as dynamic is anyone — a weird thing to see from someone who is on his fourth in the past five seasons.
At just 26 years of age, Cooks is still in his prime and is one season removed from a career-best 1,204 yards on 80 grabs. He missed a pair of games last year but struggled all season in an offense that was largely unproductive and inconsistent. Cooks suffered two concussions in a 25-day span, and another one is a legitimate concern, so it’s not all roses. Barring an injury, however, his addition shapes up as one of the more exciting of the offseason.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson gets another piece of the receiver puzzle to run free with the oft-injured Will Fuller, whose game isn’t terribly different from that of Cooks. The latter is more versatile in the route tree, though, and we’ve see him stay healthy four straight years entering 2019.
Watson’s fantasy prospects were looking awfully grim after Hopkins was traded for running back David Johnson (which still isn’t official). Bringing Cooks mitigates the loss of Nuk about as well as anyone could have hoped for without breaking the bank, which was the driving force behind trading Hopkins in the first place, according to head coach Bill O’Brien.
The projected top receivers now will be a 1a-1b situation between Cooks and Fuller, while Kenny Stills nestles into a versatile role that puts him all over the field. He lined up in the slot 31 percent of his snaps last year. That is where we should expect to see newcomer Randall Cobb do most of his damage. He also can line up all over. Cooks has seen vast majority of his work has come on the outside in recent years. Interchangeability is starting to look like Houston’s approach as it attempts to cover bases through a group effort of proven role players.
A few things should be granted off of the top: He has proven capable of digesting a playbook in a hurry, and Cooks can generate strong fantasy returns with limited touches. This offense could be tough to predict from week to week, especially if Johnson can return to being reminiscent of his former self. But there’s also potential for a more traditional WR1 role for Cooks if (when?) Fuller is lost to injury.
Fantasy football takeaway
Cooks finished WR13 in 2018, WR15 in 2017, WR11 in 2016, and WR14 in 2015 using PPR scoring … that’s an average of WR13 spread over three teams. Even if he gets lost in the mix some weeks, we’re still talking about a borderline WR2/WR3 floor in a healthy season — someone who really shouldn’t leave a fantasy lineup.
The top concerns are another concussion and a lack of an offseason to build a rapport with his quarterback. Neither of those things are really within Cooks’ control. Sure, he could shield himself better at times, but history shows us that when a receiver starts hearing those proverbial footsteps, it’s time to hang ’em up. Cooks finished the season playing some of his best ball in 2019, and there is no reason to be fearful of him being afraid.
Value will be the name this game, and if Cooks is available sixth or seventh rounds, he will look awfully attractive. Safety-minded gamers will opt for him as a WR3 and bypass if it costs more. Everyone else should not hesitate to value him as a low-end WR2 and build out running backs, tight ends and quarterbacks prior to adding Cooks.