Why Brandin Cooks May Make the New Orleans Saints' Offense Unstoppable
I've been waiting for this day for a very long time. Finally, I know where I need to go to purchase my Brandin Cooks jersey. I've had the biggest stats-crush on this dude ever since about half way through last year, and now the man has a new home in New Orleans.
In Cooks, the Saints get a statistical deity that can make the most composed of all number nerds go through hot flashes. If collegiate stats are in any way translatable to the NFL, they just got themselves a darn good player.
During his final season at Oregon State, Cooks had 86 receptions for 1,241 yards and 11 touchdowns - in conference play alone. He had more receiving yards in-conference than all but 16 players had over the entire season, including other top draft talents such as Odell Beckham, Jr., Cody Latimer and Kelvin Benjamin.
On the entire year, Cooks had 128 receptions (9.85 per game), 1,730 yards (133.08 per game) and 16 touchdowns (1.23 per game). This included eight 100-yard games and four games of 160-plus yards. It's not even fair how dirty this dude was.
I can hear the criticism of Cooks now. "Boo, nerd, he's too short! How's he going to score in the red zone? Stats are for lo0zerz!" Well, yeah, you're right about his height. At 5'10", 186 pounds, Cooks is less than ideal size-wise. You got me there.
But any criticisms of his abilities in the red zone are unsubstantiated. Last year, Cooks had 22 receptions between the opponents' 19-yard line and the end zone for 10 touchdowns. Benjamin, Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans combined to record 21 receptions in the red zone last year. Beckham, Jr., had only four for two touchdowns. Cooks compares more than favorably to all of these guys.
Sure, you can argue that having Cal's pass defense on his schedule should single-handedly eliminate all statistical arguments in favor of Cooks. But how many yards did fellow Pac-12er Marqise Lee record against the Golden Bears? 13. Overall, Lee had 389 yards against conference teams. I don't care if Lee was injured, had a terrible quarterback and was forced to wear webbed feet for the whole season - Cooks was on another level this season.
Once you put Cooks in the Super Dome...with Drew Brees...in that offense...MOMMA! This is going to be fun.
This is really a "rich get richer" situation. The Saints finished the 2013 campaign second in the league in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP). In case you're new to numberFire and don't know what NEP is, you can check that out here. Their total of 173.84 means that the Saints passing offense accounted for 173.84 more points than an average passing offense would have. That's so dope. Now, you add Cooks, the statistical heart-throb of my dreams? That's so dirty.
The best part about this for the Saints is that they already had one of the best young wide receivers in Kenny Stills. numberFire's own JJ Zachariason did a study last year of the most efficient low-usage players in the league, and Stills was near the top of that list. Can somebody please tell me how all of this is fair?
Did I not mention that Jimmy Graham guy? Yeah, he's a'ight, too. Last year, Graham had the highest Reception NEP of all tight ends in the league at 119.71. Shocker! What is kind of surprising is by how much Graham annihilated the rest of the field. The second highest tight end was Tony Gonzalez at 87.89, a whopping 31.82 (!!!) points behind Graham. You think he'll take a bit of attention off of Cooks?
One of the cooler things (in my opinion) about numberFire is we can give a projection of how well Cooks's game will translate to the next level through READ. If you're a math geek (bless your soul), you'll love this puppy. What READ does is takes a player's combine stats and the success of his new team in the previous year while controlling for variance in collegiate scheme to produce a list of comparable players to look at. For Cooks, that list has some pretty good names on it.
In that list, you see a Super Bowl MVP in Deion Branch, a budding superstar in Julio Jones, and the man who put da team on his back, doe, better than any man in the history of anything in Greg Jennings. Not bad company for Cooks to be in. The man's going to be a stud from the get-go.
In the end, my man crush on Cooks just increased exponentially. Not only is New Orleans in a great position with a studly player, but so is Cooks. I can't wait to see what this guy does in the fall.