There are generally a lot of things in this world that I do not understand. Marques Colston has been a staple of the Saints offense in the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era, yet he gets no respect. Further evidence of the lack of respect for Colston is rooted in Brandin Cooks’ now mid-sixth round average draft position, according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com.
Not only is Cooks being drafted about five overall spots before Colston, but he's currently being drafted ahead of Mike Wallace, Reggie Wayne, Golden Tate, and Kendall Wright. The love for Brandin Cooks has gone way too far.
Cooks’ Profile and Why We’re Addicted to Speed
Don’t get me wrong, I love Brandin Cooks, which is weird for me. I generally hate small receivers; especially ones who are under six feet tall and weigh less than 195 pounds. Where Cooks lacks in size, he makes up for it in speed and explosiveness. Below are Cooks combine numbers, and it’s hard not to root for the little guy.
|Player||Age||Height ||Weight||40-time||20-yard shuttle|
|Brandin Cooks||20.9||5'10"||189 lbs||4.33||3.81|
So yeah, Brandin Cooks is lightning fast. His 4.33 40-yard dash is like, supersonic, skin-peeling speed, and that’s a part of the problem. People love speed. Speed is sexy. And I'm not going to lie, watching Brandin Cooks run the 40-yard dash at the 2014 combine is just fun. Putting the tape of him at Oregon State on and watching him literally out-maneuver linebackers and just run away from defensive backs is fun.
But while being fast and highly entertaining is nice, it generally means absolutely nothing for fantasy football. He’s got ability, sure, but without opportunity, ability means essentially nothing.
How the Saints Spread It Around
Drew Brees attempted 650 passes last season (nine less than Peyton Manning). Over the last three seasons, Brees has averaged 659 attempts per year. There's no reason that number will change this year, so keep that in mind as you follow me down this path to targetville.
Of Brees’ 650 total attempts in 2013, here's how the targets were distributed, sorted by total targets:
|Pos.||Player||Receptions||Total Targets||Target Share|
|FB||Jed Collins ||14||18||2.936%|
What we’re looking at is Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston dominating almost 40% of the market share of targets. No shock there. The running backs, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, commanded another 27% last season. The remaining 33% is split between Lance Moore, Kenny Stills, Robert Meachem, and backup tight end Ben Watson.
At this point, you’re probably screaming at your computer/phone/tablet screen, “Duh! Brandin Cooks will just get the targets Lance Moore and Darren Sproles are leaving behind!” The absence of Moore and Sproles leaves a void of 136 targets and 108 receptions in the 2014 Saints offense. Of course, I’m not so convinced all of those leftovers go to Brandin Cooks.
What Could Realistically Happen In 2014?
Drew Brees feeds running backs. The notion that Cooks is going to come in and just take over in a Darren Sproles-y type role is downright false. Pierre Thomas is the best pass-catching running back the Saints have on roster and unless the 29-year-old gets hurt, he’ll likely see more than 13% of New Orleans market share of targets.
In all likelihood, the Saints will just use Pierre Thomas and the set of backs - including Khiry Robinson - a bit more.
Jimmy Graham was hurt for half of the 2013 season, yet still put up monster numbers in his 16 total games (86 receptions, 1,215 yards, and 16 touchdowns). Graham also saw a massive 22% share of targets. Could you envision a scenario where Jimmy Graham sees maybe one or two more targets per game for a total of about 20 more targets in 2014? I sure could, given that he’s back to 100 percent health-wise.
Finally, we get to Marques Colston. The 31-year-old has maybe lost a step, but despite having the lowest amount of receptions he’s had in a season since 2009, Colston still received 17% of the Saints targets in 2013. This number may be up for debate this year, but again, there's no reason to believe Sean Payton will just take away targets from his slot-man Marques Colston and give them to the rookie Brandin Cooks.
We can't forget about a potentially bigger role for Kenny Stills too.
So if you do the math, using some of the target shifting I envision to happen, Brandin Cooks is left with somewhere in the neighborhood of around 70 to 90 total targets. He’s being drafted as the 29th wide receiver off of the board. He's going to have a tough time living up to his ADP with well less than 100 of the Saints targets.
The Problem for Brandin Cooks Owners
In a Sean Payton offense, have we ever seen a wide receiver (other than Marques Colston) be a consistent fantasy starter? Sure, guys like Devery Henderson (in the past) and Kenny Stills will have massive weeks every now and then; but it’s nothing you can count on every single week. In fact, since 2009, no Saints wide receiver other than Marques Colston has finished higher a season than fantasy’s 21st best wide receiver (Lance Moore, 2012).
As stated above, Brandin Cooks is being drafted as the 29th wide receiver off of the board. At that price, you’re essentially buying him at his ceiling. He’s is a sexy, trendy pick right now, but where he’s being drafted makes zero sense. Unless his ADP falls sharply between now and September 1st, there is no reason he should be drafted anywhere near the 6th, 7th, or 8th rounds. Count me out.