Brandin Cooks Is One of the Best Values in Fantasy Football
The Houston Texans' wide receiver corps will look very different in 2020 than it has in previous seasons. The team traded a second-round pick in this year's draft to acquire the services of Brandin Cooks, who, along with free agent-signee Randall Cobb, will look to replace DeAndre Hopkins -- a four-time Pro-Bowler who averaged a whopping 166 targets over the last five seasons.
Bouncing around like a car on train tracks, the 26-year-old Cooks will be playing for his fourth team in seven seasons. Perhaps he'll benefit from a change of scenery at quarterback, as catching passes from Jared Goff, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees must have made life very difficult for Cooks. That's sarcasm, in case you didn't catch it.
How should you value Cooks in fantasy? Well, let's take a look, shall we?
According to BestBall10s, Cooks has an average draft position (ADP) of 94.33 in the seven weeks since being traded to Houston. That makes him, on average, the 39th receiver off the board.
Cooks' ADP hasn't seen much volatility, as it sits at 92.13 over the last two weeks. His teammate, Will Fuller, is coming off the board at an average of 81.18, while Cobb and Kenny Stills are both outside of the top 200.
Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Michael Thomas, and Brandin Cooks... that's the entire list of wideouts who have finished inside the top-13 at the position four times in the last five seasons in standard leagues. That's some elite company.
From 2015 through 2018, Cooks averaged 77 receptions for 1,149 yards and 7 scores. That stat line would have amounted to the WR11 in standard leagues and WR14 in half-PPR last season. His advanced metrics tell a similar story -- take a look at his ranks for each of those four campaigns.
His Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) per reception and Target NEP per target -- which indicate what he was adding to his team's expected points total per reception and target, respectively -- were pretty elite across the board. He was consistently one of the top receivers in the league for four straight seasons.
The 2019 season was an entirely different story for Cooks. Then with the Rams, Cooks suffered two concussions and missed two games, as well as chunks of three other contests. When he returned from his second concussion, Los Angeles was utilizing 12 personnel (a running back, two tight ends, and two receivers) more frequently, which led to a decrease in both his and Cooper Kupp's snap rate. All of that resulted in a substandard fantasy season from Cooks.
Real-life ramifications aside, concussions can be a scary prospect for fantasy owners. A player like Cooks -- who has been diagnosed with five concussions during his young career -- could be at risk of missing an extending period of time should he suffer another one.
However, Cooks did appear in all 16 games in each of the four seasons prior to last year.
Targets and Competition
According to Rotoworld, the Texans have the fourth-most vacated targets in the league. And it makes sense, given that Bill O'Brien traded Hopkins for a pile of rocks.
On paper, Houston's depth chart is fairly deep at receiver. In addition to Cooks, they have Cobb, Fuller, Stills, and Keke Coutee.
Fuller, who should be Cook's biggest competition for the "number one" receiver role, has missed 20 games over the last three seasons. Stills could be an option to get cut or traded. Cobb is mostly a chain-moving slot wideout at this point and has had his trouble with injuries as well. And Coutee has played in just under half of his career games.
That leaves Cooks -- the most complete receiver on the team -- to soak up a good chunk of the targets left behind by Hopkins. And he'll be catching passes from a quarterback -- Deshaun Watson -- who was fourth in Net Expected Points at the position last year.
Despite being thin at receiver, the Texans utilized 11 personnel (a running back, three receivers, and a tight end) at the 13th-highest rate in the league in 2019, according to Sharp Football. That's an encouraging sign if you're worried about Cooks' snap share.
Our models project Cooks to catch 61.5 passes for 778.9 yards and 5.2 scores. If he stays healthy, I believe that could be his floor.
We're talking about a guy going in the ninth round of drafts despite being a top-15 receiver in each of the four seasons prior to 2019. Fuller is going a full round ahead of Cooks, despite not having played more than 11 games since his rookie season and never finishing higher than WR54.
Cooks has league-winning potential at his current ADP. I'd be comfortable taking him a good 20 picks ahead of his current position.