With Tom Brady being the ultimate distribution manager, it was difficult to begin the season being overly optimistic that Brandin Cooks would receive an overabundance of targets this year. Since Julian Edelman’s ACL tear last week, things may have potentially changed.
Julian Edelman, Tom Brady’s most trusted receiver outside of Rob Gronkowski, suffered a complete ACL tear in his right knee during the preseason game against Detroit. It was a tough injury to swallow being that it was non-contact. The discussion will forever center around whether or not there are too many preseason games and how long the actual starters should participate.
In light of Edelman’s injury, we have to take a look at Brady’s other weapons, particularly the newly acquired Brandin Cooks. Coming over from the Saints, Cooks had an admirable year in 2016, but also one in which he lost a lot of targets to rookie wide receiver Michael Thomas and slot man Willie Snead. Cooks seemed to have gotten stuck in an in-between role among his receiving mates. He wasn’t the number one deep threat and he wasn’t the number one underneath guy. However, there’s certainly no way to look down on a guy that eclipses 1,100 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, though there is a reason why the Saints were willing to part with Cooks.
Cooks is a speedy receiver that can get down the sideline in a moment’s notice. Turn your back or cheat at the line of scrimmage on this guy and it’s an easy 6-points. Where Cooks lacks is in his 5’10” 190-pound frame. Cooks has the ability to blow past defenders, but at the same time he’s often unable to climb the ladder and haul in balls when matched with lengthier corners and safeties. Cooks can also get quick catches underneath, but isn’t exactly the guy that’s willing to take the Edelman-like hits as opposed to going down to avoid them. This is where he lost out significantly to Willie Snead while on the New Orleans Saints.
The Patriots roster can certainly hide Cooks’ deficiencies. However, with Edelman out for the year, Cooks will likely be called on to work more underneath routes than he’s used to. To be quite honest, I see this as a negative for him. Initially, Cooks seemed set to compete with Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell for the long go-routes downfield. Now, it appears more likely that he’ll be competing with both Dion Lewis and Gronkowski underneath for the harder yards. We all know that Lewis can turn something into nothing, even after a few hits, and Gronk’s mismatch ability speaks for itself. If Cooks is also to play underneath, then he simply becomes just another guy. Nothing special. Cooks just isn’t elusive enough to break tackles underneath or drag guys along with him.
While many see Brandin Cooks as the new victor in Edelman’s unfortunate injury, I am willing to pass on Cooks altogether. This is not to say that he won’t benefit with Edelman out. If I were to invest in anyone in the wake of Edelman’s injury, it would be either Dion Lewis or Chris Hogan. Brandin Cooks will only eat up a high draft pick in which the same productivity could be squeezed at a lower value. Gronk is the only position player worth a high draft pick in this offense.