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In my weekly column, we take a long look at impact fantasy football rookies.  I compare their performance to date against my original expectations of them.  Let’s start this 2014 version of the series by looking back at Brandin Cooks.cooks

Here is what I saw in college from Cooks: The diminutive former Oregon State receiver, 5′ 10″ 189 lbs., has a huge catch radius, possesses great stop/start agility, blazing 4.31 40 speed,  along with good downfield vision. I see a rare combination of Steve Smith (big and my ball mentality) and DeSean Jackson (smoothness with acrobatics) to his game.  Cooks uses his smaller stature to motivate himself and demand the ball like Smith and Jackson do.  He has a solid muscular build and can get up to full speed within three steps.  The wide receiver tracks the ball well in the air and can leap over bigger corners to get the ball at its highest point.   Cooks is a great fit for the Saints offense who like to use quick strikes and throw deep passes because of his fluidity and adaptability.  He is not a powerful man, so the wide out uses the sidelines and goes down easier when played physically.  The receiver will need to be moved around the formation to scheme around defenses.  Cooks has never missed time due to injury in college.

In his game against the Falcons, I saw: Cooks certainly made the most of Kenny Still’s injury to make his ascension for must start fantasy football status.  He lined up mostly in the slot, but spent some time out wide as well.  His first NFL catch was a 32 yarder down the middle of the field where the wide out caught the ball at its highest point.  For the diminutive receiver, Cooks can sky up above to grab onto that pigskin.  Cooks made plays in the screen game that took advantage of his speed/quickness in tight spaces including jump cuts and spin moves.  He shows good concentration and secures the ball quickly.  While the rookie didn’t have any earth shattering punt returns, the threat for a huge return looms heavily.  This will cause most teams to kick away from him, improving the Saints field position, but not to your fantasy game.

I liked that he got used on a reverse that Cooks successfully took 15+ yards for a first down.  The receiver showed more physicality than I expected with a nice stiff-arm and became a willing blocker in the run game.  It was his immediate start and stop agility that freed Cooks up on his quick zig-zag touchdown reception.  The rhythm between the young wide out and Drew Brees needs to improve though.  This was evident when the receiver drifted too far back in the end zone, then his corner back jumped in front of Cooks to snare the ball.  If you were fortunate enough to draft him anywhere after the third spot in your rookie draft, you got serious value.  Cooks should be a solid WR2 this season with the upside to become a low end WR1.

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