The New England Patriots have had a very difficult time grooming wide receivers, to say the least, regardless of whether they are rookies or superstars for other teams.
The team took one of their biggest gambles in trading a first and fourth-round selection for the former New Orleans Saint Brandin Cooks. He’s had a few bumps in the road but has also done many things right. Let’s take a look back at his first season in a Patriot’s uniform.
The Deep Ball:
Undersized but one of a kind, Cooks is known to stretch the field outside the numbers and take the top off the defense despite his shorter stature (5-foot-10).
The little-big man led all Patriots wide receivers in yards with 1,082, which was good enough for 11th in the entire National Football League and sixth in the American Football Conference.
- Antonio Brown: 1,533 yards
- Julio Jones: 1,444 yards
- Keenan Allen: 1,393 yards
- DeAndre Hopkins: 1,378 yards
- Adam Thielen: 1,276 yards
- Michael Thomas: 1,245 yards
- Tyreek Hill: 1,183 yards
- Larry Fitzgerald: 1,156 yards
- Marvin Jones Jr.: 1,101 yards
- Rob Gronkowski: 1,084 yards
- Brandin Cooks: 1,082 yards
The Oregon State alum, however, caught more touchdown passes than five of the members in the top 10 which include names such as Julio Jones and Larry Fitzgerald.
When it’s all set and done, the Patriots simply have a lot more targets than most teams and going over 1,000 yards with weapons like tight end Rob Gronkowski and running back Dion Lewis on the field with you, is a feat itself.
The Durability Factor
Cooks was the only Patriots wide receiver to play in every single game this season making him a very reliable receiver. This is his third full 16-game season overall. Reliability is what keeps people on Belichick and Brady’s good side and is probably one of the reasons the team made such an investment in him.
Catching the Ball
This is where Cooks tapers off a little bit. His four drops were among the worst in the NFL and only four off from the league leader Marqise Lee’s eight drops on the season and ties with wide receiver Danny Amendola for the team lead in that category.
If there’s one thing that Cooks needs to improve on, it’s cleaning up his receptions. There are times when he exhibits poor technique in which he isn’t attacking the ball with his hands and just lets it drop into the “bread basket.”
Here’s a look back at a key drop made by Cooks during the game against the Tamp Bay Buccaneers on a third down.
— Riley Auman (@AumanacDraft) October 6, 2017
It remains to be seen how he will do in his first postseason appearance, but for now, four drops is too many.
Cooks was far from a one-trick pony here in New England, catching the ball, taking end-arounds, and being the deep threat envisioned by the team and the fans.
Despite this, when called upon to take the place of injured wide receiver Julian Edelman on the reverse plays, he seemed mediocre at best not able to muster up any explosive plays with only 40 yards rushing and 4.4 yards per carry on the season. Cooks did the job he was supposed to at wide receiver and slot receiver but didn’t thrive anywhere else.
He did his job in the regular season and it was done well enough where you can say he nearly exceeded expectations in multiple regards. One could argue that if Edelman was on the field at the same time as Cooks, the double-coverage would have gone elsewhere at receiver.
Despite the drops and the dull fireworks rushing the ball, he is still a receiver first and he did catch key balls to win games for the team.
What will Cooks be in the long run? Just rewind the tape to the Houston Texan and Oakland Raider matchups as a future glance of what he will be now with a full regular season under his belt at the position.
Final Grade: A-