A year after a franchise traded into the top 10 to acquire a 174 pound player that ran a 4.34 at the Combine, there’s a player available later in the first round that is probably more physically impressive. Brandin Cooks weighs about 15 pounds more than Tavon Austin and yet is just as fast. What’s more, Cooks has a more impressive production resume. In fact, Cooks’ mix of speed and production is so rare that his comparables aren’t particularly close to matching Cooks. From the table at the bottom of this post, the comps are on average a year and a half older as college players, more than a tenth slower in the forty yard dash, and 23 yards per game short in final year receiving production. The uniqueness that Cooks has as a prospect results in a buckshot group of comps where each player is only similar to Cooks on a few measures.
While the comp group is scattershot to be sure, the interesting thing is that with only a few exceptions they are multi-year NFL players. They might not have all been fantasy football studs, but they all hung around the league for a long time. Or maybe a more correct way to say it is that with the exception of Freddie Mitchell and AJ Jenkins, all of the comps in Cooks’ set are either in the league now or stayed in the league for a number of years. That might seem like a low bar to get over, but it’s not. I’ve written before that our expectations for prospects are not realistic and that’s in part because we often compare them to the best case scenario and use that as a baseline.
I don’t know how you could look at Cooks in terms of his measurables, or look at his comp group, and do anything other than come away impressed. He’s still something of a tweener in my mind because he isn’t big enough to be a real #1 WR, so there is some risk that he doesn’t end up on an offense that can really take advantage of his highest and best potential. Using him for his potential to get deep on defenses requires a commitment to a boom/bust offense, while the other way to get small receivers the ball often relies on the screen game which is gold for PPR but of dubious real football value. There aren’t many receivers in the league that make it into that WR1 tier on a regular basis that are of Cooks’ size. To put it another way, there is no 190 pound version of Andre Johnson that is a perennial top 10 finisher in fantasy scoring. When you come back at me with Marvin Harrison you will have made my point based on how long ago it was that Harrison played in the league.
But to summarize, Cooks’ comp group is pretty encouraging and I like him a lot. But whether I own him or not will come down to my feelings relative to the other guys in my leagues.