I suspect your natural reaction after reading the headline of this article is to think that we’ve all already been on the Jared Cook party bus and there were no good memories to take away. But that’s actually key to Cook’s value this year because if he had performed better in the past you wouldn’t be able to draft a 260 pound receiver (with a sub 4.50 40) in the 9th round of your fantasy draft.
Everyone knows the case for and against Jared Cook so I’ll try not to beat a dead horse here other than to lay out the things that I think will end up mattering in 2013. That’s what it comes down to right? What matters? Because there is always a lot of evidence on each side for a player but it’s our job to sort the signal out from the noise.
First, I was looking at a table of Titans pass targets going back to 2010 when I noticed that Kenny Britt and Cook have had essentially the same targets over that time. Here’s the table:
|Player||T||C||Catch RT||Yds||YPT||TD||TD Rate|
So Jared Cook has had a similar number of targets and yards when compared to Kenny Britt and the primary difference between the two is their touchdown rate. Britt’s overall TD rate is higher than Cook’s and a good amount of that can be explained by their respective red zone efficiencies. Cook has been subpar in the red zone over his career with just a 14% RZ TD rate. But I don’t think it’s the case that Cook could never be good in the red zone. He has the body for it. Now may also be a good time to mention this report from Peter King:
Three times in a five-play span in red-zone seven-on-seven drills, Bradford found Jared Cook, with a catch radius as wide as Jeremy Shockey’s used to be (and that’s a good thing), at the goal line; it’s like the defense knew what was coming and just couldn’t stop it. The Rams don’t know quite why Cook caught only 44 balls for Tennessee in his free-agency walk year, but they’re happy he was a free agent, and that he walked. What an afternoon he had in the St. Louis sauna, and how happy Bradford looked to have an offensive weapon in the middle of the field. I have not seen a better offensive weapon in all the practices I’ve seen on this training camp tour than I saw in the athletic and imposing Cook on this afternoon.
I think it’s fair to say that you’d probably finish DFL pretty often if you took all of your fantasy advice from Peter King, but in this case he provides an actual account of what happened in practice. That account is useful in patching a hole in the Jared Cook story. Actually King patches two holes in the Jared Cook story. He addresses both the red zone deficiency and the low usage that has plagued Cook’s career. If not for Cook’s lack of blocking ability we might have a totally different perception of him. The fact that he couldn’t block kept him off the field in TEN. Cook might have had a similar number of targets as Britt but that was because Britt missed games with an ACL tear. Cook’s per game usage was low. But if you know that a team well aware of his poor blocking made a move to acquire him, what does that tell you about how important they think blocking is to his game?
One other thing that has me fully on board with Cook this year is that the STL receiver competition didn’t shake out the way I expected it to (or at least not as of this writing). I expected Brian Quick to win the job at X receiver. Quick is another big receiver that would provide a red zone target for Sam Bradford. But now Austin Pettis is starting there (for now… who knows how long). The Rams other starting receivers are Chris Givens and Tavon Austin. Jared Cook has an average of about 55 pounds on the other options that will be competing for red zone targets. That’s really attractive to me.
It’s fine if you don’t want to get excited for Jared Cook again, but you’re only hurting yourself. To get a receiver (or TE) with the kind of physical upside that Cook has and to only have to pay a 9th round pick is a screaming bargain. The thing that’s always held Cook back is that he’s a receiver not a tight end. Now he’s actually playing for a team that gets that. To swear off Jared Cook forever because he disappointed in the past is the same as Mark Twain’s cat on a hot stove analogy. When you use a 9th pick on Cook this year you’re not getting Jared Cook of the Tennessee Titans. You’re getting Jared Cook playing for a team that knew what he was and made a move to acquire him.
Wouldn’t you feel silly if you saw Jared Cook have a monster season (the kind a player with his physical traits is capable of) and you didn’t own him because you deemed the 9th round too expensive?