There are a lot of highly talented wide receivers set to enter the NFL this May—Brandin Cooks is expected to be one of the first wideouts selected. Every analyst who created a mock draft at NFL.com has Cooks going somewhere in the first round.
It all seems to make sense—Cooks ran the fastest 40-yard dash time at the combine in February, posting blazing 4.33 seconds. His burst does show up on tape, and he has the speed to separate from defenders deep, evidenced in him leading the nation in receiving yards last season with 1,730 yards. So what’s the problem?
The problem for me is that Cooks doesn’t do much with the ball in his hands. He may have speed, but he tends to fall down the second he’s touched by a defensive player and oftentimes before that even happens.
Cooks is 5’10”, 189 pounds but actually plays much smaller than that. He shows very little strength and was seen frequently bobbling passes. Even when he did make some catches, it appeared as though he struggled to control the ball on initial contact.
But ripping him for having bad hands would admittedly be overly critical. The point there is that his hands should not be considered an area of strength for him at the very least.
Dating back to 2006, there is a long list of receivers who posted sub-4.4 times in their 40-yard dash yet failed to make a big splash in the NFL. Some notable names include Jacoby Ford, Yamon Figurs, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jason Hill, Chad Jackson, John Brown, Willie Reid and Devin Aromashodu.
Each one of those names posted a top-14 40 time by a receiver, dating as far back as 2006.
The most successful speedster at receiver, who is less than six feet tall, to be drafted in that time frame is DeSean Jackson. The big difference between Cooks and Jackson is that Jackson has always been one of the more elusive players at any level he played at. Cooks may be fast, but he is not a guy who really excels at making opponents miss.
Considering the talent available at receiver this year, Cooks is not worthy of a first-round selection. As a matter of fact, I think teams should stay away from him in the top 40 altogether.
His speed and production may be enticing, but his skills don’t seem to translate to the big stage so well.
This does not mean Cooks can’t be a productive pro; what I’m primarily saying here is that he most likely won’t turn out to be an NFL star or even a true No. 1 receiver.