With the NFL Draft just a week away, the debate over how high receiver Brandin Cooks should be drafted is heating up and signs are pointing up for Cooks' stock—and his wallet.
Cooks has been rocketing up draft boards all offseason, similar to the way he rocketed past defenses during his productive three-year collegiate career. But he was seen as a fringe first-round pick until his March pro-day.
Besides the quickness and explosiveness that Cooks is known for, scouts have been drawn to Cooks during the draft process due to his confidence.
I know what some of you are thinking: If NFL teams drafted based on confidence, their rosters would be littered with receivers. However, Cooks has a type of confidence that separates him from many of the diva receivers of the past few decades—e.g. Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, Randy Moss, etc.
Cooks isn't going out to the media and claiming what he'll accomplish or who he'll be better than in the NFL; he is simply confident in his body of work and the man he is presented as to interested teams.
That he is confident in his first-round status is in no way a sign of arrogance. In fact, it's ignorant to expect him to fall out of the first round at this point, especially with receiver-hungry Carolina sitting at the No. 28 spot.
Speaking of Carolina, none other than ESPN's Todd McShay is pushing for the franchise to trade up to nab the talented 20-year-old. Perhaps this came out of intrigue at watching quarterback Cam Newton pair up with a potential star receiver in the making, but this is a match that does make sense.
Despite signing several veteran receivers via free agency, the Panthers are still searching for a true No. 1 for Newton, and Cooks would be productive immediately in that offense.
However, don't hold your breath for Carolina to trade up; Coach Ron Rivera doesn't believe the team needs to draft a No. 1 receiver and appears convinced that the team needs to draft a blocker for Newton instead.
I can't help but agree with this logic from Rivera. Cooks is a fine talent, but the team has a Jordan Gross-sized hole at the left tackle position so the immediate focus should be protecting Newton's blindside.
And this doesn't make it any more likely that Cooks will fall out of the first round, as the Kansas City Chiefs will select five spots ahead of Carolina in the first round and they represent another potential destination for the receiver.
The provided link was to an article based on the premise of Kansas City targeting Cooks in the first round.
Should he fall to the 23rd pick, the Chiefs would be smart to scoop him up. Their current No. 1 is Dwayne Bowe, who has been wildly inconsistent. Beyond that, they lack the necessary playmakers at the position.
The offensive line is another area of concern for Kansas City, so the pick could come down to which position the team finds better value at. Since this draft is deep with receivers and offensive linemen, that distinction could be a toss-up.
It's up in the air whether or not the Chiefs will even have to face that decision, as the Jets appear primed to make Cooks their selection with the 18th pick.
While Mel Kiper may not be the Jets' GM, his pick coincides with the majority opinion right now: New York will select the best receiver available when its pick rolls around.
Whether that receiver is Cooks, LSU's Odell Beckham or someone else remains to be seen, but it's tough to imagine that the Jets aren't at least considering Cooks as a primary option right now.
When they brought in Eric Decker earlier in the offseason, it appeared likely that New York would sign a slot receiver to complement the wideout, but they did not address that need through free agency.
Cooks could be a convenient solution to that area of need and would allow the Jets to switch their focus to the defensive secondary with their following picks.
So what definitive conclusions about Cooks' draft outlook can be drawn after sorting through the recent Twitter buzz?
We can start off by disregarding the possibility of Cooks falling out of the first round. He lies at the top of a group of Tier-2 receivers who are slated as late-first-round picks. Considering the number of receiver-needy teams within that range, the chance that he falls through the cracks is too negligible to consider.
We can then move to his most likely suitor. At this point, all indications point towards New York and the Jets. It's a match that's becoming a mock draft regularity and one that makes sense for both parties.
But despite all of the discussion over who will select Cooks in the bottom of the first, is there a possibility that he'll be drafted higher than No. 18?
My crystal ball says "no." At his talent level, a team would be reaching to select him in the top half of the round, and there still exists the possibility that an elite prospect like Texas A&M's Mike Evans falls and pushes Cooks' projected draft range down a bit, where the 23rd pick would likely be his floor.
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