Forrest Gump made movie magic when he said “Jenny and me was like peas and carrots,” which sounds an awful lot like a good match. But it doesn’t sound as good as the match New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis put together when he traded up seven slots to pick up wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
The Saints felt forced to trade with the Arizona Cardinals to get Cooks, who caught 128 passes last season for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns.
In addition to leading the nation at 133.1 receiving yards per game, Cooks was second in the country with 16 receptions last season of 30 yards or more, and at 4.33 seconds, ran the fastest 40-yard dash of any wide receiver at the scouting combine this year, according to the official results provided by the NFL.
It’s that top-line speed that makes Cooks such a desirable addition to the Saints offense.
If you take a look at the current depth chart at wide receiver, Marques Colston at No. 1 isn’t a threat to do damage down the field. Six of Kenny Stills’ 32 receptions went for 20 yards or more, but there were only 32 receptions on 51 targets.
Cooks is going to be a threat to take the top off a defense on every play. And just as important as that, is the fact that his threat should open up the middle of the field for the best pass-catching tight end in the NFL.
Jimmy Graham was double-teamed frequently in 2013. He still caught 86 passes, but imagine what kind of damage Graham could do without all the constant double teams or help given to cover him. With the addition of Cooks, rarely will any defense be able to truly double a Saints receiver. There will be too many options for quarterback Drew Brees to throw toward at too many different depth levels of the defense.
But Cooks’ wheels and ability to stretch a defense isn’t the only reason why he’s a perfect fit for New Orleans.
Cooks is terrific at catching screen passes and making big plays happen. With the Saints losing running back Darren Sproles, who caught 71 passes last season, adding a guy like Cooks, who can haul in those short passes and churn yardage after the catch; well, that’s why the Saints felt they had to move up seven spots to grab him.
When Cooks lands in New Orleans, he’s instantly going to be a receiver that can do damage to a defense just about anywhere on the field. Assign him a 9-route and watch him fly by a defensive back with that 4.33 speed. Throw the ball to him on a short route and get some blocking out in front, Cooks will then make enough people miss to make the Saints forget that they had to give up their third-round pick in this year’s draft to move up to get him.
Put Cooks into an offense with an elite quarterback like Brees throwing toward him. Put Cooks into an offense designed and implemented each week by head coach Sean Payton. Put Cooks in this Saints offense, and defenses around the league (especially the NFC South) had better spend some extra time looking for ways to slow a multi-faceted aerial attack down.
The best schematic fit of any player taken in the first round was without a doubt Cooks to New Orleans. Another 5,000-yard passing season for Brees should be on the horizon and a Rookie of the Year campaign could be starting soon for Cooks.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.
Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report and the author of “100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die.” Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.