It’s no secret that the Saints run a wide-open aerial attack that’s predicated upon spreading the ball around to a host of weapons.
Under Payton’s direction, the Saints have established themselves as one of the league’s most feared offensive units. Executed to near perfection by quarterback Drew Brees, the New Orleans offense has posted astounding numbers over the past eight seasons, particularly in the passing game.
In 2013, however, the unit took a bit of a step back. Sure, Brees threw for another 5,000 yards, but the offense had its share of difficulty putting the ball in the end zone, as drives stalled short of the goal line on too many occasions.
New Orleans ranked fourth in the league in offensive yards, but ranked just 10th in points per game. Over the course of the season, it became evident that the Saint offense needed an explosive, big-play scoring threat other than All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham.
All-purpose back Darren Sproles’ 2013 numbers lagged in comparison to previous seasons, and he appeared to have lost some of the burst in his step. Slot receiver Lance Moore also experienced a dip in production, as did outside receiver Marques Colston.
New Orleans parted ways with Sproles and Moore this offseason, thus paving the way for a young, dynamic playmaker to step in.
Enter Brandin Cooks. The 5’9,” 189-pound lightning bolt was the 2013 recipient of the Biletnikoff Award, given to college football’s top wide receiver. He hauled in 128 receptions, tallied over 1,900 offensive yards and reached the end zone 18 times last season.
Simply put, Cooks is a touchdown waiting to happen. There was a sizable host of exciting receiver prospects in this year’s draft class, but his explosiveness in the open field set him apart from the rest of the group.
He ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at the combine, which was the fastest time for any receiver and second-fastest for all participants. In addition to his blazing speed, he’s slippery in the open field, and his sturdy build enables him to run through arm tackles in impressive fashion.
With Colston and Kenny Stills manning the two outside receiver positions, and Graham lining up all over the field, Cooks should settle nicely into the slot in Payton’s offense.
He’ll likely be utilized on screens and short out-routes, as well as on the occasional reverse hand-off. In addition, his downfield speed and ball skills will arm the Saints' vertical passing attack with a formidable weapon. He’s no slouch in the route-running department, either, and with time, his talents should mesh well with the rest of the team’s offensive personnel.
There was unquestionably a deep crop of talented receivers in this year’s draft, but there was only one Brandin Cooks.
His elite speed and athleticism, along with his NFL-ready receiving skills, make him a perfect fit for Payton’s up-tempo offense. His arrival provides New Orleans with a much-needed scoring threat, as the Saints march toward a championship in 2014.
*Note: Combine results courtesy of NFL.com.