Fantasy Football 2014: Why Brandin Cooks Should Be on Every Owner's Radar

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Fantasy Football 2014: Why Brandin Cooks Should Be on Every Owner's Radar
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press
Get to know the name Brandin Cooks.

If you aren't targeting Brandin Cooks in your 2014 fantasy football drafts, you're going to watch someone else get a major return on what could've been your investment.

Cooks is going to be a top-25 wide receiver this year, and he's currently being drafted as the 49th receiver off the board. He's owned in only 50.9 percent of ESPN leagues.

I know what you're going to say, "Rookie wide receivers never pan out." And that's true.

Except when it's not.

All rankings based on NFL.com standard scoring:

  • 2009: Percy Harvin—60 receptions, 790 receiving yards, 135 rushing yards, six total touchdowns. That was good for 19th-best WR.
  • 2010: Mike Williams—65 receptions, 964 receiving yards, 11 TDs. Williams finished as the 12th-best WR that season.
  • 2011: A.J. Green, Julio Jones and Torrey Smith finished as the 14th-, 17th- and 21st-best WRs, respectively.
  • 2012: T.Y. Hilton—50 receptions, 861 receiving yards, 29 rushing yards, eight total TDs. Hilton finished as the 24th-ranked WR in 2012.
  • 2013: Keenan Allen—71 receptions, 1,046 receiving yards, eight total TDs. Allen finished 2013 as the 17th-best WR.

Perhaps now you'll be more receptive to Cooks as an important piece of your quest for fantasy dominance in 2014.

Or perhaps you're saying, why not Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans, both of whom are being drafted ahead of Cooks? Odell Beckham Jr. was also drafted ahead of Cooks in the 2014 NFL draft.

Simply put, it's based on how I believe these rookies will be used by their teams, complemented by how focused I anticipate opposing defenses to be on these receivers.

Watkins is on a young, developing offense and is probably expected to supplant Robert Woods as the No. 1 wideout on the Buffalo Bills right away. Opposing defenses will be keying on him from day one.

Evans could be the breakout rookie receiver in 2014. I'd pick him over Watkins, simply based on situation. However, his college dominance was based on elite physical tools, not to mention defenses designed entirely to stop Johnny Manziel. In the NFL, he will find those advantages have shrunken considerably, and it will take him some time to develop other areas of his game.

Beckham Jr. is interesting as a deep, deep sleeper candidate, but his value is minimal if Eli Manning can't return to his former glory. I expect the New York Giants offense to be middling, at best.

That leaves Cooks, who compares extremely favorably to two players who excelled as rookies: the aforementioned Harvin and former New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush.

Like Bush, Cooks has already displayed a wide variety of uses. Per Jennifer Hale of Fox Sports New Orleans:

In a few short days, Cooks showcased both his speed and versatility, working with the punt-return team, running wide receiver routes and trying his hand at trick plays like the reverse/end-around which is a role Cooks could immediately command, given his fast motor.

You already know that Harvin was a solid WR2 in his rookie year, but how did Bush do?

He tallied 565 rushing yards, 88 catches for 742 yards and nine total TDs. If he were a receiver, he would've finished as the fourth-best wideout in the league as a rookie in 2006.

In fairness, Cooks is not going to get the 155 carries that Bush got in 2006; but he will more than likely get a few.

Cooks rushed 32 times in 2013 at Oregon State. He totaled 217 rushing yards and two TDs.

The reality is, though, that Cooks doesn't have to be Bush to be a top-25 wideout. Last year, the 25th-best WR was Mike Wallace, who amassed 966 total yards and five TDs.

If he can manage 750 receiving yards, 100 rushing yards and six to eight total touchdowns, Cooks will be the top fantasy rookie WR and a legitimate contributor on your team.

Given that Sean Payton is the man at the helm of the Saints, the same man who masterminded Bush's explosive rookie campaign, there's every reason to be confident that Cooks will be the next rookie sensation.

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