Brees didn't even have to play Friday for that to become obvious in Brandin Cooks' debut, when he made his presence felt against the Rams in New Orleans' 26-24 win.
The rookie led all receivers with five receptions and was second on the team with 55 yards, catching the only touchdown pass tossed by New Orleans in the opener—a 25-yard strike from Ryan Griffin.
As NFL Network said, Cooks looked like he belonged:
The former Oregon State star stood out as the most dangerous Saints receiver that saw more than a few series on the field Friday. He had no problem gaining separation from Rams defensive backs, used his quickness to elude would-be tacklers and looked like he could outrun anyone on the field.
Cooks got some chances to try, too, returning two punts—however, the Rams did keep him in check there as he only amassed five yards.
Inserted into the offense, it was a different story. On his aforementioned touchdown drive, Cooks made a 17-yard reception prior to eluding a defender and scoring from 25 yards out.
Few could tell from Cooks' stellar play that it was his first NFL game, but head coach Sean Payton saw plenty of improvement left to make, per The Times-Picayune's Katherine Terrell.
"He's quick with the ball in his hands," Payton said. "I thought he played hard, he's smart, get's lined up very quickly. We'll keep bringing him along. There's a lot of things he needs to work on still."
Nearly any first-round selection spent on a wide receiver—especially on a potent offense such as this, with a need for speed—would figure to make a fantasy impact even as a rookie. Should his potential be thrown in with star rookie wideouts like Mike Evans and Sammy Watkins, though?
Maybe. This offense with Brees has a knack for making receivers better, and there's a big need for playmakers, even with Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston in the fold. Playing in a stronger offense would offset the disadvantages of not being a No. 1 receiver like some of his fellow rookies.
Cooks' size, at 5'10", 185 pounds, makes him an ideal slot receiver, and his marquee speed gives Payton the flexibility to use him in many looks. Playing with an attention-grabbing tight end in Graham will open up space in the secondary for Cooks to wander and find openings.
He was one of college football's fastest players a year ago, and there's little doubt it translates to the next level. As a threat to take it to the house at any point, plenty of yards and touchdowns should be in Cooks' future.
On top of that, he's impressed in training camp as a punt return man. And in most fantasy leagues, a starter scoring a touchdown on special teams counts just the same.
Of course, Cooks will be harder pressed for playing time than many of his fellow rookies. Kenny Stills and Robert Meachem will eat into his rep count, and he likely won't start off the bat.
But given Cooks' skill set, he's more likely to help alleviate the burden of losing Darren Sproles and Lance Moore this past offseason. That will allow him to see a lot of the field, even if he's not a featured wideout.
Drafting any rookie comes with a great deal of risk. But taking into consideration the system he's in and how he fits the needs there, Cooks' stock could explode within a matter of weeks in fantasy.
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