Continuing the wide receiver trend, I've decided to take a closer look at the fastest WR in this year's class, Brandin Cooks. Cooks ran an official 4.33 40-yard dash with a 10-yard split of 1.50 seconds. Only Kent State RB Dri Archer was able to beat that time at an incredible 4.26 clip. Cooks is blazing fast, and it's hard not to notice on film. If he was 2 or 3 inches taller and put up those same numbers, he'd probably be considered the #1 WR prospect in this year's draft. Instead, he stands at 5'10, weighing in at 189 pounds, and will likely play as a slot receiver that excels when given the ball in open space. With the release of Nate Burleson and the unfortunate injuries that have plagued Ryan Broyles, the Lions now have a need for a #2 WR AND a slot WR.
Here is a look at the rest of Cooks' measurables, as well as a spider graph showing his percentiles vs. other WR dating back to 1999.
Brandin Cooks had an incredible 2013 for OSU, and was awarded the Fred Biletnikoff Award for his efforts. He led the Pac-12 in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He was only 53 yards shy of 2000 yards from scrimmage in 2013, which was 3rd best in the Pac-12. Cooks' game log in 2013 is pretty damn impressive. The lowest amount of catches in a single game was 6 catches against USC. He still managed to have 88 receiving yards and a touchdown in that game. Another great stat, is that he had 9 or more catches in 10 out of 13 games in 2013. Pretty consistent if you ask me. He also had at least one receiving TD in 10 out of 13 games, and 5 of 2 TD's or more. There was no stopping Cooks last year.
Cooks has drawn plenty of comparisons to last year's stud WR prospect, Tavon Austin. Both have small frames and are extremely fast. Austin is slightly faster than Cooks, but Cooks is slightly bigger and stronger. Like Austin, Cooks is a home-run threat when he has the ball in open space. While Cooks had plenty of plays where he turned a short catch into a big gain, his final YAC (yards after the catch) number wasn't very high.
Cooks actually had the lowest YAC out of the group above, but the devil is always in the details. Cooks was a product of Oregon State's system, that has generally seen their WRs run plenty of comeback routes. In the article linked to Rotoworld above, Greg Peshek points to the amount of comeback routes that Cooks had resulting in a catch (38.89%), and explains that these routes generally end up in about 2.5 yards after the catch, regardless of the receiver. Matthews' YAC seems pretty impressive, but a lot of those big yardage plays were on screens, and he received a lot of great blocks from his teammates to help out with those numbers.
Cooks has great open field awareness, and if you're not within a few feet of him when he makes the catch, then your chances of bringing him down are very slim. Cooks had a lot of success on screen passes in 2013. In particular, he seemed to be involved in a lot of middle screens, similar to what the Lions did with Reggie Bush last year.
In this play, you'll see one of those middle screens I was talking about. Cooks sells the screen well and makes a nice jab step cut towards the middle of the field. He makes the grab and does a fantastic job of following his blocker, showing off his great open field awareness. He bounces off of the blocker to the left and shows his elite acceleration, agility and speed to finish the play for a TD.
Another screen across the middle. Cooks makes a nice grab on a ball that's thrown a little high. He proceeds to run across the middle and towards the opposite sideline, clearly outrunning every defender that's near him. This dude is a speed demon. He gets a nice block from his receiver and looks to be in a position where he'll be brought down by at least one defender. Instead, Cooks is able to slip away from the defender and turn up the sideline for a TD. Amazing balance shown by Cooks on this play, and that's what can separate great players from good ones, by getting those extra yards and turning them into scores.
Not only is Cooks great in the open space, but he can stretch the field in other ways as well. He's a very versatile player and it was pretty clear that Oregon State's goal last year was to put the ball in Cooks' hands any way they could. Cooks can return kicks/punts, provides a threat as a runner and can turn a short pass for a big gain, as well as catch the long ball.
Keith McGill, meet Brandin Cooks. Utah CB Keith McGill is one of my favorite prospects in this draft. He's a projected 3rd rounder that stands at 6'3 211 lbs. This play just shows you why everyone is so high on Brandin Cooks. OSU makes a ballsy call on 3rd and 1 to go with a play-action pass. The QB sells it well and the safeties bite on the fake. Meanwhile, Cooks runs a simple go route against McGill who attempts to get his hands on Cooks and slow him down at the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately for McGill, Cooks is just too damn fast for him and immediately breaks free with his hands and blows by McGill. The ball is a little underthrown, and probably should have been a touchdown if the QB judged it better, but a great play nonetheless.
This is just dirty route running by Cooks. He bounces out to the outside and immediately calls for the ball while turning his hips inside. The defender thinks he's trying to get behind him and get to the middle of the field for a back end zone catch. Instead, Cooks catches the defender's hips leaning towards the middle and makes his break to the corner end zone on a timed route. It ends up with a perfectly timed throw and results in a TD. There's just nothing you can do to stop this.
Cooks is among the best in this year's WR class when it comes to route running. He makes the same move at the top of his stems on every route, and it's very difficult for the defender to gauge exactly what route he's going to run.
In the play above, Cooks runs a nice stop & go route. The defender actually does a pretty decent job and only hesitates for a split-second on the stop & go, but with Cooks' speed, that's just enough time for him to get in front and make a play on the ball. Cooks demonstrates his route-running skills, his ability to react and adjust to where the ball is, and also his great hands (4.69% drop rate in 2013).
Speaking of great hands, this last play is a perfect example of how good his hands really are. It happens to come in a crucial moment on 2nd and goal in overtime. Utah scored a field goal on their previous possession in OT, so OSU wins the game with a TD. OSU QB Sean Mannion almost throws the game away by throwing it directly into the hands of the defender. Luckily, the ball gets deflected through the hands of the defender, and Cooks does a great job of reacting to the ball and securing it for the game winning touchdown. CLUTCH.
Brandin Cooks had such a ridiculous start his 2013 campaign, that he began to receive a ton of respect from opposing defenses towards the end of the year. His production was still good, but not his normal stat lines.
After watching the game between Oregon and Oregon State, it was pretty clear that the #1 goal for Oregon's defense was to limit the amount of yards for Cooks. They would let him get his short passes in, but they made it a point that they were not going to allow him to beat them for a big play...and it worked. There were about 4 or 5 plays where I noticed Cooks getting double and sometimes even triple teamed.
I recommend watching the full video below, and if you can find a video for the entire game (not focused on Brandin Cooks), then I recommend that even more so. This is a very entertaining chess match between these Pac-12 teams, and the matchups between Cooks and Ekpre-Olomu/Mitchell are very intriguing as well.
1:06: Thrown up into double-coverage.
3:38: Double-covered on 1st and goal. CB plays outside, safety plays the middle.
5:27: Flea-flicker throw into triple-coverage.
6:30: Cooks runs a go-route and TE runs an out route. TE is wide open, while Cooks is triple-covered again.
8:18: Gets bumped at the LOS by one defender, then double-covered.
It's crazy to think that Cooks put up Pac-12 leading numbers while receiving this kind of attention later on in the year. Luckily for Cooks, he likely won't be the #1 guy wherever he lands in the NFL, and he'll most likely be limited to a slot receiver.
Cooks' worst trait has to be his blocking. It's to be expected because of how small of a receiver he is, but his technique is pretty horrible as well. I would show some examples, but if you watched the film against Oregon, you'll notice about 2 or 3 plays where he makes some awful cut blocks attempts. Most of his blocking attempts end up with him diving at the defenders ankles, not slowing them down one bit.
Why We Should Draft Him
It is highly unlikely that the Lions will consider Cooks with the 10th overall pick. However, if Cooks were to be available in the second round for the Lions, they should absolutely pull the trigger. The Lions have a need at slot receiver as well as #2 receiver. The Lions could use Cooks as a slot receiver, as well as involve him in some other packages, like reverses and screens. The most ideal situation for me would be to trade down into the first round and acquire a guy like Cooks, as well as pick up another pick in this year's draft. Don't be surprised to see Mayhew pull off his patented trade up into the 1st round move either.
Why We Shouldn't Draft Him
Cooks is a very small receiver that is questionable against bigger and tougher corners. He will be limited to a slot role in the NFL. Against Oregon, Cooks had a tough time going up against top CB prospect, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. If the Lions end up drafting a WR early, I think it would make the most sense to address their need at #2 WR before they look to draft a slot receiver. There are some great options in the later rounds for slot receivers like Dri Archer and Josh Huff.
Personally, I'd grade Cooks as the 5th best receiver in this class. I like him more than Kelvin Benjamin, but I'd put Watkins, Evans, OBJ, and Lee over him in that order.
Next one is a surprise. Of course, feel free to suggest some new names anyway.
Discuss below, and rec it if you enjoyed it.