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Fantasy Football: Why do we continue to underestimate Brandin Cooks?

Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks (13) runs with the ball during the second quarter as Tennessee Titans inside linebacker Rashaan Evans (54) defends at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2021 season. Click here to read the series of questions answered so far.

Speed kills, and Texans WR Brandin Cooks has plenty of it. Owner of a 4.33-second 40-yard dash, Cooks has been one of the league’s premiere field-stretching talents ever since the Saints selected him with the 20th overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft.

Yes, Cooks has continuously been blessed with one high-end QB after another. Also yes, he deserves credit for seamlessly emerging as a great contributor in four different offenses over the past five years. After all, Cooks and Brandon Marshall are the only players to ever rack up at least 1,000 yards in a single season with four different squads.

What follows is a breakdown on just how good Cooks has been over the years as well as what we should expect from him as a fantasy asset in 2021.

Cooks has largely done nothing except ball out over the years

We’ve really only seen Cooks look somewhat average twice during his seven-year NFL career: as a rookie in 2014 and with the bad version of Jared Goff in 2019. Note that these instances in 2014 (10 games) and 2019 (14) were also the only times in Cooks’ career that he failed to appear in at least 15 games.

  • 2014: PPR WR56
  • 2015: WR14
  • 2016: WR10
  • 2017: WR15
  • 2018: WR13
  • 2019: WR61
  • 2020: WR17

Turns out life catching passes from Drew Brees, Tom Brady, 2018 Goff and Deshaun Watson is good for fantasy business.

The interesting part about Cook’s most-recent WR2 finish was the reality that he wasn’t used as a pure field-stretching talent for the first time since his rookie season. Overall, Cooks boasted an average target depth of at least 13 yards in every season from 2015-2019; in 2020 he posted a relatively mild 12.6-yard mark.

Credit to Watson for helping engineer arguably the best version of Cooks yet. He posted career-high marks in yards per route run (2.05) and PFF receiving grade (80.5) in 2020 and generally looked the part of a truly great NFL WR throughout the year.

The reality that Cooks did most of his damage with Will Fuller also in the lineup is another testament to the great season he just managed to pull off.

Of course, the elephant in the room: The 2021 version of the Texans offense sure looks like a pretty major downgrade compared to what we saw last year.

This Texans offense looks like a train wreck

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