Fantasy Impact: Brandin Cooks traded to the Patriots

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Mar 10, 2017

Wide receiver Brandin Cooks and the Saints fourth round pick were sent to the Patriots in exchange for a first and third round pick.

We’ve heard the rumblings for a week now… Are the Saints really going to trade Brandin Cooks? At first it was to the Titans or the Eagles, but as time went on, the Patriots were the team that was repeatedly getting mentioned. On Friday evening, the Saints and the Patriots made a blockbuster trade resulting in Cooks going to New England. There are many questions about this trade and why it happened, but most importantly, what does it mean for his fantasy value?

Try the only fantasy football draft software that syncs with your draft >>

From an actual football standpoint, you want to say that it’s not fair to give Tom Brady another weapon. But from a fantasy standpoint, it seems that there may be too many cooks in the kitchen. No, I did not intend to slide that pun in there, but now that it is, I’m leaving it.

If there’s been a team who’s been as unpredictable as the Saints from a fantasy standpoint, it’s got to be the Patriots, right? I decided to go back through the last three years and find out how many WR1 performances each offense produced. The results were somewhat surprising:

Patriots WR1 WR2 WR3   Saints WR1 WR2 WR3
2016 4 15 24 2016 10 22 30
2015 5 12 18 2015 9 15 23
2014 8 14 20 2014 5 11 21

Before going any further, this chart can be interpreted in many different ways, but it’s interesting nonetheless. In PPR formats, there’ve only been 17 WR1 performances out of Patriots wide receivers combined, while the “unpredictable” Saints have produced 24 of them, including 19 the last two seasons. I think it’s also worth noting that the Saints have thrown 102 touchdowns and rushed for 47 touchdowns over the last three years, while the Patriots have also thrown 102 touchdowns and rushed for 45 touchdowns. Scary, right?

So when looking at the offenses and the fact that they’ve essentially scored the same amount of total touchdowns the last three years, it’s fair to say that the Saints system favors the wide receiver position more than the Patriots. A large part of that has to do with the Patriots red zone packages that feature two tight end sets, including the best tight end of all-time, Rob Gronkowski. That isn’t going away any time soon, and the Patriots also just got done trading for Dwayne Allen, who is a red zone presence in his own right.

Now onto the common sense portion – you don’t trade away a first and third round pick for a player that you don’t intend to use in your offense. Cooks is going to be used, but realistically, he isn’t going to be anything more than the No. 2 option behind Gronkowski.

So looking at where Cooks’ targets will be coming from, you have to start with Julian Edelman, who has seen a ridiculous 9.8 targets per game over the last three seasons. For a possession style receiver, he’ll see plenty of targets, but he’s the most logical choice to see his numbers dip. Even when you look at Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell, they only saw a combined 3.7 targets per game in 2016. That number started to go up towards the end of the season, but there aren’t many to take away from them.

The reason the wide receivers target numbers are so low is because the Patriots use their running backs in the passing game more than 90 percent of the teams in the league. In 2016, their running backs made up for 20.7 percent of their targets, the fourth-highest percentage in the league. It was similar in 2015 when they targeted them 20.2 percent. With James White and Dion Lewis under contract, it’s hard to imagine that ending any time soon.

Anyone who tells you they know exactly how the Patriots will use Cooks is lying to you, because the Patriots have been fooling teams for a long time now. Heck, it’s the reason they just won their fifth Super Bowl since 2002. What I will tell you is that it’s extremely unlikely that Cooks will see the 123 targets per year that he did with the Saints. And when you figure that his targets were coming from Drew Brees, can you really adjust his efficiency? Cooks is going to give you plenty of excitement, but he’s also going to give you some heartache. As of now, consider him a boom-or-bust WR2.

Subscribe: iTunesStitcher | SoundCloud | Google PlayTuneInRSS

Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

What's your take? Leave a comment

Fantasy Games
DRAFT photo
Get a FREE FantasyPros upgrade with first deposit
FanDuel photo
Play for your share of $1m+
for FREE with first deposit
CBS Sports photo
Serious Fantasy Football
Get our Mobile App!

Enter your phone number below, and we'll text you a link to download the app.

1Todd Gurley (LAR)RB
2Le'Veon Bell (PIT)RB
3Ezekiel Elliott (DAL)RB
4Antonio Brown (PIT)WR
5David Johnson (ARI)RB
6DeAndre Hopkins (HOU)WR
7Alvin Kamara (NO)RB
8Odell Beckham Jr. (NYG)WR
9Kareem Hunt (KC)RB
10Julio Jones (ATL)WR
 View All Rankings 
11Michael Thomas (NO)WR
12Leonard Fournette (JAC)RB
13Saquon Barkley (NYG)RB
14Melvin Gordon (LAC)RB
15A.J. Green (CIN)WR
16Dalvin Cook (MIN)RB
17Keenan Allen (LAC)WR
18Davante Adams (GB)WR
19Mike Evans (TB)WR
20LeSean McCoy (BUF)RB
21Devonta Freeman (ATL)RB
22Jordan Howard (CHI)RB
23Rob Gronkowski (NE)TE
24Doug Baldwin (SEA)WR
25Tyreek Hill (KC)WR
26Christian McCaffrey (CAR)RB
27Adam Thielen (MIN)WR
28Travis Kelce (KC)TE
29Jerick McKinnon (SF)RB
30Joe Mixon (CIN)RB
1Mike Trout (LAA)CF
2Jose Altuve (HOU)2B
3Nolan Arenado (COL)3B
4Trea Turner (WSH)SS
5Mookie Betts (BOS)RF
6Charlie Blackmon (COL)CF
7Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)1B
8Bryce Harper (WSH)RF
9Giancarlo Stanton (NYY)RF
10Clayton Kershaw (LAD)SP
 View All Rankings 
11Max Scherzer (WSH)SP
12Kris Bryant (CHC)3B,RF
13Carlos Correa (HOU)SS
14Corey Kluber (CLE)SP
15Chris Sale (BOS)SP
16Joey Votto (CIN)1B
17Manny Machado (BAL)3B
18Freddie Freeman (ATL)1B,3B
19Anthony Rizzo (CHC)1B,2B
20J.D. Martinez (BOS)RF
21Aaron Judge (NYY)RF
22Francisco Lindor (CLE)SS
23George Springer (HOU)CF,RF
24Josh Donaldson (TOR)3B
25Cody Bellinger (LAD)1B,LF
26Stephen Strasburg (WSH)SP
27Noah Syndergaard (NYM)SP
28Gary Sanchez (NYY)C
29Jose Ramirez (CLE)2B,3B
30Brian Dozier (MIN)2B
1Kevin Durant (GSW)SF,PF
2Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL)SF,PF
3James Harden (HOU)PG,SG
4Stephen Curry (GSW)PG,SG
5Russell Westbrook (OKC)PG
6Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN)C
7Anthony Davis (NOR)PF,C
8Kawhi Leonard (SAS)SG,SF
9LeBron James (CLE)SF,PF
10Nikola Jokic (DEN)PF,C
 View All Rankings 
11John Wall (WAS)PG
12DeMarcus Cousins (NOR)PF,C
13Chris Paul (HOU)PG
14Damian Lillard (POR)PG
15Jimmy Butler (MIN)SG,SF
16Rudy Gobert (UTH)C
17Kyrie Irving (BOS)PG,SG
18Hassan Whiteside (MIA)C,PF
19Myles Turner (IND)PF,C
20Paul George (OKC)SG,SF
21Kyle Lowry (TOR)PG
22Draymond Green (GSW)SF,PF
23Kristaps Porzingis (NYK)PF,C
24Kemba Walker (CHA)PG
25CJ McCollum (POR)PG,SG
26Mike Conley (MEM)PG
27Bradley Beal (WAS)SG
28Klay Thompson (GSW)SG,SF
29Marc Gasol (MEM)C
30Gordon Hayward (BOS)SG,SF