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 $3 Best Ball entry with your 1st 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.

1Leonard Fournette (JAC)RB
2Dion Lewis (NE)RB
3Jay Ajayi (PHI)RB
4Jerick McKinnon (MIN)RB
5Latavius Murray (MIN)RB
6Stefon Diggs (MIN)WR
7Adam Thielen (MIN)WR
8Rob Gronkowski (NE)TE
9James White (NE)RB
10Brandin Cooks (NE)WR
 View all Flex Rankings 
11Rex Burkhead (NE)RB
12T.J. Yeldon (JAC)RB
13LeGarrette Blount (PHI)RB
14Alshon Jeffery (PHI)WR
15Corey Clement (PHI)RB
16Nelson Agholor (PHI)WR
17Danny Amendola (NE)WR
18Marqise Lee (JAC)WR
19Chris Hogan (NE)WR
20Dede Westbrook (JAC)WR
21Zach Ertz (PHI)TE
22Allen Hurns (JAC)WR
23Kyle Rudolph (MIN)TE
24Torrey Smith (PHI)WR
25Keelan Cole (JAC)WR
26Chris Ivory (JAC)RB
27Jarius Wright (MIN)WR
28Laquon Treadwell (MIN)WR
29Kenny Britt (NE)WR
30Phillip Dorsett (NE)WR
1Jose Altuve (HOU)2B
2Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)1B
3Nolan Arenado (COL)3B
4Mike Trout (LAA)CF,DH
5Mookie Betts (BOS)RF
6Charlie Blackmon (COL)CF
7Max Scherzer (WSH)SP
8Joey Votto (CIN)1B
9Kris Bryant (CHC)1B,3B
10Chris Sale (BOS)SP
 View All Rankings 
11Manny Machado (BAL)3B,SS
12Anthony Rizzo (CHC)1B,2B
13Corey Seager (LAD)SS
14Giancarlo Stanton (NYY)RF
15Clayton Kershaw (LAD)SP
16Corey Kluber (CLE)SP
17Daniel Murphy (WSH)1B,2B
18Nelson Cruz (SEA)RF,DH
19George Springer (HOU)CF,RF
20Freddie Freeman (ATL)1B,3B
21Francisco Lindor (CLE)SS
22Edwin Encarnacion (CLE)1B,DH
23Josh Donaldson (TOR)3B,DH
24Yu Darvish (FA)SP
25Robinson Cano (SEA)2B
26Bryce Harper (WSH)RF
27Miguel Cabrera (DET)1B,DH
28J.D. Martinez (FA)RF
29Madison Bumgarner (SF)SP
30Jose Abreu (CWS)1B,DH
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
30Kevin Love (CLE)PF,C