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Why Jared Cook Will Finish Outside The Top-18 TEs (2020 Fantasy Football)

by Kyle Yates | @KyleYNFL | Featured Writer
Jun 24, 2020

Throughout the offseason, Kyle Yates will be highlighting several marquee fantasy players as he walks through his projection process. These projections are subject to change based on injuries, signings above/below them on the depth chart, new information regarding scheme or player usage, etc. They’ll serve as a way to give a “peek behind the curtain” into Kyle’s projections thought process and whether or not a player will be a fantasy value in 2020.

In this article, we look at how Jared Cook is a likely candidate to finish outside the top-18 TEs in 2020.

Jared Cook

It’s important to target players in fantasy football that are tied to dynamic offenses. While you can look at one or two players on a mediocre offense to return some form of fantasy value, it’s typically a safer bet to target second-tier options on the better offenses in hopes that they can help your team win on a given week.

Jared Cook is certainly tied to a dynamic offense in New Orleans and he’s coming off back to back years where he helped fantasy owners win several key matchups. He’s still riding that wave going into this season and is someone that plenty of experts are recommending as a top-10 option at the position.

However, there are plenty of reasons to be cautious about pulling the trigger and drafting Cook this season. While he still has the talent and ability to finish as a top-10 option, there are several factors going against the aging veteran this season that are causing me to look elsewhere in my drafts this year.

What are some of those factors and how do they combine to result in Cook finishing outside the top-18 TEs in 2020?

Let’s look at the projections.

Projections

In order to figure out Cook’s total targets on the season, we need to first determine how many overall pass attempts this offense is going to have in 2020. In 2017 and 2018, the Saints were incredibly efficient and registered only 536 and 519 pass attempts, respectively. However, in 2019, they saw that number spike to 581 overall pass attempts. This was partly due to the fact that Drew Brees missed time with an injury and the fact that Alvin Kamara was dealing with his own injuries and wasn’t as effective on the ground as he has been in years past.

With Brees back healthy this season, and Kamara’s assumed full health, this offense should move back towards more of what we saw in 2018. With that in mind, I’m comfortable projecting the Saints for a total of 530 pass attempts. This brings them back towards their normal trend, while still giving some room and adjustment for last season’s numbers.

With that 530 pass attempts number in mind, it’s arguably reasonable to project the receiving weapons with the following target share percentages:

Thomas is going to continue to see just an absurd target share percentage this season and the rest will be split up among the other receiving options. Kamara is almost a lock to be second on the team in targets, while Sanders is going to see more than the Saints WR2 from last season, Ted Ginn. Smith will fill the old Ginn role and be used to stretch the field, which should be a good fit for him, but most likely won’t amount to much from a fantasy perspective.

This now leaves Cook, who only saw a total of 65 targets last year. I’m projecting a slight drop-off, but he’ll remain around as involved as he was in 2019. Trautman will assume the Josh Hill role for now until he takes over as the TE1 for this team as early as next season. In 2019, Hill saw a total of 35 targets, which is around where I have Trautman projected for right now.

If we take Cook’s projected 58 targets and attempt to figure out the remainder of his stats, we need to look back at his historical catch percentage and yards per reception. Based off of this information, I’m comfortable projecting a 64% catch rate and 14 yards per reception, which is incredible for a 33 year old tight end. For context, Cook averaged 16.4 yards per reception last year, which was significantly above the average yards per reception for tight ends who are 30 years or older last year.

If we input those projections, Cook’s stat line would look like 58 targets for 37 receptions and 522 receiving yards. We’re now able to calculate Cook’s expected receiving TDs based on last year’s averages. Last season, a tight end scored a touchdown on average every 130.67 receiving yards. If we use that number to determine Cook’s baseline off of his projected receiving yards, this totals out to 4 receiving TDs. However, we know that last year Cook scored 9 receiving TDs on only 43 receptions and 705 receiving yards. This means that his average yards to TD rate was 78.33, which is drastically higher than the league average.

While Cook is certainly a factor in the red zone, with four of his nine receiving touchdowns coming in the red zone last year, this is an incredibly unpredictable and unsustainable yards to TD rate. Very few players every year drastically exceed the league average and it’s very difficult to project Cook to do it again this season. Because of that, and the fact that Cook’s another year older, I’m projecting only 5 receiving TDs in 2020.

With that in mind, Cook’s final projections look like 58-37-522-5.

Fantasy Outlook

Those stats cause Cook to slide in at TE20 in my ranks. He certainly has the skillset and talent to drastically exceed the league average and finish with close to 10 touchdowns again, but there are plenty of other factors working against him. Sanders is now on this team and will demand targets, the Saints invested in a premium backup who is the future at the position, and Cook is now another year older.

When you draft Cook, especially at his current ADP of TE9, you’re betting on everything going his way again in 2020. You’re betting on TD production, an absurdly high yards per reception again, and the fact that his age won’t be a factor in his performance. I like Cook the player, but there are plenty of other tight ends that I would prefer drafting this season that come with a safer floor that I can get much later in my drafts.

It can pay off for you, but it’s a bet that I’m not willing to take when you factor in his ADP.

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Kyle Yates is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Kyle, check out his archive and follow him @KyleYNFL.

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