Fantasy Target: Brandin Cooks

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Fantasy Target: Brandin Cooks

Brandin Cooks might have the most underrated career for a receiver in fantasy football history. No matter what team he’s been on, who the quarterback is, or who his teammates are — he’s produced.

Outside of an injury-riddled 2019 campaign, Cooks has been a consistent WR2 in every season since his rookie year:

YearTeamFantasy finish (FPG)
2015SaintsWR20
2016SaintsWR12
2017PatriotsWR18
2018RamsWR20
2019RamsWR72
2020TexansWR17

There aren’t many wideouts that have had that level of consistent success regardless of who is under center throughout their careers. No matter if it was Brees, Brady, Goff, or Watson under center — Cooks has finished as the WR20 or better five times.

And, guess what? He did it again last year!

Well, sort of. In Davis Mills’ starts last year, Cooks averaged 15.5 FPG – which would have made him WR16, one spot behind Jaylen Waddle (15.6 FPG).

Digging deeper beneath the surface reveals just how good Cooks was last year.

Off the top, Cooks had huge positive splits with Mills under center as opposed to Tyrod Taylor. Cooks saw 22% more targets and averaged 32% more fantasy points in Mills’ starts.

Cooks was also more efficient in Mills’ starts, as he averaged 2.09 yards per route run with Mills vs. 1.71 YPRR when Taylor was the quarterback.

And, for reference, Cooks’ 2.09 YPRR with Mills would have ranked 11th-best among wide receivers last year – one spot ahead of Tyreek Hill (2.07).

Which leads us to the question — what if Mills is good? Like, really good?

Since 2000, a total of 61 rookie quarterbacks have attempted at least 250 passes in their first year as a pro.

Among that group, Mills ranks 3rd in completions (66.8%), 12th in passer rating (88.8), 17th in touchdown rate (4.1%), and 18th in adjusted net yards per attempt (5.48) which factors in sacks and sack yardage.

Beyond traditional measures, Mills’ accuracy was strong, too. Per SIS, Mills ranked 13th-of-32 QBs in on-target throws (82%) from a clean pocket.

Cooks’ ADP has remained in the fifth round all summer while Mills is an afterthought as a QB2 or QB3 in best-ball formats. There isn’t a more underrated stack available than Mills-to-Cooks.

If Mills improves off of his strong rookie year, this could be a career year for Cooks at 29-years-old. John Metchie’s unfortunate cancer diagnosis leaves just Nico Collins, Brevin Jordan, and some rotation of Chris Conley/Chris Moore/Chester Rogers/Phillip Dorsett as his competition for targets.

Cooks finished 14th among wide receivers in targets per game (8.4) and nothing's standing in his way from repeating — or improving slightly — in the volume department.

An easy schedule is just icing on the cake.

Per Scott Barrett’s strength of schedule metrics, the Texans have the ninth-easiest QB schedule and the third-easiest schedule during the fantasy playoffs.

Cooks’ ADP (WR25) presents an amazing value to draft a WR2 at WR3 prices. And when you do draft Cooks in large best ball tournaments like Underdog’s BBMIII, Mills is a fantastic QB2/3 target to complete a Texans stack.

Graham Barfield blends data and film together to create some of the most unique content in the fantasy football industry. Barfield is FantasyPoints’ Director of Analytics and formerly worked for the NFL Network, Fantasy Guru, and Rotoworld.

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