By: Tyler Ghee (Twitter: @TheMrGhee)
Updated: 5/31/2017

By The Numbers: Brandin Cooks

The Problem:

Every year in fantasy football a giant question mark kicks down the door of the fantasy community. Each time this crime scene of a mess happens, fantasy players begin to rummage through the muddle and determine what can we expect now? The biggest question mark that hit us this off season was that of Brandin Cooks. The movement of Brandin Cooks to the Patriots sent owners into a tizzy. On one hand you have one of the best QBs to ever play the game throwing him the ball, on the other, he seems to be (as Pink Floyd said) “Another Brick In The Wall”. We now have a community of people screaming “Sell, sell, sell” while the other side is saying “He is the next Randy Moss!” The polarity could not be more real.

So what does Brandin Cooks fantasy future look like? Furthermore, which side of the picket fence should you be on? Those of you that have read my previous article know my love for numbers and look to them often. This conundrum is no exception.

If you have been playing any amount of fantasy football you know that opportunity is king. So what does opportunity look like for a WR? Targets. Often times statistics for WRs are based off receptions. The issue I have with receptions is it does not accurately depict the opportunity they receive. Targets show opportunity, receptions show ability to capitalize on those opportunities. We all know of Brandin Cooks’ success with the Saints, but how well did he capitalize on the opportunity given to him?

The Talent

Targets: 69
Receptions: 53
Yards: 550
Points (PPR): 139.3

Reception Percent: 76.8
Yards Per Target: 7.97
Points Per Target (PPR): 2.02

Targets: 129
Receptions: 84
Yards: 1138
Points (PPR): 253.9

Reception Percent: 65.1
Yards Per Target: 8.82
Points Per Target (PPR): 1.97

Targets: 117
Receptions: 78
Yards: 1173
Points (PPR): 246.3

Reception Percent: 66.7
Yards Per Target: 10.2
Points Per Target (PPR): 2.1

Career Averages:
Reception Percent: 69.5
Yards Per Target: 8.94
Points Per Target (PPR): 2.03

The Opportunity:
A great deal of statistics, but intuitive as to what type of player and high caliber athlete we know Brandin Cooks to be. Thus far you may be nodding your head in agreement, but also thinking “I already know he is talented, but what is his opportunity?”
This is the second piece of the puzzle and quite frankly the most important. Yes, he is talented, but how much can we expect him to be used on this highly talented team? This is just the question I asked as I began to survey the Patriots offense and the average number of targets each position received. Now keep in mind these numbers lack a bit of consistency due to spontaneity of the Patriots. Additionally, the data collected only goes back to 2010 when Gronk joined the team.

Looking at all this data the first thing that jumps off the board is the love the patriots have for the tight end position. This could be due to Gronk, or just the offense they choose to run. Whatever the reason, the tight end will almost undoubtedly see more targets on average than the 2nd wide receiver option. So those worried about the grand return of Gronk taking targets, they are most certainly accounted for. The second analysis that I notice the large amount of targets that get spread around to the random amount of people that make up the rest of the WR corps. Undoubtedly this too will happen this year as Tom Brady is not afraid to spread the targets around.

Now let us take a moment and evaluate the wide receiver one and two option. On average the first wide receiver option will see 143 targets whereas the second option will just see 91. Using this data, we can assuredly make predictions for Brandin Cooks’ “floor” and “ceiling”.

Suppose one was to believe that regardless of Julian Edelman’s presence that Brandin Cooks takes over the role of the first option in the wide receiver corps, then he is likely to see 142 targets this season. This is more targets than he has ever received. Take a moment and let that set in. Additional to this he would be projected 290 ppr points. By last year standing he would have finished as the 3rd best wide receiver. Knowing this is a very big assumption, we must also look at the other side.

Suppose he plays second fiddle to the well-established Julian Edelman. According to averages, he should see around 91 targets. This is damper to his 117 targets he received last year. Leaving the once talented wide receiver to get an average of 186 PPR points next season. These type of numbers leave Brandin Cooks as a low end WR2 option in fantasy.

This Year’s Prediction:

Looking at the data, I think it paints a pretty interesting picture of the high sky points that Brandin Cooks could see this year, but also the regression we could see from the ever so solid wide receiver one that we all know and love. In my humble prediction I think it is safe to say that Brandin Cooks could see about 100 targets this season. Although this is not the 117 targets he received last year, it still puts him on track to score 203 points. Yes, a regression, but still a solid option for any team. As far as the buy or sell, I think it depends on the offers. If you can still get the high caliber pay, then by all means sell him. However, if you can buy him low, I think he is a very strong wide receiver 2 option that could have some surprising upside.

From a dynasty standpoint, I have to say he is a buy low candidate for me. Researching I found trades for Brandin Cooks as low as a 1.12 in a rookie draft. These type of trades are happening and should be taken advantage of for a solid young wide receiver that has plenty of upside. Furthermore, if Brandin Cooks is able to take the load of the first option (by Edelman retiring or moving on) we can see the massive potential in the data. I would encourage you to take a moment and send some trades to the Brandin Cooks owner and see what they value him as. If they want high end capital, stay away. However, if they are part of the ever so popular “Sell, sell, sell” bandwagon, I will gladly take a young, healthy, wide receiver two off their hands.

Tyler Ghee is a husband, father, teacher, disc golf lover, and fantasy football enthusiast. Although a new and upcoming writer, he plans on implementing his multiple math degrees to change the face of fantasy football and offer some humor along the way. Follow him on Twitter: @TheMrGhee