Fantasy Fallout: Brandin Cooks Set for Target Spike Atop Texans' Depth Chart - Roto Street Journal
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Fantasy Fallout: Brandin Cooks Set for Target Spike Atop Texans’ Depth Chart

First things first: Brandin Cooks is NOT DeAndre Hopkins. This isn’t one do-it-all Alpha WR replacing another.

Still, Cooks immediately slides in atop the Texans’ thin WRs Totem Pole, a position offering immense volume from one of the NFL’s top young QBs. As Deshaun Watson‘s new No.1 option, Cooks could resurge for high-end WR2, or even low-end WR1, fantasy status.

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From a sheer “Usage” perspective, Houston was Cooks’ best-case landing spot.  Over the past three years, Hopkins’ 487 targets lead the NFL. In fact, only Michael Thomas (481) and Julio Jones (475) have topped 450 in that span. Hopkins has consistently shouldered 30% or more of the Texans workload. Without him, no team boasted a clearer lack of a No.1 WR, especially considering Will Fuller‘s shaky injury history.

Granted, Cooks is a much different style of player than Hopkins. Whereas Hopkins is a contested ball wizard who can be thrown open anywhere, Cooks relies far more on speed and separation. He’s not going to just slide in and inherit all of Hopkins’ 150 vacated targets.

Still, the career-high 129 Cooks saw in his sophomore season in New Orleans is highly viable. He had, afterall, seen 110+ looks in four straight years, and he’ll no longer compete with Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, who absorbed nearly 45% of the Rams’ targets last season. Contrastingly, since 2015, no one on the Texans has seen more than 100 targets outside Hopkins. Assuming health, Cooks will be approach 100% of the snaps, compared to 63% in 2019.

With this usage spike, expect Cooks to hit quality WR2 stats, at minimum. Prior to last season’s debacle, Cooks had topped 1,000 yards in four straight seasons atop his respective depth charts. He remains one of the league’s top burners, as Cooks’ 14.8 yards per reception since 2015 rank fourth among receivers with at least 300 receptions during that time. He’s topped 15.0 YPR in three of those four years.

Not solely a pure deep threat, Cooks also remains dangerous in the screen game. He’s scary in space, and among a small handful of players who can rip a short slant the distance with his 4.33 speed. His skillset is a bit redundant to burner Fuller and Kenny Stills, but Cooks is far more proven and durable than either.

Well, unless the concussions hit. He’s suffered five within six NFL seasons, and another could be career-threatening. Still, prior to last year, he hadn’t missed a game in four straight seasons. He generally avoids major hits and has been a durable NFL pro.

Plus, Watson slings one of the NFL’s best deep balls. Last year, he ranked ranked 5th in deep yardage (1,111) and second in TDs (11), while ranking first in PFF’s adjusted deep completion percentage (54.1%).

Contrastingly, Jared Goff‘s 2019 passer-rating on deep throws was second worst, besting only Kyle Allen. He threw less than half of Watson’s yardage (544) and only 1 deep TD compared to Watson’s 11. No one attempted a smaller percentage of deep throws (8.9%).

In short, Cooks’ horrendous 2019 seems far more on Goff’s shoulders than his own. Watson should prove to be the perfect antidote. Since 2017, Hopkins is tied for second among WRs in deep TD receptions, and Cooks could threaten for the league-lead in 2020.

In short, Cooks should feast on the Volume and Surrounding Talent gains here. He’s right back into my Top-25 WRs, and well worth a selection within your first 5 rounds.

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