Jared Cook Updated 2021 Fantasy Outlook: Drips in TD Upside with Chargers and Justin Herbert - Roto Street Journal
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Jared Cook Updated 2021 Fantasy Outlook: Drips in TD Upside with Chargers and Justin Herbert

Though still very early, Jared Cook could go down as one of the biggest bargains in 2021 fantasy drafts, at least among TEs. He currently falls outside of the Top-20 TEs, despite dripping in 8-10 TD upside within a Chargers attack that could explode in Justin Herbert’s second season.

This might seem hyperbolic given Cook is 34 and seemingly in the twilight of his career. Yet, he’s aged like a fine fantasy wine, posting career highs all within his latest three seasons, including yards and receptions with the Raiders (2018) and TDs with the Saints (2019).

Cook, a size-speed terror, has been a TD maven the past two seasons. His 16 scores tie Travis Kelce for second-most in that span and trail only Mark Andrews; only Kelce topped Cook’s 22 TDs in the past three years.

Meanwhile, anyone with eyeballs saw Herbert is the real deal. Behind a massively upgraded line, Herbert and this LA Attack could soar to new heights, generating scoring chances at will.  In fact, Cook cited Hebert as a major factor in his decision to sign in Los Angeles:

Justin Herbert. He was a huge reason why I came here…He can sling the ball, man, and he came on last year unexpectedly, when nobody was expecting him to be a starter. He did a really good job

What excites me about Justin is his arm strength. His ability to read defenses and also be able to get out of situations with his legs.

In short, Herbert has a realistic shot at 40+ TDs after chucking 31 as a rookie. Cook — a massive mismatch — will likely haul in his fair share of these. He stands a whopping 6’5″ with a 39.5 inch vertical, which Drew Brees grew very fond of and maximized the past two seasons:

He’s got great length, so he’s got a big catch radius. You feel confident with those 50-50 balls. You feel like there’s a lot of places where you can throw it where he can get it and the other guy can’t.

Not just a Red Zone threat, Cook can also stretch the field with insane speed for his size. Sure, he may be slightly past his prime (though the tape suggests otherwise), but Cook ran a rumored 4.37 forty out of college and clocked just a few seasons ago at 4.49. Again, at 6’5″ and 250+ lbs.

No wonder he averaged over 15 yards per catch the past two years. Or was recently among the top players in the great Ian Hartitz‘s “Playmaker Rate”:

Meanwhile, Herbert routinely displayed his arm strength and willingness to chuck as a rookie, perhaps ossessing the highest arm ceiling outside of Patrick Mahomes. Cook should routinely haul in chunk-plays down the seams, in addition to his hefty TD share.

Scores + big plays in an ascending offense, at a bottom-barrel price? It can’t get better, right?

Woah, slow your roll Wolfie, you may protest. Sure, Herbert is an exciting talent, but Cook’s no longer in a Sean Payton offense that’s historically maximized its TEs. What say ye?

Ah, thank you. This last point shouldn’t be overlooked. New Chargers OC Joe Lombardi hails from New Orleans as the former QBs coach. Yet, according to Cook, Lombardi’s role with the Saints extended far beyond just the signal-callers:

I know what Joe brings to the table. He’s a grinder. Joe stays up until four or five in the morning, making sure the offense is ready to go week in and week out. He puts in the effort. I’ve seen it first hand.

He was the big reason for a lot of our gameplans — really, most of our gameplans. He would go break down film for us, then deliver everything that he broke down. He would also be the guy that’s up in the box telling us everything that he saw during the game. His tutelage, his football IQ is very high.

Especially after flopping in his first OC gig in Detroit, Lombardi is no lock to recreate New Orleans’ potent attack. Still, there’s a reason Payton kept him around for 10 seasons, coaching the game’s most important position, within a perennial top-five Air Show. The upside is immense.

Plus, the Chargers run game coordinator/line coach, Frank Smith, was the tight ends coach for the Raiders when Cook made his first Pro Bowl with 68 receptions, 896 yards, and 6 TDs.

In addition to Herbert, the presence of these familiar faces who will know how to best utilize him were key factors in Cook’s decision “I think it’s important to have coaches who understand what type of player you are; who you are as a person,” Cook said. “Being with those guys was huge.”

Could Cook fizzle out at his high-age? Sure. That won’t matter when he costs you a last-round dart throw, yet drips in far more TD and big-play upside than so many of the names going above him. He slides in as The Wolf’s TE10 (+10 ECR) and 94th Overall (+70!! ECR) on his latest 2021 Fantasy Football Rankings and Big Board.

Sorry, Donald Parham and XFL truthers. That breakout looks to be on ice.

Check out The Wolf’s latest 2021 Fantasy Football Big Board & Rankings to see where all these players and more fall after 2021 NFL Free Agency!

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  • Founder of Roto Street Journal. Lover of workhorse backs, target hog wideouts, and Game of Thrones. Aspiring to be the "Brady" and "Leo" of the fantasy universe.

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