On Thursday, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that the Houston Texans had traded their 2020 2nd-round pick (#57 overall) in exchange for wide receiver Brandin Cooks and a future 4th-round pick. The Texans will become the 4th team Cooks has played on in 5 seasons. The former Oregon State product was drafted by the Saints with their first-round pick (#20 overall) in 2014, and after a few productive seasons, he was traded to New England. Cooks played one season for the Patriots before being traded to the Rams – he spent two seasons in Los Angeles. In 6 seasons, Cooks has compiled 402 receptions for 5,730 yards and 34 touchdowns. He will now become the likely number one passing target for Texans QB Deshaun Watson, a quarterback who’s playing style differs significantly from Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Jared Goff.
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*all fantasy stats in PPR format
Brandin Cooks had a brutal 2019 season, suffering from his fourth and fifth career concussions as well as a significant drop in targets – he saw 5.1 targets per game last season as compared to the 7.5 targets he averaged the three previous years. Sean McVay also introduced some schematic changes to the Rams offense in 2019. In 2018, LA led the NFL in 3-wideout sets by far, running three receivers on the field on 88% of their snaps. In 2019, that number dropped to 70% as they ran far more of the “12” package, getting tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett on the field together more frequently. The writing was on the wall for one of the three Rams receivers (Cooks, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp) to be shipped out. It shouldn’t come as a major surprise that Cooks was the scapegoat after his unproductive season, his worst since his rookie year.
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The Texans shipped DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals earlier this offseason, leaving their offense with a massive hole in production to be filled. Vacated targets are one of my favorite statistics to look at when predicting fantasy football breakout candidates, and Hopkins leaves behind 150 targets – he was the 5th-most targeted receiver in the NFL in 2019. These targets won’t all go to Cooks, of course, as Will Fuller V, Kenny Stills, and Keke Coutee figure to be heavily involved. The Texans could also elect to draft a receiver in this deep and talented class – I had Denzel Mims as a potential fit with their #40 pick before the Cooks trade occurred. Still, I’m comfortable projecting Cooks as the leader of the pack and have him with 90 targets at the moment. He will likely be a volatile, high-upside wide receiver 2 in 2020.
All the fantasy dominoes of the Brandin Cooks trade:https://t.co/or7EQEgMEI
— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) April 11, 2020
ADP & Auction Value
Auction Price: $25
Brandin Cooks is going to be a prime example of a boom-or-bust fantasy option in 2020. His concussion history should scare anyone considering drafting him early as he transitions to the 4th team of his career. Still, he has undoubtedly shown the upside to be a borderline WR1 in fantasy football. His ADP could creep up toward the start of the season, depending on what else the Texans do at the receiver position.
The season Cooks just put together was his worst since his rookie season, and it’s hard to imagine his production being much worse than that if he’s able to stay healthy. Of course, that’s a big if given his recent concussion issues. It’s one of the sad realities of football, but he could be one big hit away from having to walk away from the game – something you can make the case he should already be doing. If he plays 16 games, it’s hard to imagine him having much fewer than 60 catches, but the concussion issues add a ton of risk to his fantasy profile.
Deshaun Watson is a top-end quarterback in the NFL, and with the massive amount of vacated targets left behind by Hopkins, Cooks could be in for a career year. Cooks had his best season in 2015 with the Saints, as a 22-year-old, with 84 receptions for 1,138 yards and nine touchdowns. He doesn’t have the all-around skillset of Hopkins, so his upside won’t be quite that high, but there isn’t a real ceiling for Cooks in this offense – he could put up close to 100 receptions, 1,200 yards, and ten touchdowns if he and Watson have good chemistry and Cooks stays on the field.
Houston Texans Offense
The Texans are going to suffer without Hopkins next season – any team would after losing arguably the best receiver in the NFL. However, a team that relies on downfield passing now has two speedsters on the outside to utilize in Cooks and Fuller. Deshaun Watson threw for 16.2 yards per attempt on passes 20 yards or more downfield, and Cooks has the third most catches on 20+ yard passes downfield over the past five seasons (behind Julio Jones and Antonio Brown). The Texans gave up the 10th most points per game in the league last year and should once again find themselves in several shootouts. This offense can undoubtedly support an excellent fantasy season from Cooks, and the frequency with which Watson will chuck it deep and throw at the goalline will bolster the upside for Cooks.
Strength Of Schedule
None of the teams in the AFC South – Colts, Titans, Jaguars – feature an elite secondary, and this division should feature plenty of higher-scoring games next season. The Jags especially figure to be picked apart next year after seeing Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye leave over the past several months. Outside of the division, matchups against the Lions, Browns, and Chiefs could be an opportunity for Cooks to showcase his talents, while the Vikings saw an exodus of secondary talent. Some opponents could present more of a challenge in the Patriots, Ravens, Bears, Packers, and Steelers, but Watson is sort of matchup-proof with his improvisation and big-play ability. Cooks could undoubtedly have some volatility week-to-week with those matchups in the fold, but overall his ceiling can’t be ignored in 2020.
The Texans had a massive need at receiver after trading away Hopkins, and they are hoping Cooks can come close to resembling that level of consistency. Cooks certainly comes with some risk in 2020 – his concussion history, poor 2019 numbers, and lack of versatility at the wide receiver position could limit his production as the go-to target for Houston. But with poor defense in tow, the Texans will need Watson to carry them to victories, and Cooks will be an integral part of the passing offense. He’s a true boom-or-bust play for fantasy this season.
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