Brandin Cooks isn’t a “small receiver”

5’10, 185 pounds, and if not for Mike Evans he’d “biggest” receiver entering the NFL draft. That sounds incredibly stupid, right? Well, when you watch Cooks play, really isn’t far-fetched, at all. Cooks is one of those guys that is easy to root for based solely on the fact that he’s just so damn fun to watch play.

The only thing holding him back, or that’s stopped him this year, is the offense he’s in.

Let’s get into some of Cooks traits.

Route Running

By now, if you’ve read my thoughts on Marqise Lee, or Odell Beckham Jr, you know how important route running is in my eyes. The thing I love about Cooks is his creativity as a route runner. He’s probably faster than anyone guarding him, but he understands how to get open at the top of is route, and he’s brilliant at doing so.

In this example, he’s running a simple 5 yard in, at the top of his route, he gives the corner a little “Welker stutter & head fake.”

If the balls out in front of him, it’s a huge play, but nonetheless, he freezes the corner at the top of the route without tipping where he’s going. These small things translate.

Here, he’s running a go route, he knows where he’s going the entire time but gives the corner a subtle jab step inside, helping him create separation.

This is a double whammy. He not only creates separation with his route running skills, but does so with his speed as well.

Cooks isn’t limited in his route tree, at all. He’s one of the few receivers that don’t take a false step off the line of scrimmage, he transitions smoothly in and out of his breaks, and as I’ve shown, can create separation with his route running ability, not just his athleticism. He’s a very savvy route runner with extremely “active” feet.

Speed

You know, the trait that you can’t coach. Speed kills and everyone knows it.

In the offseason, Cooks put on 11 pounds of muscle, and you can tell. He’s more explosive than he was last year. He’s shown this year that he can take the top off of a defense. His ability to get to top end speed in a matter of steps is very impressive.

In the open field, Cooks runs away from defenders with ease. In spring ball, Cooks ran a 4.3 flat. Electronically. That. Is. Fast. Should also be noted he’s a former track athlete.

Hands

Watching Cooks you’re surprised to see him drop a ball. I remember him dropping an in route and I was stunned. That’s because, for the most part, when he gets his hands on the ball, he catches it. He has very strong hands, which is another reason I believe he’ll be so successful at the next level. Per Second Round Stats, a receivers drop rate should be no higher than 7%. Cooks has by far the lowest drop rate, at 4.1%.

This one handed catch in the bowl game shows you how well his concentration is.

Ball Skills

For a receiver who is sub 6″, Cooks tracks the balls, high points it, and wins the catch point insanely well. He’s very good at adjusting to under-thrown balls and putting himself in position to make a play.

Sometimes, a receiver is asked to bail his quarterback out. Cooks does this over and over. His ball skills are definitely a blue chip quality.

YAC Ability

With the importance on getting the ball out of the quarterbacks hands quicker in today’s NFL, receivers must be able to create for themselves once they’ve caught the ball.

Cooks is incredibly explosive and does most of his work in the intermediate game, over 70% of his routes are ran under 15 yards. Once the ball is in his hands, he’s special.

It’s rare that the 1st player tackles Cooks.

I realize that this next play he stepped out of bounds. But this play best describes Cooks and his toughness, effort,speed, and competitive nature.

Grade

As always, the grade explanation can be explained here.

Multiple Pro Bowl Player, Top 10   8.5 – 9.0
Highly Productive Starter, 1st Round   8.0 – 8.4
Very Good Starter, Early 2nd Round   7.8 – 7.9
Reliable Starter, 2nd Round   7.5 – 7.7
Potential Starter in Year 2, 3rd Round   7.0 – 7.4
Backup/Spot Starter, 4th Round   6.5 – 6.9
Productive Backup, 5th Round   6.0 – 6.4
Very Good Backup/STs, 6th Round   5.5 – 5.9
Quality Backup/Good STs, 7th Round   5.0 – 5.4
Backup/STs/Project Player, 7th Round   4.5 – 4.9
Priority Free Agent w/ Limitations   4.0 – 4.4
Non-Draftable     < 4.0

 

Trait Weight Grade
Route Running 4 3.7
Speed 2.5 2.4
Hands 3 2.7
Ball Skills 3 2.8
YAC Ability 2 2
Effort 2 2
Blocking 2 1.1
Separation Skills 2 1.8
Awareness 2.5 2.3
Athleticism 2 2

Cooks graded out at an 8.21. That tells you how high I am on him. I tried envisioning a situation where he can’t be successful in the NFL, and I couldn’t. He’s far from limited to just a “slot WR.” He attacks the ball in the air, and with his creativeness as a route runner, it should be an easy transition for me to be a 90 catch player at the next level.

Player Comparison

I try not to force these, but Cooks is a mix between Steve Smith & Antonio Brown. He is a fierce competitor and wins 50/50 balls much like Smith at his size, yet is quick, and will make you miss in a phone booth, like Brown.