The New Orleans Saints moved up seven slots in the 2014 NFL Draft so they could select Brandin Cooks with the 20th pick in the first round. Cooks is the first offensive player the Saints selected in the first round since 2007 when they selected Robert Meachem, a fellow receiver. It is clear Sean Payton identified Cooks as the player his offense needed. Let’s take a look at how Cooks will fit into the Saints offense.
Cooks is an explosive player that can really do damage in space. He will be the slot receiver as the Saints spread the field with Jimmy Graham at the other slot along with Marques Colston and Kenny Stills working the outside. Payton will employ a large amount of 11 personnel. Cooks gives them a jolt of excitement because of his elite speed (4.33 forty) and quickness (3.81 short shuttle). He feels that his attributes are perfect for the Saints offense.
“This is an amazing opportunity. I can blow the top off of defenses. I played in a pro style system. Not just the terminology and route trees, the concepts, learning how to run them against defenses. The beauty of playing in an offense like that, you’re going to be a couple of steps ahead of other guys coming in. The offense is similar to my offense back at school. I’m excited to be able to play with a potential Hall of Fame quarterback like Drew Brees. Coach Payton told me that he was excited about being able to use me in this offense. The formations along with some of the play calling is the same. The terms are similar along with where to line up at. The mind that Coach Payton has for this game, his coaching ability and how creative he is to put guys in position to succeed, it’s so exciting.”
There is no doubt about Cooks’ play making ability. He was the Biletnikoff Award winner (best WR) last year ad set a Pac-12 record with 1,730 receiving yards. He had 128 receptions and had more plays of 20 + yards than any other skill position player in college football.
Payton loves his skill set, specifically his acceleration, toughness, speed and ability to catch the ball. He is certain that Cooks will be a great fit because of his versatility as well.
“He’s a play maker. The one thing about him that stood out was that he’s a tough player both physically and mentally. He’s been very consistent, very durable. He’s a play maker. We have a good relationship with Coach Riley. We saw him as a really good fit. I think we can line him up in the slot, line him up outside too. He’s someone that is extremely impressive, very competitive. His makeup and skill set is something that we liked. He’s a specific targeted player that we had a vision for. He gives us a threat and is a guy that can be used a lot of ways.”
It is safe to say that Cooks will work a lot from the slot position. Expect to see him in some stack formations with Jimmy Graham. This is something they did last year with Darren Sproles. It’s one way they will look to get Cooks a free release and get right into his route. He will also get his share of opportunities to run jerk routes as Payton will scheme to match Cooks up against linebackers.
The wide open passing attack will allow Cooks to line up on the outside and run slant routes while Jimmy Graham runs a seam route to draw the attention of the linebackers or safeties. Drew Brees is a specialist when it comes to the timing passing game. That will be key in getting the ball to Cooks in stride and giving him the chance to generate some yards after the catch. Despite his small size, Cooks does have the ability to threaten defenses vertically on the outside similar to what Antonio Brown has done for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Bucky Brooks of NFL.com gave a glowing endorsement of Brandin Cooks when he predicted that Cooks will have 70 plus catches as a rookie. Brooks feels that Cooks will replace the recently vacated roles of Darren Sproles and Lance Moore. Brees recently said; “There’s no doubt he’s a guy who has the ability to be a big contributor for us on offense.” Brooks feels that Cooks will be able to take advantage of mismatch opportunities working underneath and be versatile enough to work outside.
The Saints coaching staff has already been impressed with Cooks at OTAs. Rob Ryan said that he is glad to have Cooks on his side and not have to game plan against him. The thing that stood out to Ryan was his speed.
“This guy opens your eyes. You can certainly feel his speed. They’re going to create various roles to get this guy involved and it’ll be awesome.”
This is one of those rare times that a top player goes to an established team and is a perfect fit. Cooks’ ability matches what Payton and the Saints want to do in every way. He doesn’t have to be the number one receiver but will see plenty of targets. Pairing him with Brees is a match made in heaven. On top of that, he will get to play at least eight games a year on the fast Mercedes Benz Dome surface. Watch out for Brandin Cooks as a candidate for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
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