The curious case of Brandin Cooks

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PJ Williams, Brandin Cooks 2018 regular season
(Photo: Parker Waters)

To say that the NFL career of Brandin Cooks is a curious case would be accurate.

While Cooks is not reversing age as Benjamin Button did, it is hard to pinpoint on the button what the story is on Cooks as a professional.

In 2014, the New Orleans Saints were desperately in need of a play making wide receiver with an aging Marques Colston and a departing Lance Moore.

Aware of the deficiency, Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis did what they have done many times, consistently.

They elected to trade up with Arizona in the first round to draft Cooks out of Oregon State.

It was the first time the Saints drafted a wide receiver in the first round since picking Robert Meachem 27th overall in 2007.

In return, the Cardinals received the 27th pick overall (first round) and the 91st selection (third round).

Cooks was not the big receiver preferred by Payton but neither was Moore. Of course, Moore was an undrafted free agent.

What Cook brought was elite speed and quickness.

He was a good player, sometimes very good for the Saints.

In three seasons and 42 games, Cooks caught 215 passes for 2,861 yards and 20 touchdowns, catching 68.3 percent of the passes thrown his way by Drew Brees. Cooks eclipsed 1,110 yards receiving in each of his final two years with the Saints. He returned 13 punts but never became the threat in that phase that many thought he would be.

With the 27th pick in 2014, Arizona chose safety Deone Buccanon, who has been an average NFL player who has now been on three NFL teams in six seasons in the league. In the third round, the Cardinals picked wide receiver John Brown, a solid NFL player who has now played for three teams in his six seasons in the league.

Cooks had his best season with the Saints in his third year in 2016, catching 78 passes for 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns.

It was not enough.

Things went south, ironically, in the midst of the most impressive victory of the 2016 season.

Brees and the Saints riddled the Los Angeles Rams 49-21 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Brees was terrific, completing 28 of 36 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions and he ran for a fifth score.

While tight ends Josh Hill and Coby Fleener combined for 10 catches for 133 yards and Willie Snead had five catches for 38 yards, the star was rookie Michael Thomas, who had nine catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns.

The other story was Cooks.

He did not have a catch in the game. He was not targeted once by Brees.

Cooks spoke out about his frustration of not seeing one pass after the game. The timing seemed poor, considering the victory and how well the Saints had played. It was not received well by his coaches or teammates. Cooks, for his part, did acknowledge that the important part was winning.

By all accounts, Cooks, is a fine young man, a good “kid,” as we like to say. He is likeable and a spiritual young man. There were many hints that his representation was an obstacle during his time in New Orleans.

The torch was passed.

Thomas had become the No. 1 receiver for Brees.

Thomas went on to catch 92 passes for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns, catching 76 percent of targets from Brees.

Cooks was still important the rest of the way but he had nominal numbers in the final five games, other than in a 48-41 win at Arizona when he caught seven passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns.

At season’s end, the Saints traded Cooks to New England, along with a fourth round draft pick (No. 118 overall) in exchange for the Patriots’ first round pick (No. 32) and a third round pick (No. 103).

Finances may well have played a role in the trade.

Cooks was due a $781,599 roster bonus on the fifth day of the league year.

By trading him, the Patriots assumed that payment responsibility.

With the fourth round pick acquired from the Saints, the Patriots took wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who made little or no noise. Mitchell played just one year in the league for New England.

The Saints used the 32nd overall pick to choose Ryan Ramczyk, who may very well be the best right tackle in the NFL.

Cooks went to New England with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in 2017.

In his only season with the Patriots, Cooks caught 65 passes for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns but catching only 57 percent of targets from Brady.

The Patriots reached the Super Bowl but lost to the Philadelphia Eagles.

After just one season, the Patriots traded Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams for a first round pick (23rd overall) and a sixth round pick.

The Patriots used the 23rd pick to select tackle Isaiah Wynn, who has started just eight games.

With the Rams, Cooks played two seasons, getting to another Super Bowl at the expense of the Saints in the famous “Nola No-Call” contest.

In two seasons, Cooks was productive with 122 catches for 1,787 yards and seven touchdowns. He was good but not outstanding. He was not their top receiver.

Now, Cooks has been traded to Houston for a second round pick, No. 57 overall in the upcoming 湖北快三开奖结果 draft. The Rams will also receive a fourth round pick from the Texans.

The Texans had a dire need after trading star DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona.

So Cooks, just 26, will play for his fourth team in seven years.

Somehow, that does not compute for a player of his ability.

Cooks has 402 catches for 5,730 yards and 34 touchdowns in six seasons. The numbers are quite good. The player is good.

So why has he been on the move so much?

Is he a liability? Is he simply easy to replace? Is he simply expendable? Is he a malcontent?

Playing in 14 games a year ago, Cooks saw his production drop off significantly, catching 42 passes for 583 yards and just two touchdowns.

Cooks is not a big target and never will be.

Still, the production he has posted cannot be ignored.

To play for four teams in seven seasons is virtually unheard of for a player of his status.

To say his case is curious would be accurate, perhaps even an understatement.

To say the Saints did not invest wisely him is debatable but there is no debate about his value. He played well in New Orleans and he turned into Ramczyk. That is what I call a good investment.

Now, the Texans will get a chance to take a shot at getting the best out of Cooks and perhaps keeping him around for more than a year or two.

If they do not, the curiosity will only grow. Cooks is not getting any younger.

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan

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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch . Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association,…

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