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Fantasy Players - Rookie Watch
By Mike Beacom

Rookie Watch – Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints

Fantasy owners are often warned not to read too much into camp/preseason hype, but it’s difficult to ignore what Cooks has done in the Big Easy. He was targeted eight times in the Saints preseason win over St. Louis, catching five balls, including a touchdown. The media has applauded the 5-foot-10, 189-pound speedster, same as his new teammates. Said Drew Brees: “Here’s a guy who's obviously extremely talented. But more so than that, very intelligent. You get this feeling that he wants to be great, he loves football, he wants to learn.”

Cooks was the fourth of five wide receivers selected in the first round this spring. Of course, it didn’t hurt his draft stock that he clocked a 4.33 in the 40 at the NFL Combine.

Dissecting the depth chart: Mainstay Marques Colston remains the team’s No. 1 receiver, but after that it seems quite open. Kenny Stills, a 2013 fifth round pick, contributed 641 yards and five touchdowns last season, but doesn’t have enough mileage to claim ownership of the No. 2 job. Robert Meachem’s returns, but his best days are behind him. Nick Toon simply hasn’t played enough football in his two seasons to warrant serious discussion. Brandon Coleman has turned heads in camp, but seems too much a darkhorse at this point. Cooks is the newcomer but the most exciting of the bunch. New Orleans will find space, if not a starting spot.

Just the stats: Cooks gained more than 1,000 yards in each of his last two seasons at Oregon State, but what has fantasy owners chirping is his 2013 statline: 128 catches, 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns (he also rushed for 217 yards and two scores). Those numbers earned him the 2013 Biletnikoff Award. Perhaps most important, he was consistent. Cooks’ “worst” game of the season was the Beavers’ bowl loss to Boise State in which he hauled in eight passes, logged 89 yards from scrimmage and caught a touchdown.

2014 Projection: 53 receptions, 768 yards, 6 TDs.

2013 rookie comparison: Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers
Cooks’ projected numbers above more closely resemble those of DeAndre Hopkins from a season ago, but if someone is to match Allen’s excitement this year it’s going to be Cooks. Allen lit it up in San Diego, with 71 catches and eight touchdowns, and heading into his sophomore year is viewed as a top 15 wide receiver candidate.

Interesting fact that won’t help you: Cooks earned the nickname “sonic boom” for his explosiveness as a sprinter.

What he’s worth: The Saints pass a ton and Cooks can record respectable fantasy points with a single Brees toss… What’s not to like? Even if he remains stuck behind Stills on the depth chart Cooks is worth a flier as a No. 4 receiver in most leagues.

Follow Mike Beacom on Twitter @mikebeacom

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