You can argue that this offseason has been the most indelible in recent memory; largely due in part to the Texans officially closing the book on the Deshaun Watson era when they shipped him away to Cleveland in exchange for a bounty of picks. Free of distractions, Houston can now turn their sights towards the future. They’ll likely build around second year QB Davis Mills according to Ian Rappoport. Similar to last offseason, one name that has gotten lost amongst the drama in Houston is WR Brandin Cooks. Perennially overlooked and consistently outperforming ADP, it’s time we give him the recognition he deserves.
From our breaking news coverage: The #Texans will explore options, but likely they’ll build around QB Davis Mills using all their picks. pic.twitter.com/LaSH5JUX5J
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 18, 2022
Brandin Cooks: Perennial Value
Much like a skyscraper weathering a category-4 hurricane, Brandin Cooks finished the 2021 season as the WR20 in fantasy points (PPR), overcoming shaky quarterback play from the likes of Tyrod Taylor and rookie Davis Mills. Cooks finished in the top 24 in 62.5-percent of his 16 games played. He did so on the back of a 26.9-percent (No. 10 among qualified wide receivers) Target Share. He hauled in 90 receptions for 1,037 yards and 6 touchdowns. Despite constantly being a fantasy asset in the worst scenarios, he’s currently the WR34 in Underdog drafts (ADP: 67.8.).
Cooks is no stranger to producing in the face of adversity. He’s proved repeatedly no matter who is in charge of getting him the ball, he will produce. He’s posted six 1,000-plus yard seasons in eight pro seasons, doing so with four different teams over that span. Throughout his tenure, he finished the season outside the top 24 wide receivers in Fantasy Points Per Game merely once. This came in 2019, during his final season on the Los Angeles Rams in which he saw fewer targets than his teammate at the time, Tyler Higbee. He saw a mere 72 targets that year, and a career-low 12.9-percent Target Share.
When it comes to who’s getting Brandin Cooks the ball next season in Houston, there is nothing but opportunity. In 2021, the duo of Tyrod Taylor and Davis Mills afforded Cooks a 69.9-percent (No. 85) Catchable Target Rate. This means that only 93 of his 133 targets were deemed catchable. Did I mention that he had 703 (No. 12) Unrealized Air Yards? The good news is that Mills should only improve on his rookie campaign. Quarterbacks tend to take their biggest leaps forward in year two as they become more acclimated to the pace and playstyles of the NFL. The better news is that Cooks has shown he should produce for your fantasy lineup next year. Even if Mills performs similarly to this past season.
The Texans have been silent in their pursuit of free agents this offseason. Houston seems content resigning their own free agents and building their team through the draft using their newly-acquired draft capital. Yes, the abundance of draft capital is a concern, for they may easily opt to take a receiver in this year’s draft. However, with a profuse amount of holes to fill on both sides of the ball, it is hard to imagine the Texans investing an early pick on a wideout over foundational pieces such as OT, EDGE, CB and maybe even QB. Furthermore, if Houston opts to bolster the offensive line, Davis Mills should have more time to deliver the ball accurately to his star wideout.
Currently, Houston is set to enter 2022 with the same receiving core as last year. We’d again see Brandin Cooks, Nico Collins and Chris Conley in three-wide sets and Brevin Jordan at tight end. Collins should take a step up in year two. But he didn’t show enough last year to warrant immediate concern over Cooks’ role in the offense. What’s more, Houston’s defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed last year. And they haven’t done much to fortify that side of the ball thus far in the offseason. We can once again anticipate oodles of negative Game Script. Allowing plenty of chances for Cooks to again amongst the top 24 wide receivers in Fantasy Points Per Game.
In terms of dynasty formats, Brandin Cooks is a polarizing asset for competitive rosters. He will turn 29 years old this September and we know that he can ball with whoever, wherever. Following the 2022 season, his contract will be void, making him an unrestricted free agent in 2023. Given the thirst for productive receivers that we witnessed so far this offseason, I would bet that a receiver with his pedigree will attract a plethora of potential suitors. One may be concerned about him signing yet another contract while he enters his age 30 season in 2023. However, the Wide Receiver Age Curve illustrates that the likelihood of significant fantasy production of wideouts diminishes following their age 32 season. Using this info we can infer that we should receive three to four more productive years out of Cooks.
Perhaps the best part is he can be had for cheap in dynasty leagues. In the event you are a contender in your dynasty league, I’d make an offer to the Cooks owner. I’d argue these deals are punishable by up to one year in jail:
Brandin Cooks provides value in every league format, especially for those who prefer a Hero RB or Robust RB approach. The fact that he can be had after Tyler Lockett (ADP 46.5), Gabriel Davis (ADP 66.3), and Darnell Mooney (ADP 63.3) in Underdog is criminal. To make matters worse he is equally overlooked in dynasty leagues. He is currently being drafted as the 38th wide receiver off the board in dynasty startups, following aging and less opportune players such as Adam Thielen, Tyler Lockett and Odell Beckham.
It’s time we Put. Respect. On. Brandin. Cooks’. Name.