The New England Patriots added a speedy wide receiver this offseason in Brandin Cooks, who ran a 4.33s 40 yard dash at his combine back in 2014. And while Cooks isn’t the fastest receiver that QB Tom Brady has had the fortune to throw to, he adds a home run element to the offense with more versatility than Chris Hogan.
While Hogan was a big threat down the field, Cooks offers yards after the catch ability on crossing patterns and other routes closer to the line of scrimmage. The two can also join TE Rob Gronkowski and run go routes every single snap because someone will be open.
And Cooks has a history of using his speed to demolish opposing defenses. Pro Football Focus’ Scott Barrett analyzed 139 different wide receivers to see how they fared against “fast” cornerbacks (4.44s or faster) and “slow” cornerbacks (4.45s or slower). Cooks scorched the slower defensive backs.
Note: Barrett is a fantasy football writer so these stats will use fantasy points as a metric. It’s not perfect, but it’s a fine substitute for overall receiving production.
Cooks produced 2.91 fantasy points per target on 75 attempts against slower cornerbacks, versus 1.65 fantasy points per target against faster cornerbacks. This difference based upon opposing cornerback is the biggest in the league.
“Among 139 qualifying wide receivers to see at least 125 such targets over the past decade, that +1.26 fantasy-point-per-target differential is the largest of any wide receiver this past decade,” Barrett writes. “In fact, it’s 0.69 fantasy points per target more than the next-closest wide receiver.”
Barrett goes on to highlight that Cooks is the 5th-most deep ball dependent receiver in the league, noting that 35% of his fantasy points come on targets 20+ yards down the field, behind only DeSean Jackson, Kenny Stills, Sammy Watkins, and A.J. Green. Cooks averages an absurd 3.0 fantasy points per target on deep routes, the second-best mark in the league.
This all relates to how the Patriots could utilize Cooks based upon the opposing defenders.
Looking at the Patriots 2017 schedule, the top two cornerbacks for Kansas City Chiefs, Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear to both run slower than 4.45s, while the New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Chargers, Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, and Pittsburgh Steelers feature one starting cornerback that runs slower than 4.45s.
So watch out for the Patriots to take advantage of match-ups all season. Maybe Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan will have the option to run a deep route based upon the opposing defensive back. Maybe Julian Edelman will receive easier draws thanks to the presence of Cooks requiring the speedier cornerback.
Barrett notes that Tom Brady has the third-best passer rating (out of 44) on deep passes over the past three years (112.2) and ranks second-best over the past decade (of 206 quarterbacks). Brady also throws deep 12.2% of the time, which is middle of the road for quarterbacks, but ranks ahead of Drew Brees (9.8%).
Perhaps Brady is the quarterback that can unleash Cooks better than Brees could.