Fantasy Football Reaction: Brandin Cooks Traded to the Rams

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In yet another aggressive offseason move, the Los Angeles Rams have acquired WR Brandin Cooks and a 2018 fourth-round pick from the New England Patriots. The Pats, who essentially rented Cooks on the final year of his rookie contract, receive a first-round pick (23rd overall) and sixth-round selection in return.

Cooks will now join his third team in only five years in the league. From a purely NFL perspective, the trade gels with the rest of LA’s recent roster moves geared towards legitimate Super Bowl LIII contention. Meanwhile, Bill Belichick avoids paying Cooks real money and adds draft capital that some expect to land Tom Brady‘s successor later this month.

But enough talk of dollar bills, the people want to know what this means for fantasy football in 2018, so let’s get into it.

Fantasy Reaction: Brandin Cooks

We can all agree on one thing up front: Jared Goff is not Drew Brees or Tom Brady. At least not yet. So Cooks will be playing with the “worst” quarterback of his career in 2018. Furthermore, get this: Cooks has played every year of his career on a team that ranked in the top three in the league in pass attempts per game (the Patriots were No. 1 last year with 38.3). Sean McVay’s Rams ranked 21st last year, and will still prioritize Todd Gurley and creativity over a vertical air attack.

Cooks should get a decent target share in LA, but don’t expect him to be a 140-target guy, or even to challenge his career-high (currently 129). As is his way, he will have some huge games and at least a couple long TDs, but consistency will be hard to come by. An optimistic expectation would be another season around 70 rec. / 1,100 yds. / 8 TDs — borderline WR1 numbers. But with the change in QB and offense, don’t be surprised to see some regression, especially in receptions and TDs, leading to a low-end WR2 finish instead.

Fantasy Reaction: Rams Offense

After the departure of Sammy Watkins to the Chiefs, there was clearly a need in LA for a speedy, downfield receiving threat. Considering his birth certificate actually reads “Brandin Speedy-Downfield-Receiving-Threat Cooks,” the ex-Saint/Patriot seems like an excellent fit.

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Cooks has three straight seasons of 1,000-plus receiving yards, with a healthy 14.9 yards per reception, sixth-highest in the league among WRs over that span (min. 130 catches). Whether or not we can identify him as a true NFL No. 1 wideout, he will stretch the defense for QB Jared Goff and the Rams. Considering how disappointing Watkins was on the Rams in 2017, the Cooks acquisition should be a parallel move at the worst for Goff. If he and Cooks can establish better chemistry, it may even boost Goff’s fantasy numbers in 2018.

As for the rest of the WR corps, Cooks’ arrival should not be a death knell for the fantasy value of Robert Woods or Cooper Kupp. Their target numbers may see some small regression (from 85 and 94 respectively), but not enough to drastically affect their production. Plus, having Cooks around to draw top CB matchups and open the field will likely boost both WR’s effectiveness.

Fantasy Reaction: Patriots Offense

It’s never easy to predict what Bill Belichick will do with his offenses and personnel. Realistically, there are three different avenues the Patriots can take with Cooks gone. One is to trade for a new No. 1 — yes, like Odell Beckham Jr., no I don’t see it happening. Second, they can take the classic “next man up” New England approach and we could see Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, or even Phillip Dorsett fill the Cooks role in 2018. Third, they can sign some extra mid-level talent and let Tom Brady turn a cast of average guys into a Super Bowl crew yet again.

It didn’t take long for them to start on option three, as they signed Jordan Matthews two days after trading Cooks. While Matthews isn’t a drop-in replacement for Cooks by any means, he is certainly a step in that direction, and should be highlighted as a potential fantasy value. That said, don’t be caught sleeping on Julian Edelman either. Coming off an injury, Edelman will likely be even more overlooked than normal in fantasy. And despite the addition of Matthews, with Cooks and Danny Amendola leaving town, Edelman is a near-lock for 100 receptions in 2018. I’m pegging him as a solid bargain in the middle of PPR drafts.