What Do We Think About Brandin Cooks 13 Games Into His Patriots Career?

Following Brandin Cooks’ one-catch-on-seven-targets performance Monday night against the Miami Dolphins, I asked New England Patriots fans on Twitter what they think of the highly-acclaimed wide receiver through 13 games.

The responses were varied but mostly tepid. You can go through them here.

The answers probably would have been a lot different after Week 12, when he was coming off a three-game stretch with 18 total receptions for 306 yards with two touchdowns.

Look at Cooks’ overall statistics this season, and you’d wonder why anyone even would consider nitpicking his performance. He has 54 receptions for 924 yards with five touchdowns. He’s on pace for over 1,100 yards with six touchdowns. He’s 10th in the NFL in receiving yards. To paraphrase Dennis Green, he is who the Patriots thought he would be.

That’s why no one should have any problem with the Patriots sending a first-round pick to the New Orleans Saints to acquire him over the offseason. Two years of production out of Cooks probably is more valuable than four or five years out of the 32nd overall pick, depending on who would be selected.

But is he worth what New England would have to pay to keep him in 2019 as a free agent? Probably not.

No. 1 wide receivers are extremely expensive, and Cooks might not be a No. 1 receiver — or at least worth what the Patriots would need to pay to keep him. Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery just signed a contract worth $13 million per season which would make him the second highest paid player in New England. And while tight end Rob Gronkowski sat out Week 14 with a suspension, quarterback Tom Brady clearly couldn’t count on Cooks to carry the offense. He had one reception for 38 yards.

Cooks is at his best when he’s running deep routes. He catches an extremely high percentage (50 percent) of throws of 20 yards or more, while 528 of his 924 yards and three of his five touchdowns have come on deep balls.

Cooks struggles to haul in contested catches, however, and given his elite athleticism, he also doesn’t consistently gain yards after short-to-intermediate catches. He finds himself on the ground frequently after hauling in a catch. It’s not entirely fair to say Cooks is a one-trick pony, but he’s only truly special when performing that one deep trick.

Of course, it’s possible Cooks will improve as he spends more time in New England’s offense. If the 24-year-old can showcase more versatility and become more effective on the throws Brady specializes in, then perhaps he would be worth No. 1 wideout money. He seemingly has the potential to be an even more explosive Deion Branch. But right now, Cooks isn’t showing the consistency needed out of a player Brady can depend on to move the chains if other top receivers are out.

The Patriots are better with Cooks. But he’s largely been boom or bust — something Saints fans won’t be surprised by — through 13 games. When he’s booming, he’s one of New England’s most valuable assets, but it’s also worth taking into account games like Monday night, when he showed he still doesn’t belong on the level of Gronkowski or Julian Edelman as a security blanket to Brady.

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images

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