College: Oregon State
Weight: 186 lbs
|Year ||Catches ||Yards ||TDs |
|2011 ||31 ||391 ||3 |
|2012 ||67 ||1,151 ||5 |
|2013 ||128 ||1,730 ||16 |
Speed: Cooks is as explosive a player as there is in the 2014 NFL Draft. He combines good footwork with natural athleticism to produce tremendous speed and, more importantly, great football speed that makes him one of the harder receivers to cover. It’s not just his straight-line speed either. He has quick feet that allow him to move in and out of breaks without losing momentum. His cuts are on a dime, and his routes are crisp. Staying with him is a tall order for even the best cornerbacks. Safeties have almost no chance. Speed translates well at the professional level. It’s why teams covet it. Cooks has it, and plenty of it.
Hands: Some players have great speed, but struggle to consistently take advantage of it because of questionable hands. Cooks won’t have that problem. He’s a natural pass catcher with the ability to get his hands on the ball, whether it’s thrown low or high. His concentration is exceptional, and he makes the tough catches as well as the easy ones. He’s also solid when making plays near the sideline, demonstrating a knack for getting his feet down in bounds. He led the Pac-12 in touchdowns, in part because of his footwork at the boundaries.
Route Running: As with his speed, his talented feet give him another advantage, and that’s in his ability in getting open. He’s quick off of the line of scrimmage, and easily transitions into his route. His ability to blow past defenders on double moves or fakes give him a leg up on many of the other wide receiver prospects in this draft.
Size: Cooks is small, though solidly put together. He is susceptible to physical cornerback play, and can be thrown off of his route. He might also be more prone to injury, which could lead to him avoiding contact when possible. Instead of stretching a play for a few extra yards, he could just run out of bounds to ensure he doesn’t get hurt. Teams will likely be able to negate some of his burst off the line with press coverage, meaning he’ll need to play in a system where he can counter that with motion or misdirection. His smaller stature will hurt him against cornerbacks with good height as well, as quarterbacks won’t as easily be able to find him, even if he gets behind his man.
Blocking: Wide receivers don’t necessarily need to be able to block in the NFL, but it certainly helps, particularly in this age of running quarterbacks and the read option. Cooks is mostly ineffective when asked to block, and he needs to learn to at least be in the way of defenders. This is an area that coaching could fix pretty quickly.
Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers
Aside from the obvious size comparisons, they have a lot of similarities in their games. A younger Smith had the same type of explosiveness and ability to make things happen with the ball in his hands. Like Smith, Cooks isn’t relegated to the slot just because of his size. He’ll more likely line up wide just as often to take advantage of his large repertoire of moves. Both of them have excellent field vision and are smart receivers as well. Smith has been one of the best receivers of the last decade, so if Cooks can draw this same comparison in a decade, he’ll have had himself a fine NFL career.
Cooks is one of the most talented players in the draft, but unfortunately for him, a very deep receiver class may hurt his stock overall. Though he is a first round talent, there’s a good chance that he falls into the second round due to his size and the possibility that teams wait to take a wideout when they’re so readily available this year. If he were 6’2” instead of 5’9”, he’d likely be talked about as a top 20 selection. His abilities are second to none, but NFL teams love size. Cooks could make many teams regret passing on him in a few years.
Scheme isn’t something that should determine when Cooks is drafted. He can play in any, and isn’t just limited to a role in the slot. He can be moved around and teams can take advantage of his numerous talents. A team like the Philadelphia Eagles could certainly find a use for him. He can line up at the X, Y, or Z positions and that makes him a potentially very valuable resource.