The New England Patriots added yet another top-end pass-catching option for Tom Brady when the team picked up Brandin Cooks form the New Orleans Saints late last week in exchange for the Pats' first-round pick in 2017 and a swap of mid-rounders.
Cooks, 23, is coming off a 2016 campaign that saw him record 78 receptions for 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns. Though, he ultimately took a back seat to then Saints rookie Michael Thomas throughout the season.
We previously focused on this trade from a Saints' perspective, but it's most definitely time to delve into its fantasy relevance from the Patriots' side. Let's take a gander at all the impact players involved in New England.
While Cooks did finish with 78 receptions en route to tallying the eighth-most fantasy points among receivers last season, his advanced splits were not anywhere near as good. He finished 24th among receivers in targets and outside of the top 40 in target distribution. This is what leads us to believe Cooks won't see much of a downtick in terms of fantasy production in New England.
It is, however, important to note that the Pats averaged nearly eight pass attempts less per game than the Saints. That's surely a vacuum that won't be filled with Cooks now in New England. In fact, not a single player outside of Julian Edelman record triple-digit targets for the defending champs this past season.
Then again, there surely are targets to go around here. Chris Hogan was second among Patriots receivers in targets with 58. Rookie Malcolm Mitchell came in third with less than 50 targets.
Cooks' addition seems to indicate that New England will move on from Danny Amendola. If that's the case, we wouldn't necessarily be surprised if Cooks himself topped the 117 targets he saw last season in New Orleans, making him a sure-fire WR1 option.
Cooks' addition is pretty irrelevant when it comes to Gronkowski. Should he remain healthy (a big if), Gronk will still be Brady's favorite target. Here's a dude that's averaging 7.6 targets over the past three seasons. Even with him injured this past season, Gronkowski was still able to finish as a bottom-end TE2 option in eight games. That's just absurd.
We don't expect much of a downtick in targets for Gronk, even with both Cooks and Dwayne Allen in the mix for New England. Instead, it's now all about him being healthy.
In reality, the addition of Cooks impacts Edelman in a negative way more than any other player on the Patriots. Here's a guy that finished third in targets and second in target distribution about receivers last season. Despite this, Edelman put up just the 16th-most fantasy points at his position.
There's very little doubt that Edelman will see a dramatic downtick from the 159 targets he received last season. Even if Brady targets running backs less with Cooks in the mix, that's not going to play a huge role here. Sure running backs saw 131 targets from Brady last season, but that's been par for the course when it comes to the Hall of Famer's career. Remember, this numbers stood at 149. Any excess of targets not going to running backs this season will likely be split between Gronk and Cooks.
That's the unfortunate situation Edelman finds himself in from a fantasy perspective, clearly indicating that his ceiling in 2017 is as a mid-tier FLEX option.
It wouldn't be out of the box to indicate that Hogan might see a jump in fantasy production with Cooks aboard. Likely New England's No. 3 receiver behind Cooks and Edelman, Hogan only saw 58 targets a season ago. He turned that into 38 receptions for nearly 700 yards.
When the Pats go with three-wide sets, opposing defenses will likely have to focus more on Cooks and Edelman than Hogan. If that's the case, there should be a ton of opportunities for the latter to make plays. Statistics aside, this is one of the times we focus on scheme when it comes to the fake football world.
In this, Hogan should see an uptick in all of his major statistical categories this upcoming season. That would have been the case with or without Cooks on the Pats.