On Friday evening, the New Orleans Saints traded No. 1 receiver Brandin Cooks and a fourth-round pick to the New England Patriots for a first and third-round pick.
It was a trade that shook up the entire fabric of the NFL heading into the 2017 season. Brooks, coming off two consecutive 1,000-yard seasons now becomes Tom Brady's favorite target with the defending champs.
We'll surely focus on this from a fantasy perspective when it comes to New England later today, but this article is meant to take a look at what the trade means from a Saints' perspective.
Let's look at all the players involved and where they now stand.
The biggest beneficiary here will be this 2016 second-round pick. As a rookie this past season, Thomas was absolutely brilliant. He caught 92 passes for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns en route to finishing as the seventh-best fantasy option.
What is amazing here is that Thomas caught an absurd 76 percent of the passes thrown in his direction. This means that Thomas was able to finish as a top-10 fantasy option despite finishing 20th in targets and 37th in target distribution. Needless to say, Thomas will see a major uptick in terms of targets, likely from the 121 he saw in 2016 to closer to 160 this upcoming season.
There's really no reason to believe that Thomas won't be able to finish as a top-five fantasy receiver in the Saints' pass-happy offense, especially when we take into account Drew Brees presence and Thomas' natural growth from his rookie season.
This is where it gets interesting. Snead was Brees' third-favorite target behind Cooks and Thomas last season. He had the ball thrown his way 104 times, coming away with 72 catches for nearly 900 yards and four touchdowns. This was good enough for him to finish as a mid-tier FLEX option.
While New Orleans did add Ted Ginn in free agency, it seems highly unlikely that he'll comes closer to surpassing Snead as the Saints' No. 2 receiver. If that's the are, Snead himself is likely looking at an uptick of about three targets per game, if not more. Based on last season's success, that equates to 26 more receptions and nearly 300 more yards to go with two more touchdowns.
Obviously these are projections, but we could be looking at Snead putting up nearly 100 catches for 1,200 yards and six touchdowns. This would have made him a top-tier WR 2 option in 2016.
Though, there's definitely a scenario in play here that suggests the Saints use one of their early-round picks on a wide receiver. If so, there's also a chance that Snead's fantasy production won't increase too much from last season. It's definitely something to keep an eye on as the draft season gets going.
Fleener was somewhat of an enigmatic figure in his first season with the Saints. He opened the season by putting up just three receptions on 12 targets for 35 yards. After a 109-yard performance in Week 3, he hit the 70-yard plateau just once over the next eight games. Fleener also finished the season by tallying 84 combined receiving yards in his final four games.
Needless to say, Fleener's debut season didn't go according to plan. Despite this, he was stil able to accumulate 50 receptions for 631 yards and three touchdowns on 81 targets. This was good enough for Fleener to finish as the 15th-best fantasy tight end.
While stopping short of predicting better fantasy production in 2017, it stands to reason that Fleener will see an uptick in targets. Though, the trade of Cooks to New England impacts both Thomas and Snead much more than Fleener. The tight end probably has bottom-end TE1 upside heading into 2017.