Fantasy Football: Brandin Cooks traded to Patriots

Good luck stopping the Patriots offense this year. It’s almost unfair the amount of talent they have.

On Friday, the Patriots acquired receiver Brandin Cooks and a 2017 fourth-round pick from the Saints in exchange for a first- and third-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Let me know when Tom Brady stops smiling.

New England won Super Bowl 51 last season with Rob Gronkowski (back) hurt, but Gronkowski will be ready for Week 1. Brady will now have Gronkowski, Cooks, Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan and Dwayne Allen as his main receivers, as well as Dion Lewis and James White out of the backfield.

Again, good luck.

You already know Brady is a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback, and he should be considered the No. 2 player at the position behind Aaron Rodgers. There’s certainly a strong argument that Brady is better than Rodgers following the Cooks trade.

Brandin Cooks WR / New Orleans (2016 stats)
TAR: 117 REC: 78 YDS: 1,173 TD: 8

Cooks was a lock as a No. 1 Fantasy receiver with the Saints, and he had at least 78 catches, 1,138 yards and eight touchdowns in each of the past two seasons. He loses Fantasy value with the trade to New England, but he’s still on the radar as a No. 2 receiver in all leagues.

He should compete with Edelman as the No. 1 receiver for Brady, but we know Cooks has struggled playing outdoors in his career. Per my colleague Dave Richard, Cooks has averaged 5.0 catches, 57.8 yards and 0.33 touchdowns over his past 12 games outdoors compared to 5.2 catches, 72.2 yards and 0.53 touchdowns over his past 30 games indoors.

Gillette Stadium, in case you’re unaware, is outdoors.

Now, we expect Cooks to manage in his new stadium, but his target share is going to take a hit. He averaged 7.3 targets a game in 2015 and 8.1 last year, but Brady will spread the ball around to all his targets. Last year, Edelman led the Patriots in targets with 158, and he averaged 9.9 targets a game. 

And clearly adding Cooks impacts the Fantasy value for Edelman, Mitchell and Hogan. Gronkowski is still the No. 1 Fantasy tight end, and Allen is only worth a late-round pick in the majority of leagues. It’s best to treat Cooks and Edelman as low-end No. 2/high-end No. 3 Fantasy receivers worth drafting in Round 4 or 5, and Mitchell and Hogan are now late-round fliers at best.

As for the Saints, this trade hurts Drew Brees. He should still be considered a Top 5 Fantasy quarterback, but losing Cooks lowers his upside. Brees was already behind Rodgers, Brady and Andrew Luck before the trade, but he might fall behind Matt Ryan in the rankings as well, depending on what happens by the NFL Draft.

The Saints were prepared to trade Cooks by signing Ted Ginn on Thursday. He played well for the Panthers the past two seasons with 98 catches, 1,491 yards and 14 touchdowns, and he should look good running deep routes for Brees. But Ginn isn’t the same type of receiver as Cooks, and he should only be considered a No. 3 Fantasy receiver with a mid-round pick.

Michael Thomas WR / New Orleans (2016 stats)
TAR: 122 REC: 92 YDS: 1,137 TD: 9

Michael Thomas is now a lock as a No. 1 Fantasy receiver, and he’s worth drafting toward the end of Round 2 in all leagues. As a rookie, Thomas led the Saints with 92 catches, 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns on 122 targets, and Brees will lean on him even more.

Willie Snead should also get a boost in value, and he’s a solid No. 3 Fantasy receiver. He had 72 catches, 895 yards and four touchdowns on 104 targets last year, and he should improve with Cooks gone. 

And we might see some improvement from Coby Fleener, who was a bust in his first year in New Orleans last year with 50 catches for 631 yards and three touchdowns on 82 targets. But Fleener could make a bigger impact with Cooks gone, although he’s still just a No. 2 Fantasy tight end worth a late-round pick.

The big winner in this trade is Brady and the Patriots. More weapons, more offense, more points. Good luck everyone else. 

Senior Fantasy Writer

Jamey Eisenberg has been a Senior Fantasy Writer for CBS Sports since 2006 with a focus on Fantasy Football. A University of Florida grad (class of '98), Jamey got his start in the newspaper business and... Full Bio

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