Brandin Cooks’ Fantasy Value in Houston

J.R. Duren | April 10th, 2020  

Brandin Cooks is switching uniforms, again. The question is, what does the trade to the Houston Texans do to his fantasy value? Is he a borderline WR2/WR3 or a top-10 sleeper? Say what you will about the Texans personnel decisions, the key for fantasy managers is how Cooks will affect the Texans’ offense and how the Texans’ offense will affect Cooks.

To get a clearer picture of what we can expect from the speedy wideout this year, we’ll analyze who Cooks is as a receiver and what the Texans’ receiving corps looks like. 

Cooks’ Career Stats Say He’s a WR2/WR3

Understanding the impact Cooks has in Houston starts with understanding his career to this point. Here is an overview of his career stats, which give you insight into the type of receiver he is:

YearTeamHandcuffsSeason statsTop WR/TEGames w/o a catchGames w/TDGames w/100+ yds.
2014SaintsJimmy Graham, Kenny Stills, Marques Colston53/550/3Graham: 85/889/10630
2015SaintsWillie Snead84/1,138/9Cooks074
2016SaintsMichael Thomas78/1,173/8Thomas:92/1,137/9162
2017PatriotsRob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola65/1,082/7Gronk:
69/1,084/8
062
2018RamsRobert Woods/Cooper Kupp80/1,204/5Woods:
86/1,219/6
145
2019RamsWoods/Kupp/Tyler Higbee42/583/2Kupp:
94/1,161/10
421

The numbers give us the following conclusions:

  • Cooks cannot beat out a better receiving talent
  • Cooks has never had a 90 catch season
  • Cooks has never had double-digit touchdowns
  • Cooks’ season average is 67/955/5.6 (196.1 points in PPR)

For perspective, Cooks’ 196.1 points per season would give him the following rankings in the past four PPR seasons: 

  • 2019: WR28
  • 2018: WR24
  • 2017: WR21
  • 2016: WR27

However, because his rookie season and 2019 season were terrible, his career average doesn’t reflect his actual PPR finishes over the past four seasons:

  • 2019: WR61
  • 2018: WR13
  • 2017: WR15
  • 2016: WR9
  • 2015: WR11
  • 2014: WR51

Based on this information, we can conclude that Cooks’ career makes it clear he hovers between a WR2 and WR3 on most fantasy rosters. He is a high-floor/low-ceiling WR on teams with superior pass-catchers (Graham/Gronk/Woods/Kupp).

His only top-10 season came in 2016. That year,  he and the rookie Thomas were the centerpiece of the Saints offense and Drew Brees threw for more than 5,200 yards. Still, Cooks was the team’s WR2, stats wise.

The Texans’ Roster Says Cooks Could be a WR1

The following table shows you how the Texans’ top three wide receivers and top tight end fared over the past three seasons. Keep in mind that Deshaun Watson missed the majority of the 2017 season with a knee injury: 

SeasonWR1WR2WR3TE1
2019

DeAndre Hopkins

104/1,165/7

Will Fuller:

49/670/3

Stills: 

40/561/4

Darren Fells:

34/341/7

2018

Hopkins: 

115/1,572/11

Fuller:

32/503/4

Keke Coutee:

28/287/1

Jordan Thomas:

20/215/4

2017

Hopkins: 

96/1,378/13

Fuller:

28/423/7

Bruce Ellington:

29/330/2

Stephen Anderson:

24/342/1

As we pointed out earlier, Cooks does not put up WR1 numbers when he has talented receivers or tight ends around him. Only once was he the centerpiece of an offense (2015) and that year he was the WR11.

This observation is key because the Houston Texans have no clear-cut WR1 on their roster. Fuller is too injury-prone to be a consistent WR1, Stills likely won’t take the top spot in the offense and the Texans’ tight ends are an afterthought.

Based on Cooks’ career, this season looks like the 2015 Saints: talented quarterback and suspect running game. Working in Cooks’ favor is that Ben Watson had 74 catches and 825 yards in 2015; no such tight end option exists in the Texans offense. So, while Cooks’ career numbers have dipped over the past three seasons, we could see the wide receiver emerge as a sleeper in Houston.

The notion that Cooks could be a sleeper may seem silly, as he tends to garner more attention than his stats support. But, his numbers say he’s a WR2/WR3. Yet his current situation (no clear WR1, no solid tight end option) says he could sneak his way into a top-10 finish.

The Bottom Line: Cooks Could Only Be as Good as Fuller Lets Him

Cooks has the potential to return to his 2015 form because the Texans roster begs for a dominant wide receiver to take over the offense. Considering Cooks has an ADP of around 80th overall in Sleeper PPR drafts, he could be a critical sleeper in the sixth round. 

But what makes Cooks such a gamble is that we don’t know how Fuller fits into the Texans offense. His Sleeper PPR ADP is right around 75, indicating owners have more faith in him than they do in Cooks. 

This confidence is a bit misguided based on history, as Fuller hasn’t played in more than 11 games in a season the past three years. He’s never logged more than 49 catches or seven touchdowns in a season. When Fuller is healthy, he can be as good or better than Cooks. He has eight 100-yard games in 42 games played. Cooks has 14 in 88 games played. Fuller has one 200-yard game. Cooks has none. Of course, the question is: can Fuller play a full season?

History seems to indicate that Cooks will assume control of the wide receiver corps because Fuller can’t stay healthy and neither can Coutee. Stills doesn’t pose a threat based on his past performance. New addition Randall Cobb will turn 30 this August. He had his best YPC of his career last year in Dallas. However, the veteran wideout hasn’t broken 1,000 yards since 2014. Nothing in the past five years says he’s ready to take over the Texans WR1 spot. With this in mind, Cooks could be a great value pick in the sixth round. The opportunity is there for him to return to his 2015 form. 

If you aren’t convinced he’s the right pick in the sixth round,  other options in that round are, based on current Sleeper PPR ADPs: 

*Smith-Schuster’s ADP is a reflection of market timidity based on Ben Roethlisberger’s unknown recovery timeline. Should the Steelers indicate Big Ben will be back for week one, Smith-Schuster’s ADP will likely put him inside the first five rounds.

So I’ll ask again: is Cooks a borderline WR2/WR3 or a top-10 sleeper?

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