Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have approached this offseason like the 4th quarter of Super Bowl 51 never happened and the Atlanta Falcons are your reigning Super Bowl champions. They have been more active than anyone could have imagined, trading for backup tight end Dwayne Allen and signing cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a big-time contract.
But these moves pale in comparison to the team trading their 1st- and 3rd-round picks to the New Orleans Saints for star receiver Brandin Cooks and a 4th-rounder.
On the surface, this should make every fantasy football owner giggle with happiness. Pairing a receiver as talented as Cooks—only he, Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. have had at least 75 catches, 1,000 yards, and eight touchdowns in each of the last two seasons—with a quarterback like Tom Brady seems almost too good to be true. Cooks was a fantasy monster with Drew Brees in the Saints highflying attack and in an offense as impossible to stop as the Patriots, Cooks could be a fantasy mega-star.
However, what makes this offense so hard to stop is exactly what makes Cooks no longer the WR1 he was in New Orleans: The Patriots have weapons, weapons and then a few more weapons.
Cooks joins an offense that features Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, Dion Lewis, James White, and newly acquired Dwayne Allen. Oh, and Rob Gronkowski. What makes the Patriots offense so hard to stop is that on any given Sunday, Brady and the offense could run through any one of those receivers and backs. One week Gronk goes off for 150 yards and three touchdowns. Next week, Dion Lewis has 160 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. Then Edelman has a 15 catches, 18 targets game. You get the picture.
With Cooks in the Patriots offense, he’s not going to get the 8.1 targets per game he had last year. There are just too many other mouths to feed on the roster.
This isn’t to say he won’t be successful in New England. There’s a very clear reason why Belichick and the Patriots worked so hard to get Cooks onto their roster and they will be able to maximize his ability. But that will be all in the name of winning games. Not in appeasing the football fantasy fans.
If you’re looking for someone’s fantasy stock that’s positively affected by this trade, look no further then second-year receiver Michael Thomas. Thomas had an extremely productive rookie season ending up with 92 catches, 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns and is now Brees’ top target.
Cooks is certainly a WR2 and a player you should be targeting in rounds three and four (his ADP right now is 29.5). He’s a risky pick heading into 2017 and it’ll take seeing how the Patriots plan to use him to determine if he’ll be just a fantasy contributor or a fantasy mega-star.