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2017 Fantasy Outlooks for Patriots’ Brandin Cooks, Saints’ Adrian Peterson

Frank Stampfl July 31, 2017 4:24AM EST

BRANDIN COOKS TO THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

It seems like every year the Patriots pull off some crazy deal that makes them even better. Coming off an incredible Super Bowl comeback, they did just that by adding another element to their offense: Brandin Cooks. The Pats experimented with a few outside wide receivers in years past, including Brandon LaFell, Brandon Lloyd and even Chad Johnson. Nobody has excelled in that role since the legendary Randy Moss. It’s safe to say Cooks is the best outside threat since then. In Moss’ last season with the Patriots, he posted a receiving line of 83-1264-13 on 138 targets.

Hold your horses, though. Just because Cooks is the best outside receiver since Moss doesn’t mean he’s anything like him. Moss was a freak of nature, standing 6-4 and able to dominate with speed, finesse, and incredible size. Cooks is a much different receiver. He’s only 5-10, which limits his upside in the red zone, but he does have game-breaking speed. He;s easily the fastest wide receiver the Pats had in years. Not only can he get behind the defense and stretch the field, he can take a screen pass or quick slant to the house from nearly anywhere. Of Cooks’ 20 career receiving touchdowns, eight have been from at least 40 yards out, including five from at least 60 yards out. In 2016, he had the longest receiving touchdown in the league with a 98-yard strike. He’s that dynamic.

Brandin Cooks may not be a reliable target in New England. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

While he adds another dangerous element to an already prolific offense, there is a downside here: targets. There are a ton of options in this passing game, some who have already earned the trust of the GOAT Tom Brady. Julian Edelman was targeted 158 times last season, a massive 28.7 percent of his team’s target share. We know when Rob Gronkowski is healthy that he can also lead this team in targets. In 2015, Gronk did exactly that with 120 targets. And then there is James White, who was targeted 86 times in 2016, third-most among running backs. After his Super Bowl performance, it is safe to say he’s earned Brady’s trust, too.

Is it possible for the Patriots passing attack to support three Fantasy viable receivers plus a pass-catching back? I suppose so. In 2014, Gronk, Edelman, and LaFell all went for at least 74 receptions and 954 yards. In 2011, Wes Welker, Gronk, and Aaron Hernandez all had great seasons (as seen below).

NE 2011

Targets

Receptions

Receiving yards

Touchdowns

Welker

172

122

1,569

9

Gronk

124

90

1,327

17

Hernandez

113

79

910

7

 

Cooks is a risky pick in 2017 because his range of outcomes is very wide. If everybody in the Patriots passing attack is healthy, he is likely third or even fourth in the pecking order when it comes to targets. If Gronk or another receiver gets hurt, which is very possible, Cooks could flourish with more opportunities. Not only can the targets be an issue, but his maturity could be as well. Cooks caused some issues in Week 12 last season when he wasn’t targeted a single time. The Saints still scored 49 points and won the game. If something like that occurs with the Patriots, it could get ugly fast. Bill Belichick is a no-nonsense coach.

Cooks is currently being drafted as WR11 according to National Fantasy Football Championship ADP data. It seems relatively high, especially since this is a PPR format and Cooks is more of a deep threat/TD-reliant Fantasy option. It makes more sense for Cooks to go in the WR16-20 range behind guys like DeAndre Hopkins

ADRIAN PETERSON TO THE NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

I don’t like to doubt Adrian Peterson. The last time we did that as a Fantasy industry, he ran for 2,097 yards and totaled 13 touchdowns. The truth of the matter is, that was five years ago. Peterson is 32 years old and the last time we saw him, he was averaging 1.9 yards per carry. The Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line was abysmal, but Peterson appeared in just three games last season because of various injuries.

I think the Saints know that, too. They don’t want Peterson to be the lead back at his age, nor do they need him to be. The Saints still have Mark Ingram on the roster (although Sean Payton hates him) and they just drafted Alvin Kamara. At this point in his career, the way to get the most out of Peterson is to keep him fresh. The Saints will be able to do just that while using the dreaded RBBC (Running Back By Committee).

To be fair, this is exactly what the Saints have done as long as Sean Payton and Drew Brees have been together. Ingram spoiled Fantasy owners the past few seasons, but those days are over. Consider this. Payton and Brees have been together since 2006. Since then, the Saints have had just two 1,000-yard rushers: Ingram in 2016 and Deuce McAllister in 2006. Additionally, during that span, only three running backs finished a season with more than 200 carries: Ingram in 2016 (205), 2014 (206), McAllister in 2006 (244). Payton traditionally doesn’t have a workhorse running back. As the numbers show, most of the time he uses a committee approach.

Peterson isn’t completely useless. Here at RotoExperts, we have him projected for 748 rushing yards and six touchdowns with a 17-143-1 receiving line. That would have finished as RB26 in non-PPR last season. I don’t want to completely downplay him either, because there is an upside here. If Ingram suffers an injury, gets traded or works his way into Payton’s doghouse, Peterson could take over as the starter. That would allow him to take over early-down work as well as goal-line opportunities. Personally, I can’t use a draft pick on a player whose upside is dependent on injury or something else that can’t be controlled.

According to Fantasy Pros consensus ADP, Peterson is being drafted as RB25 at pick 65. He’s being drafted ahead of Paul Perkins, Ameer Abdullah, and Mike Gillislee, who are all expected to start for their respective teams. Once you reach the middle rounds of your drafts, you should be targeting upside and in my honest opinion, running backs with fresher legs. Peterson is a low-end RB3 in my rankings, somebody I wouldn’t want to start aside from bye weeks.

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