1 Vs 1 WR Edition: Sammy Watkins Vs Brandin Cooks
In this series I'm going to compare two similarly ranked and drafted players putting them up against each other, and comparing them in a variety of categories such as quality of quarterback, draft pedigree, age, combine results, measurables, team passing attempts, snaps played, PFF grades, target percentage, and depth chart competition. In an attempt to determine which of the two players will be the superior dynasty asset. In this edition I'm going to compare two incredibly talented wide receivers who have both somewhat recently changed teams in Sammy Watkins and Brandin Cooks. It will be interesting to see how these wide receivers adjust to their new teams, and new offenses. Cooks gets the luxury of having both Drew Brees and Tom Brady as his quarterbacks before his 24th birthday, whereas Watkins goes from playing in a run based offense in Buffalo and catching passes from a decent quarterback in Tyrod Taylor to playing for an equally run heavy offense with the Rams, and will now be catching passes from Jared Goff who looks incredible compared to his rookie season.
While Cooks had another fantastic season in 2016 racking up 1173 yards and 8 touchdowns on 78 receptions averaging 15.0 yards per reception on his 117 targets. Watkins had another injury plagued season only managing to play in eight games last year, putting up a pedestrian 28 catch 430 yard, 2 touchdown stat line while averaging 15.4 yards per reception on his 52 targets. Both players had impressive PFF grades finishing inside the top 20 among wide receivers, Cooks was given an 80.5 grade which was 28th overall, and Watkins graded out at 76.8 finishing as the 47th wide receiver. When it comes to the quarterbacks throwing these guys the ball, well it isn't even close. I know Goff was the number one overall pick in last years draft and has looked fantastic so far this season, but it's more likely that I grow an arm out of my ass than it is Goff ever gets discussed in the same breath as Tom Brady, let alone plays on his level for a prolonged period of time. Pro Football Focus had Brady as their number one graded quarterback with an incredible 98.0 grade. To further what I touched on earlier Watkins went from Tyrod Taylor who was the 13th overall QB with an 83.2 grade last season to Jared Goff who graded out as the 33rd quarterback as a rookie with a terrible 45.6 grade, to put it in perspective he finished behind Brock Owseiller. I have Watkins ranked as my 11th wide receiver ahead of Cooks who I have ranked 17th. Advantage: Cooks
When it comes to age, measurables, combine results, and draft pedigree, these two wide receivers have a lot in common, both receivers are essentially the same age and will play this season as 24 years olds with Watkins being three months younger than Cooks. Watkins is also the bigger of the two wide receivers beings listed at 6'1 211 pounds, compared to Cooks who is listed at 5'10 189 pounds. Combine results mostly favour Cooks but if you consider that Watkins is over 20 pounds heavier than Cooks is, their combine numbers are actually very similar once they are size adjusted. Cooks ran a blazing 4.33 40, had a 120 inch broad jump, and put up a 36 inch vertical, whereas Watkins ran a 4.43 40, with a 126 inch broad jump, and a 34 inch vert. The draft pedigree advantage goes to Watkins as he was taken by Buffalo with the 4th overall pick in the what very well could turn out to be a historically deep wide receiver class, Cooks was the 4th wide receiver selected in that same 2014 draft going 20th overall to the Saints. Advantage: Watkins
Now lets take a look at these two from more of a team perspective, looking at each teams passing attempts, completion percentage, successful play rate, and teams passing play percentage. In 2016 Watkins new team the Los Angeles Rams threw the ball 536 times, having a completion percentage of 58.2%, with a successful play rate of only 42%. The Patriots, which is Cook's new team passed the ball 550 times last season, completing 66.9% of those passes, and had a successful play rate of 52%. As I discussed earlier there really isn't a comparison to be made between these two wide receivers new quarterbacks. With Tom Brady regarded as one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL, and Jared Goff still developing under a new regime. In every facet of the game Brady is light years ahead of Goff, and it's highly unlikely that ever changes. Advantage: Cooks
Their snaps played last season wasn't even close due to Watkins only playing half the year and being banged up even when he was in the lineup. Cooks played 881 snaps in 2016, exactly 500 more snaps than Watkins who played 381 snaps. For the Saints last season Cooks had 117 targets and a target share of 21.3%, in Buffalo Watkins had 52 targets in his 8 games, when prorated out over the course of a full season the would have equated to a 21.9% target share. As far as how these two fit it on their new teams, they have much different depth charts to contend with. The depth chart is pretty much wide open in LA, as Watkins will instantly assume the number one receiver role, vying for targets behind Watkins there is former teammate Robert Woods, perennial disappointment Tavon Austin, rookie 3rd rounder Cooper Kupp, rookie 4th round pick Josh Reynolds, runningback Todd Gurley, and two young tightends Tyler Higbee, and Gerald Everett who will commands some targets between them. Coming off their 2016 Super Bowl season the depth chart was pretty well set in New England, so it will be interesting to see where Cooks fits in knowing that Julien Edleman (injured), and Rob Gronkowski both have established roles. Whichever pass catching running back between James White, Dion Lewis, and Rex Burkhead manages to stay out of Belichecks dog house will likely catch a significant amount of passes as well. Chris Hogan and sophomore Malcolm Mitchell will both have roles in the offense it's just unclear at this point what exactly those roles will be. The Patriots regularly run two tightend sets so don't discount offseason acquisition Dwayen Allen, or in season acquisition Martellus Bennett, especially considering that Rob Gronkowski misses time nearly every season. Advantage: Watkins
This wide receiver comparison was a very close one for me, I believe that Watkins is the more talented wide receiver, but due to the quarterback situation being better in New England and the ongoing foot injuries for Watkins I have to give the edge to Cooks. I'm not sure if the new regime in Buffalo just didn't believe in him or if they legitimately believed his foot would not hold up long term, but to essentially just give up on the 4th overall pick seems insane to me. Regardless of the depth chart congestion I believe Cooks can thrive in New England for years to come. Winner: Brandin Cooks