Saints WR Brandin Cooks was really starting to hit his stride when he suffered a season-ending thumb injury in Week 10 last year. Of all the rookie receivers who burst into the scene in the NFL last year, Cooks was actually leading all rookie receivers with 53 receptions at the time of his injury. And the Saints were starting to consistently hit on some deep balls to the 5-10, 189-pound speedster.
Drew Brees said he and Cooks have already spent some time training together this offseason in San Diego, where Brees calls home base when he's not in New Orleans.
"Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah," Brees said when asked if Cooks is one of the guys he's excited to watch develop. "Man, I love everything about him, his makeup, and then just his physical ability. I mean he's got all kinds of talent."
Friday, April 10, 2015, 4:32pm
Stature stands in the way of Cooks being perceived as a No. 1-type wide receiver in the NFL. Not many true No. 1 wideouts are 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds.
Yet Cooks needs to be that primary pass catcher with the Saints losing Kenny Stills in a trade to Miami and Marques Colston's best days behind him. Cooks only turns 22 in September and missed the last six games last season with a hand injury. Cooks possesses the tools to become the guy.
As the author points out, those are lofty expectations for Cooks. But we've all seen Steve Smith become a Pro Bowler as a No. 1 wide receiver for Carolina for several seasons. Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown is the latest example leading the NFL in catches and yards last season, the story adds. Cooks said this offseason how he's striving to emulate Brown. With no more Stills and Jimmy Graham, the Saints hope and need Cooks to quickly develop into their top option. This seems to be good news for his fantasy value heading into 2015.
“His cutup is unbelievable,” Saints HC Sean Payton said of breaking down C.J. Spiller’s film with the Buffalo Bills. “And I’m not talking about last season because I think it became challenging, but you go back a couple of years and start looking at his screen reel, a sweep reel, a return reel. So when you watch his film you think of a lot of things he can do.
“He’s physical. He’s the most explosive player on the field a lot of times when you’re watching him."
While New Orleans may not be an ideal landing spot from a workload standpoint, Spiller should have a big role in the passing game with Pierre Thomas, Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills no longer on the roster. He’ll likely take over the role of Thomas, who averaged 11.6 touches in the last two seasons. Thomas finished with a top 30 PPG (PPR) in six of the last seven seasons, so that's a reasonable baseline for Spiller. New Orleans running backs caught 275 passes in the last two seasons, so there are plenty of catches to go around. In short, he has significant PPR upside in this offense, but his workload will be somewhat limited since he'll be part of a committee.
Saints HC Sean Payton on third-year TE Josh Hill: “He’s exactly what we’re looking for… He’s talented, he can run, he’s young, but he’s consistent, and those are the things that allow you to win… He’s one of those players had he gone to the Combine, he probably would have been drafted. If you just took his numbers and plugged them in — height, weight, speed, vertical jump, broad jump, production — they’re pretty impressive. And he was a great addition for us, a great signing for us, a couple of years ago.”
With the Jimmy Graham trade, the door is open for Hill to start for the Saints. He only played 288 snaps in 2014, but still managed to catch 14 passes for 176 yards and five touchdowns on just 20 targets. If the team doesn't add a tight end early in the draft, Hill will likely see starter's snaps in 2015. If that's the case, he'll be one of the hottest sleepers heading into draft season.
Jay Glazer reported that the deal sends Seattle's first round pick and C Max Unger to the Saints. The Seahawks have been looking to upgrade at tight end for a while now, and they finally got their guy. Graham's value takes a minor hit as he heads to the run-oriented Seahawks, though he'll continue to be a target hog given the current state of the Seattle receiving corps. The move is a big upgrade for Russell Wilson, who was the #3 QB in 2014 despite a serious lack of playmakers in the passing game. Conversely, it's a major downgrade for Drew Brees, who loses his top target in the passing game. Unger's arrival is good news for the recently re-signed Mark Ingram, while the Seahawks will have to find a way to replace one of the best centers in the game. The loss of Unger will have a negative impact on Marshawn Lynch. Also, TE Josh Hill could step into a big role for the Saints.
Jimmy Graham’s two-touchdown performance at the Pro Bowl could ease fears that his shoulder problem would linger and potentially require offseason surgery. Graham also caught a 23-yard pass in his third Pro Bowl.
“It made a big difference, just having some rest,” he said.
When asked whether his performance would rule out surgery, Graham said, “It should, which is really exciting.”
Graham finished with 85 catches for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns, but his season was somewhat disappointing, especially down the stretch. He averaged 4.0 catches for 44 yards and 0.2 TD in his final five games, including a weird zero-target goose egg in Week 13 against Pittsburgh. Still, his 14.6 PPR fantasy points was second at his position to Rob Gronkowski, and he's likely to be the second tight end off the board in 2015 fantasy drafts, especially if his shoulder injury is fully behind him.
The Ravens have only allowed five touchdowns to tight ends in the regular season, and they held Jimmy Graham to 47 yards receiving. Do the Ravens have a chance of slowing down Rob Gronkowski, or do you throw out those numbers because he is on a different level?
Patriots beat writer Mike Reiss: They can definitely slow Gronkowski, but it will come at a cost. One of the most impressive things about Gronkowski’s season to me is how his 82 catches for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns hardly tell the whole story. It’s plays like touchdown catches by Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen against the Broncos on Nov. 2 that highlight his true value because there were three to four defenders swarming around Gronkowski in the end zone, creating those one-on-one opportunities for Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen. That was pretty commonplace this season with Gronkowski, who is a pure combination tight end in the sense that he can also dominate as a blocker when he wants; it's not just catching the ball. So I’d be surprised if the Ravens can slow Gronkowski consistently with just one player like safety Will Hill. But if they want to devote extra resources to it, they can probably dictate the ball going elsewhere, and the Patriots have shown the ability to capitalize when that happens.
Saturday, December 27, 2014, 11:11am
Jimmy Graham acknowledged Friday that his right shoulder has hindered his production this season. The tight end added that he would get another MRI after Sunday's finale to see if he needs offseason surgery.
"I'm not going to make any excuses for it," he said, per the Times-Picayune. "I think everyone plays hurt in this league. That's just a part of the job."
Graham added that the shoulder "was a battle every game. That's just how it is when you're trying to stay healthy."
When healthy the past two years, the tight end has averaged eight receptions, 104 yards and a touchdown per game. However, in games when dealing with a plantar fascia injury in 2013 and the shoulder injury this year that average has plummeted to 4.5 catches, 52 yards and 0.8 touchdowns, the story went on to say. Hopefully Graham can enter 2015 at 100-percent, as he's sure to be a top-three TE once again in drafts. Injuries the past two season could drop Graham from first round status however.
Given his performance in recent weeks, the shoulder injury Jimmy Graham dealt with earlier this season might feel like a distant memory for those observing games.
But for the man they’re observing, the shoulder is still very much an issue.
The Saints tight end said Friday that he’s still managing the pain in his shoulder “every day” and that it has impacted his blocking this season.
“At times this year the shoulder has really held me back sometimes,” Graham said. “Other times I’m able to fight through the pain. I just got to man up and keep doing it.”
Graham initially injured his shoulder during a Week 5 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Coming out of a Week 6 bye, Graham was limited to 30 snaps in the next game against the Detroit Lions. He’s not appeared to be limited since, the story said. Graham currently has 65 catches for 670 yards with nine touchdowns this season. He did not record a catch during last week’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but his presence and the fact that he drew double teams on many snaps helped open things up for the offense, the story also pointed out.
Saints beat writer Mike Triplett on how the team will replace injured WR Brandin Cooks:
The Saints will rely even more heavily on Jimmy Graham and receivers Marques Colston and Kenny Stills going forward. Colston has been more inconsistent this year than ever before with too many dropped passes. But the Saints haven't lost faith in him. He's continued to lead them in snaps each week, and he led them with eight targets and 56 receiving yards against the Bengals.
From a fantasy standpoint, I might stubbornly give a slight nod to Colston over Stills for that reason -- though it's close, and both should see slight increases in production.
It will be interesting to see if this also opens the door for deep-threat receiver Joe Morgan, who has only caught one pass all season while being mostly inactive (and suspended for two weeks for an unspecified team issue). Morgan flashed his dazzling big-play potential with 10 catches for 379 yards and three touchdowns in 2012. But then he missed all of 2013 with a major knee injury.
Both Colston and Stills should see more targets, but we view Stills as the better fantasy acquisition since he has been posting strong WR3 numbers since Week 7. He has averaged 4.2-58-.40 in the last five weeks, and that was with Cooks still in the lineup. For more on Stills, be sure to read the Sleeper Alert that Senior Editor John Paulsen wrote in the preseason.
Cooks' agent said on Monday that the Saints' second-leading receiver had surgery on his right thumb on Monday and was expected to be out four to six weeks. Cooks, a first-round draft choice last spring, has assumed a prominent role in the offense and also has been New Orleans' primary punt returner.
He's second on the Saints in both catches with 53 and yards receiving with 550, to go with three touchdown receptions this season. He has also rushed seven times for 73 yards and a touchdown.
Cooks must have been closer to the six-week timetable, which would have brought him back into the playoffs. Kenny Stills could see an increase in work and may be worth a pickup off your wire if you're looking for depth at WR. Keep in mind the Saint receivers are often inconsistent because of TE Jimmy Graham and the pass-catching RBs.
Cox Sports Television first reported the news Monday morning, as did NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport.
Cooks, the Saints' first-round draft pick in May, has 53 receptions for 550 yards in his rookie season.
Saints coach Sean Payton will meet with the media later Monday, although he typically doesn't discuss injuries.
Cooks is second on the Saints in receiving yards after tight end Jimmy Graham. His absence would leave Marques Colston and Kenny Stills as the top two WR targets for quarterback Drew Brees. Stills is a guy likely on wires who could see an increase in targets as a result. The Saints play Monday night in Week 12 at home against the Ravens.
Friday, November 7, 2014, 6:15pm
Saints TE Jimmy Graham (shoulder, probable) took full practice reps all week and is probable for Week 10. Graham is a must-start at this point.
Thursday, November 6, 2014, 6:28pm
Saints TE Jimmy Graham (shoulder) practiced fully Wednesday. Graham is a must-start in all formats at this point.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014, 6:48pm
Saints TE Jimmy Graham (shoulder, questionable) took limited practice reps Wednesday. After posting a pretty nice fantasy line in Week 8, we’re expecting Graham to play again on Thursday night.
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