Jared Cook to the Chargers: A Fantasy Meh
On March 18th, Jared Cook inked a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Chargers worth $6 million, with $4.5 of it guaranteed. Cook, who turns 34 in April, will don his sixth different NFL uniform for the 2021 season.
A Cook’s Dozen (Years)
Jared Cook has been all over the map fantasy-wise in his 12 years in the league. Leaving out his rookie season in which he only caught nine balls for 74 yards, the tight end finished among the top 16 in half-PPR points per game just four times. His best two years were 2018 and 2019, where he averaged 10.0 half-PPR points with Oakland and 10.4 with the Saints.
What I found interesting is that during those 11 seasons, he was targeted 70 or more times in seven, and those didn’t necessarily correlate with his best fantasy outputs. Since drops aren’t technically an official stat, I was only able to find data for the past three seasons, but Cook’s drop rate was the highest among tight ends in 2018 with 8.9% and he dropped balls at the eighth-highest rate at his position in 2019 (6.2%).
As mentioned above those were his two best seasons for fantasy purposes, so I can only imagine his drop rate those years with over 75 targets where he ended as TE20 or worse in half-PPR points. Sure, some of the blame can possibly be placed on his assortment of QBs, but when looking at Cook’s catch percentage (receptions/targets) over the past 11 years, he’s averaged 55.1%, with an average ranking of 125.5 among all NFL pass catchers.
So with that in mind, where do we consider Cook to be for fantasy purposes now that he’s in LA as a Charger?
Will he Cook in the Chargers' Offense?
Hunter Henry leaves behind 93 targets from last year which turned into a line of 63-613-4 on the season. Instead of leaning solely on Donald Parham—who’s entering his sophomore season after seeing just 20 balls in 2020—the Chargers went out and got themselves a veteran body to muddy up the fantasy waters.
At 6’8” and 255 lbs, Parham is certainly an intriguing receiving option and a mismatch in the red zone, but he’ll need to work on his blocking before earning the starting role at tight end. Cook isn’t known for his blocking prowess either, but he does have the experience as a starter in the league and should provide a big body in the middle and down the seam for QB Justin Herbert.
There’s also a familiarity for Cook with some of the Chargers coaching staff. New OC Joe Lombardi and the tight end spent the past two seasons together in New Orleans, while LA’s offensive line coach/run game coordinator Frank Smith, was Cook’s position coach in 2018 with the Raiders. That season in Oakland, the then 31-year old posted career numbers catching 68 balls for 896 yards and six scores, good enough for TE5 overall in half-PPR points.
So what does all this mean for Cook in 2021? He’ll most likely be the third option behind Keenan Allen and Mike Williams in the passing game and should see enough work for TE2 output. Cook is slightly touchdown dependant and will need big plays to cross into TE1 territory. Without much of a ceiling, Cook is someone to shy away from in 12-team redraft leagues but could be usable in multi-TE leagues or as a late-round stab in best-ball formats in the event he does end up cooking with Herbert.
- Jared Cook joins Donald Parham in the TE room in 2021, and his presence hinders any major breakout for the young second-year player.
- While he should see starting TE work, Cook does have a history of drops and has a mediocre catch rate history.
- There’s familiarity with some Chargers’ coaching staff so they do know his abilities and how best to utilize the 12-year veteran.
- Projecting as a TE2, it’s best to avoid Cook in redraft and single-TE leagues, but he could pop certain weeks with multiple touchdowns as a nice late-round stab in best-ball leagues.