BOSTON (AP) Over the past three seasons Brandin Cooks has carved out a reputation as one of the NFL's elite young receivers.
He's fresh off back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons as one of Drew Brees' favorite targets in the pass-friendly Saints offense.
Now, following his trade from New Orleans to New England last week, those prospects could reach a new level as he prepares to catch passes from another surefire Hall of Famer, quarterback Tom Brady.
''I guess I know how to pick quarterbacks, right?'' Cooks said Wednesday.
It's why he shrugs at rumors that he was unhappy with the Saints. He said that he never sought or asked to be traded from New Orleans.
''I think a lot of that and what was going on got taken out of context and a little exaggerated,'' he said. ''Throughout the (free agency) process I felt like I had to take the blows and keep my mouth shut, which is fine. It just happened to be a great opportunity for both sides.''
That said, the 23-year-old Cooks says joining Brady's receiving corps is a dream scenario as he enters his fourth season in the league having followed Brady's career since he was a kid.
At just 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, Cooks is also the latest guy to obliterate the notion that receivers can't make it in the NFL if they're less than 6 feet tall.
He attributed it to taking his lumps in a household with three older brothers who never took it easy on him. That, and overcoming much greater adversity off the field.
Cooks' father, Worth Cooks, Sr., died of a heart attack when Brandin was 7 years old.
''My mom raised us four by herself,'' Cooks said. ''The way I look at it now I take it positive and I see it as a blessing just because of the hardships we had to overcome in life in general, so to be able to play this game - the hardships that we go through on the field - it's nothing compared to that.''
On the field, the Patriots are well aware of Cooks' exploits.
New England has held joint practices with New Orleans each of the past two seasons. In the most recent edition, Cooks drew a lot of attention during his one-on-one battles with Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler.
The list of those with praise for Cooks included coach Bill Belichick.
''I've never known about it,'' Cooks said. ''And at the end of the day I've still got to earn his trust when I come there and play and continue to do what I've been doing.''
An Oregon State product, Cooks' stock quickly shot up during the 2014 NFL combine when he topped everyone with his 4.33 40-yard dash .
He showed off that speed in New Orleans' season opener this past season when he caught a pass along the sideline and sprinted by two Oakland Raiders defenders for a franchise-record 98-yard touchdown .
It was one of several highlights during a 2016 season in which he appeared in 16 games and caught 78 passes for 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns. That came a year after he posted 84 passes for 1,138 yards and nine touchdowns in 16 games.
The Patriots now add that big play ability to a group that already includes Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.
''Coming to New England it seems like it's an offense that guys do a bunch of different things and I'm looking forward to being able to do some things that I didn't necessarily have to do in New Orleans, hopefully to get the chance here and do it here,'' Cooks said.
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