HOUSTON -- In a sea of pass-catchers and touchdown machines, Houston Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks has been forgotten. As the Texans prep for another season, Cooks returns to NRG Stadium as the team's go-to weapon.
The NFL just sees a lowly franchise without a direction, thus casting Cooks to the side in their rankings. And it's not just the NFL, try every major outlet and see if Cooks' name is mentioned in the top 15?
Top 20? Top 25 even? Few will at least give him that respect.
Cooks' career in the NFL has been defined by two things: trades and speed. Since coming out of Oregon State, he has been one of the most consistent No. 2 targets in the game. Last season he proved he can be a No. 1 with the right quarterback.
So, he's good, but not top-20 good, right? That's where the debate begins.
In seven seasons, Cooks has recorded five 1,000-yard seasons through the air. On all four teams, he's passed the 1K mark — twice with both New Orleans and Los Angeles.
Known for his speed and ability to win as a perimeter route-runner, Cooks' game has allowed him to be dangerous in the open field. In six of his seven years, he's averaged at least 13 yards per catch.
In that same span, he tallied at least 60 catches on five different occasions. He's also finished top two in receiving yards and receptions on his roster every season outside of 2019 with the Rams.
Perhaps the biggest knock against Cooks' is his role in an offense. During his time with the Saints, he played the No. 2 to Marques Colston and later Michael Thomas. With the Rams, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp would switch from being the No. 1 to No. 3, while Cooks remained sandwiched in-between.
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With DeAndre Hopkins in the desert, Cooks took advantage of building a bond with Deshaun Watson in the aerial attack. After Will Fuller received a six-game suspension for PED, the 27-year-old was the only consistent wideout left.
A loss (well, 12 of them) for Houston was a gain for Cooks. He finished with 81 catches for 1,150 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 14.2 yards per play. All four stats were enough to place Cooks in the top 25 for every receiving category.
The Texans will be without Watson for 2021 — if not for good — as he deals with his civil lawsuits surrounding the sexual assault claims. Cooks, though, might be one guy who thrives working with different pocket-passers on a daily basis.
Watson, Tom Brady, Jared Goff, Drew Brees? Why not Tyrod Taylor or Davis Mills as well?
It's wrong to say the Cooks is a top 10 receiver when looking at the names ahead. DeAndre Hopkins is as consistent as they came, as is Davante Adams. Other names like Justin Jefferson or Stefon Diggs are on the rise after breakout campaigns.
Top 15 though? There's an argument to be had. Top 20? There's the debate floor for a five-time 1K target.
Cooks certainly has earned that praise and then some entering 2021.
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