For the second time in as many offseasons, Brandin Cooks has been traded.
The 2014 first-round pick spent the first three years of his career in New Orleans before being shipped to New England last offseason. On Tuesday, Cooks was traded along with a fourth-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams for first- and sixth-round selections.
Cooks' game is stretching the field with his outstanding speed, and that has shown up on the stat sheet in recent years. The wide receiver's 15.1-yard average depth of target was sixth highest in the league last season, and he's finished seventh in yards per target each of the past two years. Though his targets, receptions and yardage have gone down in each of the past two campaigns, he's still managed at least 1,000 receiving yards and seven touchdowns each of the past three seasons. Cooks finished as a top-15 fantasy receiver in each of those three years.
Cooks joins a rejuvenated Rams offense that has been searching for a replacement for Sammy Watkins, who signed with the Chiefs in March. The good news for Cooks is that the Rams had a third wide receiver on the field for an NFL-high 92 percent of their pass plays last season. That allowed Watkins to see the field often, though it resulted in only 39 receptions, 593 yards and eight touchdowns, numbers that were actually inflated by Robert Woods missing time. Cooks faces a similar situation. He'll play often, but it's going to be hard to match his numbers from recent years if Woods, second-year slot man Cooper Kupp and all-purpose back Todd Gurley II continue to soak up a similar share of the targets. Cooks is best viewed as a fringe flex option.
Rams head coach Sean McVay's scheme seems to rely heavily on reliable short and intermediate targets like Woods, Kupp and Gurley, so the Cooks acquisition shouldn't have much of an impact on their usage. Woods was WR10 in fantasy when healthy last season and Kupp finished the year 25th. Both remain viable fantasy starters. Jared Goff, meanwhile, sat eighth at quarterback in fantasy points prior to resting in Week 17. His supporting cast is better as he enters Year 3, which suggests another leap forward is attainable. Of course, limited volume (not much garbage time on a team that led on a league-high 52 percent of offensive snaps last season) and a lack of rushing production mean Goff should be seen as a borderline QB1.
On the other coast, the Patriots cleared up somewhat of a logjam at wide receiver by moving on from Cooks. Julian Edelman is set to return after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. Whereas Cooks handled a 19 percent target share last season (7.1 per game), Edelman averaged a 27 percent share (9.9 per game) during the 2013-16 seasons. Chris Hogan, meanwhile, caught 33 passes on 54 targets for 438 yards and five scores and sat 10th among wide receivers in fantasy points prior to suffering a shoulder injury. He sees the biggest boost in fantasy value with Cooks gone and is back in the WR2 discussion. Behind that duo, the likes of Kenny Britt, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson and intriguing post-hype sleeper Malcolm Mitchell will compete for the No. 3 gig. With Tom Brady at the controls, the winner has a path to fantasy relevance in 2018.