Scan a sampling of mock drafts online, and the one name you’ll see mentioned time and again as a possible replacement for DeSean Jackson is Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks.
Reasons for the comparison are obvious. Cooks is 5-10, 189 and ran a 4.33 at the combine. Jackson is listed at 5-10, 175 and ran a 4.35 coming out of Cal.
Here’s how Cooks tested in Indy:
His 40-time was the third fastest among all wide receivers in the last five years. In addition to the straight-line speed, you can see Cooks has short-area quickness as well.
And then there’s the production. Cooks had 128 catches for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. He averaged 133.1 yards receiving per game (tops in the nation) and 9.8 receptions (second). In 2012, Cooks caught 67 balls for 1,151 yards and five scores.
After having watched Cooks’ performance from 2013, I came away thinking he’s a player Chip Kelly will target. But I also don’t think he’s a DeSean Jackson clone. There are similarities, but Cooks is not yet the vertical threat Jackson is. On the other hand, he showed a more well-rounded skill set than I anticipated.
Let’s start with what Cooks does best: make plays with the ball in his hands. Remember the Donnie Avery screen the Chiefs killed the Eagles with last year? That was a go-to play for Oregon State last year, and Cooks was born to run it.
Cooks shows great patience, breaks a tackle and then takes off towards the sideline, leaving defenders in the dust for a touchdown.
Whichever team drafts Cooks needs to run this play multiple times per game.
Overall, though, Cooks was effective on a number of different routes. Per Rotoworld, 26.23 percent of his catches came on screens, but 13.1 percent came on throws 20+ yards downfield. And his average catch came 8.4 yards from the line of scrimmage. Again, he did a lot more than run go-routes down the sideline.
From writer Greg Peshek:
You can’t get more average in terms of receptions than Brandin Cooks. Aside from some slight variation, Cooks has a strong distribution across all the zones showing that he isn’t a one trick pony.
Cooks’ ball skills impressed me. He is aggressive on 50/50 balls. There are always going to be limitations because of his size, but in college at least, he did a good job adjusting on balls and making plays.
Here against Cal, he does a great job of avoiding contact at the line of scrimmage and runs the 9-route upfield.
Great job of looking back and attacking the football in the air.
He was also productive in the red zone. Cooks had 22 red-zone catches and 10 red-zone touchdowns in 13 games.
Check out this play against Stanford:
Cooks runs the slant and makes the grab at the 4. But he gets down low, fights through contact and gets in the end zone for the score.
We know Kelly is big on versatility. Cooks lined up outside most of the time in the games I watched. But there’s no doubt he could be an effective slot receiver in the NFL. In fact, some like Matt Bowen believe Cooks might be most effective inside. There is nothing soft about how Cooks plays. Many will point to his height/weight measurables, and certainly that needs to be taken into account. But he caught plenty of balls inside the numbers in college.
His bread and butter in the NFL will be yards after the catch. Interestingly enough, his numbers in that area last year were pedestrian. Cooks averaged just 5.24 yards after the catch, according to Rotoworld. But part of that was because 38.89 percent of his catches came on comeback routes. In 2012, Cooks would have led all draftable WRs in YAC.
And watching plays like this, there’s little doubt about his ability to make defenders look foolish when the ball’s in his hands:
Another example vs. Oregon:
Cooks had 217 yards and two touchdowns on run plays last year. He also has experience as a return man.
As for hands, Cooks only dropped 4.69 percent of his catchable passes, per Rotoworld. The average was between 6 and 7 percent.
There really is a lot to like here. Cooks is versatile, has outstanding hands and possesses game-breaking speed. If he were two inches taller, he’d likely be getting mentions as a top-10 or top-15 pick.
Kelly will have to determine how much size matters at wide receiver, given the current construction of the roster. It’s worth noting that the Eagles had a 5-10 receiver catch 82 balls for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns last season. In other words, the whole “big people” thing probably applies more to the defense.
The guess here is that the Eagles will have Cooks rated highly on their board. If available at No. 22, he’s a realistic possibility.
Note: Some have asked me to compare players. Once I get through all the individual write-ups for first- and second-round possibilities, I’ll rank them in terms of fit for the Eagles.