I had the opportunity to ask the fine fellas over at SB Nation's Oregon State blog, Building the Dam, some questions about Saints first round draft pick Brandin Cooks. Andy Wooldridge, and RVM combined to provide some insightful answers. Sincere thanks to both of them for taking the time to share their knowledge.
I keep hearing only positive things about Cooks. Surely he's not perfect. What will he need to improve on at the next level?
Andy: The obvious issue is his size, relative to the number of large DBs in the NFL that are extremely physical. Brandin has always been smart about working in traffic, avoiding and minimizing contact, and still getting open. The fact that he regularly ran WR sweeps speaks to his ability to navigate traffic too. But the NFL is still a different animal, in that the biggest and fastest DBs in college, the ones that are the type seen only occasionally in college, are there every week on every team in the NFL. Cooks will have to continue to work on how to deal with that aspect of defenses, but given his work ethic, I'd expect he will continue to add to his bag of tricks to deal with it too.
Robert (RVM): On this question I am pretty much aligned with Andy's assessment. It will be the size deal for sure, and also yes the speed of the game and how well will he be able to adjust. I do not think there will be too much an issue with the latter but the former could be an issue. One example I can think of is that he was okay at open field blocking but not great. I'll be 100% honest and no idea what type of schemes New Orleans runs that might require this of him, but that could be a bigger learning curve for him than other aspects of this level.
Doing the research, it's hard not to see the similarities to Darren Sproles. Do you think those comparisons are accurate or slightly off?
Andy: They are reasonable, in that you are talking not only speed, but also route running, and athleticism, all combined into a package.
Robert (RVM): Hmm, that is an interesting comparison for sure with the "all-purpose" title Sproles has, but don't know about how much Cooks will be around the line of scrimmage as compared with a "running back" such as Sproles. Though Brandin did a lot more of what could be seen as an "all-purpose" player at Oregon State, but as we have discussed above the NFL is just a different animal. It will be interesting to see if Brandin can still contribute in different and multiple facets of the game, or is he going to become more of a pure position (WR) player.
Did Cooks return kicks/punts during his time at Oregon State? If not, is that something you think he's capable of doing in the NFL?
Andy: Yes, he did, though not full time, so he will have some learning to do here. I do think he can be an effective returner in the NFL, and it's a good idea, as it's another opportunity to get his speed and vision into open field situations where they can make field position, if not game changing differences.
Robert (RVM): Ah, finally a slight disagreement here with my colleague! This one might be a bit too cruel on Cooks since the return play of the entire team (returners and blockers) has not been a strong point of the program over the last few years, but I don't know if I see it for Brandin in the NFL. Sure on paper, and how he can play all directions of the field compass (N-S, E-W) he looks like he should do this very well , but from his time returning punts he just never seemed to see the field and get at ease returning. Don't know maybe he was so used to being able to go 'downhill' receiving he could not make the jump to catching and going AT the defense! Yes, I know that goes a bit against my N-S ability, but for the punt returns he just never seemed to "feel" the timing of it all versus say a fly-sweep or reverse that was more instant bang-bang of the set up and play. That said maybe since at the NFL level the blocking will be better, and return team coaching better he could find a spot there, he sure seems to have the skill set for it.
Does Cooks have any significant injury history that you are aware of?
Andy: Brandin never missed a game at Oregon St., playing in every game and getting 3 starts as a freshman, and started every game as a sophomore and a junior.
Robert (RVM): Andy covered this one! Plus, need to not disagree with my "boss" too often you know!
What is Cooks' reputation off the field? Any trouble?
Andy: Brandin has been a "quiet" individual off the field, and has never been in any trouble during his time at Oregon St. He's always been so focused on improving that he's been something of a workaholic, as far as not having much time on his hands to kill, because he fills such time constructively.
He's a leader, but a lead by example type.
Robert (RVM): Last season Cooks completely stepped up his game from being mentored by Markus Wheaton the season before to the leader on the field. As Andy points out he does have a "quiet" demeanor, but this year he did put a good amount of swagger into his game. I have no idea what that felt like for the opposing defenses, but it sure seemed like he did it in a way that was not too in your face without backing it up. His work ethic with his QB Sean Mannion did become legendary last season, and he seems to balance leadership by example, incredible work ethic, swagger, and quietly getting the job done all very well. I think he will be a huge asset with this balance at the NFL level.
Any fun, random facts about Cooks you can share?
Andy: You no doubt were aware of his earning a 6 figure check at the combine for his 40 sprint times; he spent (long before draft day, never mind signing a contract) half of that to buy his momma a new SUV, taking care of her first.
Robert (RVM): Cue his YouTube clip here!