Every year, the Biletnikoff Award is given to the best Wide Receiver in college football. While Sammy Watkins, Marqise Lee, Mike Evans, Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jordan Matthews are outstanding players, they did not win the coveted award in 2013. Instead, it went to a receiver named Brandin Cooks.
Brandin Cooks has established himself as one of the premier receivers in the 2014 NFL Draft. Last year, he dominated the PAC-12 racking up a ridiculous 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns. In 2012, Cooks caught 67 passes for 1,151 yards and 5 touchdowns. That is simply unheard of in the PAC-12 which is one of the most competitive conferences in college football. But receivers are not scouted on stats alone; size, athleticism, ball skills and work ethic are also taken into account.
Size: Listed at 5-9 3/4", 189 lbs, Brandin Cooks is extremely undersized for an NFL Wide Receiver. His frame will make it difficult for him to win jump balls against larger cornerbacks. Unlike Mike Evans or Kelvin Benjamin, he is not a nightmare match-up. Cooks lacks muscle making him more susceptible to injury. Because of his size, he struggles in man-coverage and against physical defenders.
But that should not refrain him from becoming a number one receiver. Steve Smith is only 5-9, 185 lbs. and has had tremendous success in the NFL. Being small is a trade-off. While larger receivers can win jump balls and use their frame to overpower cornerbacks, they often accelerate very slowly. But smaller receivers generally are much quicker and agile. Cook's size would provide a tremendous advantage if he is placed in the slot.
Athleticism: This is the category where Cook separates himself from the competition. At the combine, Cooks ran a 4.33 40 yard dash which was the second fastest time among all players. He finished first in both the 20 yard and 60 yard shuttle. But on the field, Cooks is even more impressive.
Brandin Cooks vs Cal (2013) (via Aaron Aloysius)
Cooks shows great burst coming out of his breaks allowing him to run crisp routes. He is most dangerous in the red zone as many defenders do not possess his quickness. Acceleration is very important for Wide Receivers and Cooks very quickly. Like Steve Smith, his elite speed makes him a dangerous deep-threat.
In space, Brandin Cooks is the hardest player to tackle in the draft (even over Sammy Watkins). His fluid hips and vision make him electric after the catch. Cook's speed and agility also make an elite returner.
Ball Skills: Brandin Cooks excels at catching the football. On jump balls, he always high points the ball which gives him a chance to catch jump balls even though he is small. Cooks catches with his hands, not his body. He eyes the ball into his hands which will limit drops.
Brandin Cooks vs Colorado (2013) (via Aaron Aloysius)
Work Ethic: One of the hardest aspects of a player to grade is their heart. How bad do they want to improve? I personally do not know Brandin Cooks so it is impossible for me to judge his work ethic. But what I can provide is quotes from his coaches.
Oregon State Head Coach Mike Riley described Brandin Cooks in a recent interview: "He has a great ability to stay focused and he'll be driven to get better -- he won't be distracted by the bling of the NFL."
Riley also stated, "Brandin's always been a really fun, talented, hard-working kid."
Oregon State Receiver Coach Brent Brennan said of Cook, "It's gotten to the point where he gets mad if I turn on film from his freshman year, because he was so bad he gets embarrassed."
Player Comparison: Steve Smith
Final Verdict: While the Raiders have a young group of receivers with potential, none have proven reliable. Cooks could step in and immediately give the offense a weapon. He has the hands to make almost any catch and the speed to gain yards after a reception. Since Jacoby Ford is a free agent, the Raiders also need a returner. Cooks has experience on Special Teams and would give the Raiders an electric returner. Whoever the Quarterback is for the Raiders next year, they will need a weapon. If Brandin Cooks falls to the Raiders in the second round, they would be wise to seriously consider drafting him.