Deservedly so, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has long been recognized as the best tight end in the NFL. From there, it’s guys like Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, Jordan Reed and so on getting recognition. Those guys are all great tight ends, but Jared Cook is proving he is on their level in terms of pass-catching talent. He just hasn’t had a chance to show it.
Coming out of South Carolina, Cook had good hands to go along with exceptional route-running ability, 4.4 40 speed and a 41-inch vertical leap at 6’5”, 255 pounds. That’s a matchup nightmare unparalleled with any of the other TEs in the league. The Oakland Raiders are very lucky to sign such a guy after he was so underutilized to that point.
An injury held him back much of 2016 with the Packers, but he came on strong late in the season and in the playoffs with the NFL’s best QB in Aaron Rodgers, Over the final 7 games he put up 324 yards and another 229 yards and 2 touchdowns in three playoff games. Among those catches was a heroic sideline catch in a 34-31 win over the Cowboys that sent the Packers to the NFC Championship game and won the ESPY for best play.
In 2017, Cook was a bright spot for the Oakland Raiders, leading them in receiving while the receivers struggled to catch passes.
Entering this season with Amari Cooper supposedly set to be the focal point of the offense, Cook is stole the show again. He opened the season with 180 yards on nine catches and just had eight catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. The second of his TD catches sent the game into overtime, where the Raiders eventually won.
“We needed some persistence from the guys and to keep making plays and finish the game,“ Cook said of his team’s effort Sunday. “That’s what we needed to do to come out on top today.”
Cook currently leads the Raiders in receptions (26), receiving yards (370) and targets (35). He also leads all NFL TEs in receptions, yards and TDs right now. And to think many expected Jon Gruden to cut him once hired because of his $5.7 million contract. But to his credit, Gruden recognized his talent and kept him, leading to what we’re seeing now.
“Well, I think he’s pretty good. Wherever he’s played he has been very good as a receiver,” Gruden said about his new star Monday. “I think he’s an unheralded blocker. He’s a better blocker than people think. He’s very good after the catch. You can line him up anywhere. He played wide receiver at Suwanee, Georgia. You can line him up in the slot, you can put him out there at wide receiver. He can mismatch you big time. I love him. He’s having a great year for us and man is he competing. He’s a weapon for us.”
It took 10 years for Cook’s talent to rise to the top with the cream and now that it has, it will be interesting to see what Gruden does with it the rest of the season. A quarter of the way through the season, he’s on pace for 104 catches, 1480 yards and eight TDs.