Saints’ Brandin Cooks should be front-runner for NFL offensive rookie of the year


(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy is the reigning Associated Press NFL offensive rookie of the year after carrying the ball 284 times for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns during the 2103 season. It was the first time a second-round pick won the award since Anquan Boldin had 101 receptions for 1,377 yards and eight touchdowns in 2003.

Tight end Eric Ebron, the 10th overall pick in this year’s draft, thinks a wide receiver will once again wear the crown, ending a four-year drought. “I’m going to try to go for offensive rookie of the year,” Ebron said, “which I probably won’t get ’cause Sammy Watkins is there.”

It isn’t easy for a wide receiver to be the league’s best offensive rookie. Over the past 20 years, only three have done it:

Player Year Tm Rec Yds TD
Randy Moss 1998 MIN 69 1313 17
Anquan Boldin 2003 ARI 101 1377 8
Percy Harvin 2009 MIN 60 790 6

Historically, running backs have the best odds (since 1994), but with none taken in the first round of this year’s draft, it will likely be either a quarterback or wide receiver.

If we are handicapping the first-rounders, I’d have to go with New Orleans Saints wideout Brandin Cooks. Cooks was selected 20th overall after the Saints traded up to get him. He ran a 4.33 40-yard-dash at the combine and set the Pac-12  single-season reception record with 120.

“[Cooks] is versatile,” Coach Sean Payton said during the team’s rookie minicamp. “He’s obviously a receiver and I think we can line him up in the slot, line him up outside. He’s got a very good skill set with regards to his acceleration, his speed. He catches the ball well. I like his toughness.”

Cooks could rack up a ton of yardage with Drew Brees throwing him the ball. According to Pro Football Focus, only Philip Rivers (78.7 percent) and Matt Ryan (78.4 percent) were more accurate than Brees (77 percent) and no one threw more touchdowns on passing attempts 20 yards or more downfield (15).

If Cook does line up in the slot, expect Marques Colston (led tema with 58 targets and five touchdownss in the slot last season) to get most of the attention from the defense.

“Anytime a player is hand picked by Sean Payton to play offense at receiver, you’d better believe he’s gonna be something,” Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.

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Neil Greenberg · May 20, 2014

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