Talk about a blockbuster. The New Orleans Saints traded Brandin Cooks to the New England Patriots for three draft picks Friday night. It's a blockbuster because of everything involved. Cooks is a big name wide receiver, the Patriots are the defending champs (again), and the story surrounding Cooks being shopped had been going on for months. It seemed like an inevitable divorce, yet New England didn't seem like a likely destination until Friday morning. Alas, here we are.
First thing's first, let's talk about Cooks himself before the surrounding impact for both teams. I honestly don't think much changes for Brandin Cooks in terms of his perceived fantasy value. He was already locked in as a top-12 receiver in all formats so how much higher can he really go? Sure, Michael Thomas was eating into his workload in New Orleans, but it's not like the Patriots solve that problem. Tom Brady will still pepper Julian Edelman with targets and no one man can guard Rob Gronkowski. The "too many mouths to feed" mantra isn't any less true for Cooks in his new home. At best (worst?) Cooks has ended up in a lateral move for fantasy purposes. His 78 receptions, 1,173 yards, and eight touchdowns landed him eighth in fantasy scoring among wide receivers. Expecting anything significantly more than that would be having unrealistic expectations.
It's been an hour since he was traded as of writing and I've already accepted the fact that I'm unlikely to own Brandin Cooks in 2017 because his ADP is going to skyrocket. He'll have the appeal of a Mike Evans, but he won't jump Mike Evans in terms of fantasy production. This is a bigger real-life trade than it is an early fantasy football Christmas gift.
All that said, the Patriots just got a huge upgrade at the wide receiver position. I know people are going to say things like "Brady got a new weapon, now his fantasy value is higher!" Eh, not really. Again, how much higher can he go? His only competition is the twosome of Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. That's it, that's the list. You could argue for those three in any order. Sure, Cooks might count as a tiebreaker now, but that's just it, it's preference based on tiebreakers.
What does matter, however, is the rest of the New England receiver corps. Julian Edelman may see a dip but I actually think this turns into a more traditional two-receiver offense. The likes of Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, and Malcolm Mitchell are unlikely to see significant targets now. Cooks should soak up all those non-Edelman, non-Gronk looks that were previously spread out to a number of different warm bodies. Cooks gives the team a solid one, two, THREE punch combination. Like I said, it's a bigger real life move than a fantasy one.
And now for the New Orleans Saints. Why on Earth do the Saints just churn through wide receivers faster than you can say "Mardi Gras?" I'll tell you why: because they can. Seriously, they can find anybody to play wide receiver for them and chances are it'll work out. They're just better than most teams at finding solid pass-catchers. They shipped Kenny Stills off to Miami. They had no problem replacing Marques Colston with the aforementioned Brandin Cooks. When they get tired of Michael Thomas, someone else will fill the void. For now, that someone else is Willie Snead.
Willie Snead needs to be viewed as a hard and fast WR2 for the 2017 fantasy football season. I mean, just look at his numbers from 2016: 72 receptions for 895 yards and four touchdowns on 104 targets. Respectable line for sure, but that was with Cooks on the roster. Snead had WR3/flex numbers as the team's third wideout. The combination of Cooks and Thomas were locked in as top-15 wide receivers so Snead should slide right into the top-20 without hesitation.
Then there's Drew Brees and Michael Thomas. You can safely file this under "nothing to see here" for Mr. Brees. We've established it doesn't matter who he has to throw the ball to. His numbers won't change. Thomas, however, does get a slight bump up. What that means for his ADP is TBD, but Thomas had already jumped up to second-round value in early MFL drafts. I'd say there's probably only eight receivers I'd take before Thomas. In order, I would go 1) Antonio Brown. 2) Julio Jones. 3) Odell Beckham. 4) Mike Evans. 5) A.J. Green. 6) Dez Bryant. 7) Jordy Nelson. 8) T.Y. Hilton. 9) Michael Thomas. 10) Brandin Cooks.
The main fantasy spin here is that this trade does more for the Saints than it does for the Patriots. Brandin Cooks and Tom Brady's values shouldn't change. Michael Thomas gets a slight bump up, while Willie Snead gets a much bigger bump. Look for this story to circulate like crazy over the offseason.