When I wrote my Dallas Cowboys 2023 free agency wishlist, the second major item on the list was “Get Dak Prescott help at wide receiver.”
Well, the Cowboys did just that in unexpected fashion. Dallas made a deal with their in-state rivals the Houston Texans, trading a 2023 fifth-round pick and a 2024 sixth-round pick for Brandin Cooks.
Cooks is a savvy, low-cost addition to the Cowboys roster. He’s a perfect complementary piece to take some pressure off of stud wideout, CeeDee Lamb. And while Cooks turns 30 in September, he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down.
Currently, Cooks is the No. 114 overall player in dynasty formats at Fantasy Pros, which makes him WR49.
How does this trade impact Cooks from a fantasy football perspective? Let’s discuss his role and potential for fantasy players now that he’s a Cowboy.
Brandin Cooks 2023 Fantasy Football Rankings
It’s fair to say Cooks’ change of scenery has revitalized his fantasy value. Although, I was surprised to see Cooks ranked outside the top 100 in FantasyPros.com’s Expert Consensus Rankings for the 2023 season.
Cooks sits as the 100th player on that list and ranks 44th among wide receivers. Now, the state of the wide receiver position from a fantasy football perspective is a log-jammed mess, with dozens of guys who can post WR1 numbers any given week. But of the WR2s, Cooks feels like one of the safer bets out there as a depth receiver on your fantasy roster.
Cooks’ Ranking Feels Low on the Surface
I was personally surprised to see Cooks ranked around the likes of Jakobi Meyers, who is joining a new team with Jimmy Garoppolo under center, and Diontae Johnson, who is a really good player but has to prove he can perform with Kenny Pickett under center.
Cooks is a more established commodity who has put up numbers and will play in what should be one of the league’s better offenses with a really good quarterback throwing him the ball. Of course, there’s an acclimation period when joining a new team. But Dallas’ depth chart is receiver doesn’t feature many guys who could unseat Cooks as the team’s second option in the passing game.
Cooks is an established veteran playing in a strong situation. He’s been a safe bet to eclipse 1,000 yards when he plays close to a full season. So why is he ranked this low? My sense is he became an afterthought thanks to last year’s rough season on a brutal Texans offense.
Cooks Has Shown No Signs of Stopping
Prior to last season, Cooks had hauled in at least 80 balls and 1,000 yards each of the last two years in Houston. A 699-yard season in 2022 might raise some concerns, but I’m willing to pin Cooks’ struggles on the fact that he was catching passes from Davis Mills on a Texans team that was built to lose games.
Aside from that year and a rough 2019 campaign, Cooks has been one of the safer bets in fantasy football. He’s a really good player who has been a valued member of offenses led by Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Jared Goff and Deshaun Watson. Another 1,000-yard campaign is completely in the cards with Prescott under center.
Cooks Should Do Just Fine as Dallas’ WR2
Another reason the fantasy football market is bearish on Cooks could be because he’ll be the clear WR2 in Dallas’ offense behind CeeDee Lamb. That’s a factual statement. The Dallas passing game runs through Lamb. But it’s important to note that Cooks has essentially served as a WR2 for most of his career.
In 2016, Cooks played second fiddle to the emerging Michael Thomas, who led the team in receptions. Cooks still finished as the WR9 in half-PPR formats that season, hauling in 78 receptions for 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns. In 2017 he was the secondary option to Rob Gronkowski in New England. That year, he put up 1,082 yards and seven scores, finishing as the WR12. Cooks also managed to finish as the WR13 a year later when competing with Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp (who missed eight games) for targets.
Cooks has been more than a viable fantasy option as the WR2 in his team’s offense. He’s been a borderline WR1. I’m not saying he’ll outproduce Lamb. But there’s definitely a chance both Lamb and Cooks finish the year within the top 24 at the position.
What to Know Before Drafting Brandin Cooks
One major factor worth mentioning with Cooks is the risk of injury. Cooks has suffered several concussions in recent years, and another one could jeopardize his season and beyond. Expecting Cooks to play a full 17-game season feels ambitious at best.
That being said, Cooks still seems to be undervalued by the market. I’ll be happy to scoop him up in the 10th or 11th rounds as a bench wide receiver with weekly starting upside. If we expect Dallas’ offense to be as good as advertised, then it makes no sense for Cooks to be ranked this low.
Let Cooks fall to you in the back-half of your draft as you seek out high upside bench players. If nothing else, Cooks feels like a safe bet to plug in for reliable weekly production.