Dec 9 2012, Indianapolis, USA; Tennessee Titans tight end Jared Cook (89) catches a pass in the end zone as Indianapolis Colts safety Antoine Bethea (41) defends at Lucas Oil Stadium Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

St Louis Rams and the NFC West Arms Race: Jared Cook and Percy Harvin

The 2013 offseason finds the St Louis Rams scrambling to keep up in the seemingly never ending “one upping” going on in the NFC West.  The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks each made trades for big name offensive players right before the start of free agency, while the Rams opted to use free agency to add an offensive playmaker.  Of course the blockbuster trade that sent Percy Harvin to the NFC West has grabbed the most headlines, and has even catapulted the Seahawks into “Super Bowl Favorites” status among several media members.  Champions aren’t crowned in March, at least not in the NFL anyway, so lets not get too far ahead of ourselves here.  Percy Harvin certainly is an exciting playmaker, but given the amount of draft capital the Seahawks gave up for him and his injury history his signing does carry some risk.  So as I was looking over Harvin’s player profile and career statistics it made me wonder how the Rams newest offensive weapon stacked up as a receiver.  As it turns out Harvin and Cook both entered the NFL in the 2009 draft, Harvin in the 1st round to the Minnesota Vikings and Cook in the 3rd round to the Tennessee Titans.

The fact that they entered the NFL in the same draft is just about where the similarities end, with Cook listed as a TE and Harvin a WR that is to be expected.  Harvin serves as more than just a receiving threat as he can line up in the backfield as well as return kicks, he is a multi-dimensional game changing talent that could be the best offensive player on his new team.  Cook on the other hand is a WR in a TE’s body, and has even been compared to Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe by NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell.  That is very high praise for a player who has largely been labeled as an underachiever during his time in the NFL, but with the inconsistent quarterback play and limited plays run for Cook its easy to overlook his career statistics and focus on his potential.  Cook’s combination of size and speed will make him a matchup nightmare for even the best safeties and cornerbacks, and he could quickly become one of Sam Bradford’s favorite targets.  I decided I would put together a chart of each players basic information and career statistics, even though this isn’t exactly comparing apples to apples it is interesting to see the numbers.  I also added Chris Givens’ information to the chart as a fun point of comparison.

Player Percy Harvin Jared Cook Chris Givens
Height/Weight 5’ 11”/184 lbs 6’ 5”/248 lbs 6’ 0”/198 lbs
40 Time 4.41 seconds 4.49 seconds 4.37 seconds
Games Played 54 59 15
Receptions 280 131 42
Targets (Catch%) 409 (68.5%) 214 (61.2%) 81 (51.9%)
Yards 3,302 1,717 698
Avg. (Yd/rec) 11.8 13.1 16.6
Long 53 80 65
First Downs (% of catches) 164 (58.6%) 81 (61.8%) 25 (59.5%)
Touchdowns (% of catches) 20 (7.1%) 8 (6.1%) 3 (7.1%)
Fumbles 3 3 0
Fumbles Lost 2 3 0

As I was putting this chart together the numbers that really jumped out at me were the incredible 40 times, as well as the lofty yard per reception averages for these players.  Another thing to consider when looking at these off season acquisitions is not just how good the player each team added is, but how well they fill a need or fit within an offense.  Percy Harvin should fit very well in the Seahawks offense and provides them with a dynamic and flexible weapon, but he doesn’t necessarily bring them something that the team was completely lacking in 2012.  The Seahawks already had a fairly competent receiving corps, with guys who can stretch the defense on the outside as well as guys who can make things happen after the catch.  The St. Louis Rams on the other hand really didn’t have a guy like Jared Cook, and really who does?  Cook’s incredibly rare combination of size and speed, as well as the ability to make the difficult catch adds a new dimension to the Rams offense.  When I read the news that the Rams had signed Cook I honestly didn’t know much about him, but after reading a few articles and watching some of his highlights from the 2012 season it seems clear that he could be a huge factor in the Rams offense in 2013.  Cook runs routes like a wide receiver and because of that he is able to beat cornerbacks and safeties, and because of his speed he is easily able to run past linebackers.

Then there is Givens, who is actually remarkably similar to Percy Harvin (except he is bigger and faster) having played running back in high school Givens has shown ability to make things happen in the open field.  He also posted some very respectable numbers as a kick returner for the Rams, although those numbers would likely have been much better had the Rams managed to avoid getting a penalty on every other special teams play.  Even though Givens possesses the skill set and ability to be a 3 way threat for the Rams that aspect of his game was overlooked coming out of college, primarily because of how polished of a wide receiver he was.  Givens was and possibly still is a more technically sound wide receiver than Percy Harvin and therefore is unlikely to be used by the Rams in the same manner Harvin will be utilized by the Seahawks.  I am not saying that Givens is a better player than Harvin as I believe Harvin is a special talent, but what Givens and Cook are capable of bringing to the Rams offense should have Rams fans optimistic about 2013.  Thanks for reading and as always Go Rams!!!

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