This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NFLRankings or the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more 2014 Fantasy Football Rankings visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.
The St. Louis Rams brought in tight end Jared Cook to be a star in 2013. He started off his Rams career in style, busting out for two touchdowns and 141 receiving yards on seven catches.
Cook entered the 2013 fantasy football season as a mega sleeper, as fantasy owners drooled over the possibilities with a competent quarterback in Sam Bradford throwing Cook passes. Likewise, fantasy owners were interested to see how Bradford could fare with such an athletic and explosive target in the passing game.
Needless to say, that week one performance showed everyone what both Bradford and Cook were capable of. They did the damage against what turned out to be a very good Arizona Cardinals defense, while there was unlimited potential for the duo in the fantasy realm going into week two.
Then Cook turned into Jared Cook again.
He caught just one pass for 10 yards in week two and 14 total in the next four games. Bradford went down with a knee injury against the Houston Texans in week six and it only got worse.
Cook never matched his week one production at any point of the remainder of the season. In fact, he caught more than five balls exactly zero times, while catching five balls only twice. He also didn’t have another monster yardage game the rest of the way, failing to top 100 yards in his final 15 games. To be more specific, his best receiving yardage game beyond week one was an 80-yard outing in week 12 against a terrible Chicago Bears defense. The same went for his touchdown scoring, as he put up just three more touchdowns through the final 15 games.
Yes, if you were a Cook owner in 2013, it was a rough ride. Cook gave us all the biggest teaste possible to kickoff the season and then pretty much fell flat.
Of course, it’s not all his fault, and just like we do every single season, a lot of fantasy owners will still wonder – can this be the year he finally puts it all together and goes nuts?
Maybe. Just maybe.
Let’s break the good and bad down for Cook and see if he actually can/will get it done for fantasy owners for the 2014 fantasy football season:
The good news is that Cook’s size and athleticism haven’t eroded. He’s still a speed and freak fast twitch athlete for the position and should technically pose as a serious matchup problem for 90% of the defenses that try to stop them.
Cook also plays on turf at least eight games a year on his home field, which in theory should maximize his potential. Naturally, we saw this come to fruition in that awesome week one game in 2013, which to no one’s surprise, was on turf at home.
We already saw the positive impact of running back Zac Stacy last year, as he single-handedly made the Rams a competitive team at times. Add in rookie change of pace back Tre Mason, and St. Louis should be as balanced and versatile as ever on offense. That should naturally help open things up more in the passing game.
Probably the biggest aspect of all, though, is that Sam Bradford is going to be back and healthy again. The two also have a second entire offseason to get on the same page.
Rather than use that week one tease as a deterrent, fantasy owners can look back at that as the upside these two offer when healthy and on the same field together. Cook is a naturally inconsistent player and that’s not necessarily going to change anytime soon (or ever), so him shying away for a few games after blowing up in week one isn’t all that crazy.
It also didn’t help him that his schedule wasn’t the easiest, plus from week six on he no longer had a competent quarterback in Bradford throwing him passes. Instead, he had to deal with Kellen Clemens and an offense shifting to a more run controlled attack.
The schedule issue isn’t going away as long as the Rams play in the brutal NFC West, but the return of Bradford could help the rest.
As we alluded to, Cook is a naturally inconsistent performer. He’s not an elite blocker and he has struggled throughout his career with drops, focus and route-running. Naturally, without Sam Bradford to bail him out for 10 games in 2013, he struggled even more than we thought he would.
Beyond his own consistency issues, Cook’s biggest problem has to be his schedule. He faces the Seahawks and 49ers twice a year, both of which relatively shut him down in 2013. He did light up the Cardinals in week one, but was held to just three catches for 49 yards in their second meeting.He has the talent to dominate any matchup, but that’s six extremely tough games on paper, not to mention any other tough defenses he’ll encounter throughout the 2014 season.
One other aspect is a lack of a true impact wide receiver in St. Louis. Positive development from Tavon Austin can help off-set that, but it’s clearly as work in progress. Without that other reliable option, defenses can key in and stop Cook too easily.
Ultimately, it’s pretty easy to peg Cook’s value. He has the athleticism and role to be a clear cut TE1. Jordan Cameron broke out last year, and there’s no reason Cook can’t finally do it this year, either. He’s flashed that ability, but just needs to become more consistent. Having Sam Bradford around for all 16 games might finally help make that happen.
Cook is currently not even being drafted on average in preseason fantasy mock drafts. That is absurd. Fantasy owners need to be looking for true value and high upside – especially in the late rounds, so to not recognize that in Cook and leave him on the waiver wire completely is a mistake. The fact that less explosive options like Heath Miller, Delanie Walker and Dwayne Allen are being drafted and he isn’t tells you a lot.
The message right now is Cook can’t be trusted, and that’s pretty true. However, he has clear TE1 upside if he can put it all together. That’s worth a late-round flier.