Darren Page, DLD Lead Scout
When I scout a receiver, there are 3 general qualities I look for that make up a multi-dimensional receiver who’s able to make plays in all situations and be a difference-making piece of an NFL offense.
1. Does the receiver have the athletic ability to consistently separate from NFL defensive backs and be available for his quarterback at a high rate? Does he have the skills to get a clean release against press coverage as well as the ability to run crisp and efficient routes?
2. Does the receiver have the strength, concentration, and hands to fight for the football in the air and make contested catches in traffic in times when he’s unable to get open?
3. Does the receiver have the instinctive and athletic ability to elude tacklers and make extra yardage after the catch
With the departure of former teammate Markus Wheaton, Brandin Cooks has taken his new role as the go-to receiver at Oregon State and ran with it. The current FBS leader in receiving yards has taken opposing defenses by storm with a barrage of highly explosive traits that have made him impossible to cover. His box score is certainly impressive enough, averaging 10.4 catches, 161.4 yards, and nearly 2 touchdown receptions a game. What’s better is that when it comes to specific qualities as a wide receiver prospect, Brandin Cooks checks all the boxes. He’s a jack-of-all-trades and will be highly regarded as a prospect because of it.
This first play is an example of the athletic ability Cooks shows that allows him to separate down the field as well as the skills to evade press coverage and get a clean release.
The Beavers are taking a shot play on third and 1 with Cooks the only wide receiver in the formation. They will run play action and let Cook get vertical and streak down the field on a diagonal route.
Cooks uses picturesque technique when Utah cornerback Keith McGill attempts to get his hands into the receiver and lock him up. As Cooks begins to release, he reads McGill squatting on him and takes a big lateral step to the inside to get inside leverage. He uses his left hand to create space and dips his left shoulder to keep the corner from getting his hand to it. Once he clears contact to the inside, he explodes up the field and has nothing but green grass ahead of him.
Brandin Cooks is a bat out of hell when he finds the open field, so he’s easily able to dust the cornerback and take the top off the defense on this occasion. Had his quarterback laid the ball out in front him, he would have trotted in for an easy six points.
The Beavers and quarterback Sean Mannion are looking to stretch the Colorado defense over the top with an intermediate and deep flag route. Cooks releases to the inside of the defensive back who rolls down over the top of him in bump and run. The problem is that the back maintains his outside position throughout Cooks’ flag route, leaving no good place for Mannion to put the ball. He throws it anyway.
Cooks bails out his quarterback by making a crafty play on this ball. He subtly passes off the back with his hands to undercut him, almost like a defensive back himself. He then climbs the ladder to reel in a contested pass with impressive concentration. This is a 24 yard gain that wasn’t really in the cards for Oregon State considering the terrific coverage from Colorado.
If further evidence is needed to prove a 5’10” receiver can win the ball in the air against tight coverage, look no further than this gem from the same game: http://draftbreakdown.com/video/brandin-cooks-vs-colorado-2013/ (52 seconds in).
The explosive athleticism of Brandin Cooks translates well to picking up yards after the catch when he gets the ball in space as well.
Oregon State has a jailbreak screen on to get the ball to Cooks and get him behind blockers with the ball in space.
Cooks extends to haul in an inaccurate ball from Mannion and has a convoy of blockers when he looks up. He turns on the burners with impressive acceleration to top speed. He still has a safety to beat though.
The Utes safety has an angle on Cooks, who’s making a beeline for the perimeter. Cooks has too much top end speed and outruns the safety’s angle to the corner, where he utilizes great balance to turn it up around the corner and finish off the play for a touchdown. Not many receivers have the explosive ability to take this play for six points.
NFL offenses are implementing increasingly variable playbooks that can make use of a receiver like Cooks, where they can get him the ball in space as an extension of their running game. The versatility of a guy like Brandin Cooks is what makes him such an intriguing receiver prospect. He has the acceleration and long speed to threaten defenses over the top. He’s a natural catcher of the football who can go up and get it at its highest point. With the ball in his hands, he has an electric quickness and burst to make defenses pay.
On top of these baseline traits, Cooks is a highly develop receiver in the finer nuances of the position. His body control, ability to track the ball in the air, and pass catching technique are all positives to his scouting report. Look for Brandin Cooks to continue to torch opposing secondaries even as Oregon State’s schedule gets stronger. He really is that good, and he’s only a junior.
All screenshots are taken from Draft Breakdown. You can watch here.