From Beaver Nation to Who Dat? Nation. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks became the first Beaver since 2004 to be taken in the first round of the NFL draft after being selected 20th overall by the New Orleans Saints. He also becomes the second highest drafted Beaver in program history, behind quarterback Terry Baker, who was selected number one overall in the 1963 draft after bringing the school it’s first Heisman Trophy.
Cooks left Oregon State after his junior season. The Stockton, CA native broke school and conference records with 128 receptions for 1, 730 yards and 16 touchdowns. He joined Mike Hass as the only Beavers to have won the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding receiver.
The New Orleans Saints have now drafted seven Oregon State Beavers in franchise history, most recently in 2010 with quarterback Sean Canfield and the aforementioned undisputed heavy weight pass-catching champion of the world, Mike Hass in 2005.
Cooks would be hard pressed to find a better offense to step into. Driven by Head Coach Sean Payton and QB Drew Brees, the Saints are a perennial passing powerhouse. Brees has thrown for at least 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in every season since 2007 and lead the Saints to their first Super Bowl victory in 2009.
With veterans Darren Sproles and Lance Moore opting for new teams this offseason, Cooks has the opportunity to step in and make a huge impact in 2014. Jimmy Graham will attract the most attention in the passing game, which could lead to some very favorable match ups out of the slot or on the outside. Cooks’ combine pacing speed and proven ball carrying ability make him a plug and play replacement for Sproles and while still possessing the skill set to make himself a legitimate threat downfield, it’s not hard to imagine him taking Moore’s place in the offense.
The Saints wide receiving corp is highlighted by nine year veteran Marques Colston, second year Kenny Stills, and multipurpose back Pierre Thomas. Outside of Graham, these are the top three receivers on the Saints roster.
Robert Meachem resigned with New Orleans this offseason. Although he only caught 16 passes in 2013, his yards per catch average was 20.3, making him a dynamic threat when paired with Brees play making ability in and out of the pocket.
Sproles and Moore combined for roughly 1,000 yards receiving on 108 receptions. The two also combined for 4 touchdown receptions in 2014. While Graham will absorb his fair share of this production vacuum, questions about the reliability of a 9th year receiver and the second year learning curve of Stills left the Saints with questions at wide receiver. Thus, New Orleans traded up in the draft and Brandin Cooks is now a member of Who Dat? Nation.
Rookie receivers are a hard read in the NFL and there’s no real formula to predict success. The speed and physicality of defenders at the next level is noticeably different, so even a speedster like Cooks will be challenged with out running the quickest and largest brand of corners and safeties he has ever seen.
His size will be a limiting factor; but then again, it always has been. And all Cooks has done is use his tremendous speed and pass catching ability to terrorize defenses across the country, no matter what level he has played on.
Cooks will be united with former Beavers Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers in week one of the NFL season when New Orleans travels to Atlanta for a classic NFC South rivalry game against the Falcons.