I’m a big fan of the Jared Cook physical package, although I’m starting to admit to myself that he’s only been a big pile of wishful thinking up to this point in his career. But at 6-5, 250 pounds and with a sub 4.5 40 yard dash, Cook is the kind of guy that you could see putting up a monster season if he figured everything out. His physical traits pose such a challenge to defenders in the NFL, that Cook pretty much just needs to learn to play football and we could have a 1300 yard, 16 touchdown guy. Oh right, I guess playing football is the most important part.
It’s not that Cook has been terrible to this point in his career, it’s just that he’s been a little disappointing. I’ll do a quick run through some graphs to illustrate some areas where he’s had some head-scratching results. First, here are two graphs that show Cook’s targets/game and receptions/game over his career:
Everything is going in the right direction, which is upward. Here are Cook’s yards/target and yards/reception. You can see that in what was supposed to be his breakout year, Cook hit a little bit of a wall.
Then here is Cook on my Fantasy Points Over Par metric, which looks at every single target and whether it was above or below average in terms of fantasy points that are typically scored from that line of scrimmage. You can see that Cook has been above average for most of his career. I should also note that this only compares Cook with other tight ends, who tend to score more fantasy points/target than wide receivers.
But here’s the really problematic thing that I see if we’re trying to think about Cook to the Rams: He hasn’t been very good in the red zone. The graph below shows Cook’s FPOP by field position and you can see that his targets closer to the goal line have produced fewer than average fantasy points for a tight end. Cook has just three touchdowns on plays originating in the red zone on 22 career targets in that area. That’s pretty awful for a tight end.
To be fair to Cook, he’s been so good out of the red zone (at least in fantasy scoring efficiency), that his inefficiency in the red zone doesn’t end up dominating his FPOP number. That’s actually really difficult to do and pretty much comes down to Cook’s ability to create big plays on the other side of the field. I also wouldn’t say that it’s impossible for Cook to get better in the red zone. A lot of times things like scheme can change red zone efficiency. Pierre Garcon had always been below average in that part of the field, even with Peyton Manning throwing him the ball, but Garcon was slightly above average in the red zone in his first season in Washington.
I don’t let go of obsessions easily, so I’ll probably still be pulling the trigger on Cook in fantasy drafts, but going through the exercise above certainly introduced some sobriety into my thinking. The reason that I won’t be giving up on Cook is that I think his return on investment could be asymmetric. He’s going to cost a draft pick of like TE12 or something and I do think that he has 1200/14 potential as I mentioned. To do that he would have to get better in the red zone. If he continues to stink in that part of the field, his upside is probably more like 1200/8 or something.