Somehow, the Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots seemingly just got even better.
As ESPN’s Dianna Russini first reported Friday, the Patriots traded two draft picks to the New Orleans Saints for 23-year-old receiver Brandin Cooks. The trade comes barely a month after the team took home their second Lombardi Trophy in three years.
For the Patriots — a team whose top receivers include two undrafted players and a former seventh-round pick — Cooks, the 20th-overall pick in 2014, could become a seriously dangerous weapon. Here’s four things the Patriots fan should know about their new addition.
1. He’s a proven deep threat…
Not since Randy Moss has Tom Brady’s perennially overachieving receiving corps had a veritable deep threat. And after just three seasons, Cooks is already in elite company in that respect. In 42 games with Drew Brees and the Saints’ high-octane offense, the 23-year-old has totaled 215 catches for 2,861 yards.
His presence has been particularly felt in the last two seasons. Following an injury-shortened rookie year, Cooks surpassed 75 catches, 1,000 receiving yards, and eight touchdowns in both 2015 and 2016. There were only two other players in the league who did that.
75 receptions, 1,000 receiving yards, and 8 receiving TD in each of the last 2 seasons:
Odell Beckham Jr.
Antonio Brown https://t.co/bsSMgbHYNG
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 11, 2017
As ESPN Stats & Information also noted, Cooks had 18 catches last year on passes thrown at least 15 yards downfield– something no Patriots player had done since 2011. Among the deep balls he caught last year were a 98-yard touchdown against the Oakland Raiders and a 87-yard touchdown against the Carolina Panthers.
And that’s not to mention his season-long 71-yard score in 2015.
Did we mention he’s still just 23?
Brandin Cooks is only 23 years old that's it I am doing shots.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) March 11, 2017
Despite having played three full NFL seasons, 23-year-old Brandin Cooks is now the sixth youngest player on the Patriots' roster.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 11, 2017
At they very least, the threat of Cooks’s big-play abilities could stretch out the defense and open up the field for Brady to find Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and others underneath.
2. …with blazing speed.
Much, if not most, of Cooks’s danger to defenses comes from the 5-foot-10 receiver’s speed.
Both at Oregon State — where he terrorized secondaries the gridiron with fellow NFLer Markus Wheaton — and in high school, Cooks spent the spring competing with the track team as a sprinter. He even competed in the Junior Olympics.
In 2012 with the Beavers, he set a personal-record 100-meter time of 10.72 seconds. And in 2014, his 4.33-second 40 yard dash time was the fastest in his draft class.
That speed has translated to the football field — even in full pads. Per NFL.com’s Next Gen Stats, Cooks eclipsed 22 miles per hour on the aforementioned 98-yard touchdown catch (and nearly did the same on the 87-yarder).
“If you can hit Cooks in stride, I don’t think there’s anybody that’s going to catch him,” Brees told The Times-Picayune last year, before suggesting one potential candidate:
3. Cooks has a trademark celebration — but it’s complicated
Not that Patriots fans have had their fill of Gronk spikes yet, but Cooks is adding another celebration they will hope becomes routine.
— NFL (@NFL) November 1, 2015
The celebration also has a circuitous backstory, as Cooks told the Saints blog Canal Street Chronicles last October:
It actually started from me being enamored with the show Arrow and then the movie The Hunger Games, and then when I was reading my Bible, I cam across the scripturee Psalm 144:6 that says, “Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy; shoot your arrows and rout them.” So it just became one of those things to say to myself and remind me to stay humble through all of the success and gifts that I receive from Him.
Though Cooks had never been fined for the celebration, he has modified it slightly to comply with the league’s strictly enforced rules. While he still draws his imaginary arrow, he no longer shoots it (as doing such would be mimicking a violent act, according to the NFL, which is a no-no).
One can only think that Bill Belichick will appreciate the receiver’s exploitation of rule loopholes.
4. His path to the NFL was impressive
For all Cooks has accomplished in the NFL, he had already overcome a number of obstacles to make it to the league.
As The Oregonian reported in 2013, Cooks’s father died of a heart attack when he was just 6-years-old. His mother subsequently had to take two jobs in order to put food on the table for her four sons.
“I needed rides to school, but I was embarrassed for people to see how small our house was,” Cooks said at the time. “One day, Fred [his oldest brother] sat me down and said the reasons we ate beans and bread so much, it’s because it’s all we could pay for. And that’s when it hit me.”
As the youngest in the family, Cooks watched as his three older brothers would struggle to cope with the loss of their father.
“The day after daddy died, it felt like everything went downhill,” he told The Oregonian.
Yet his brothers — two of whom became teenage fathers, and another who has been in and out of prison — urged their baby brother to learn from their mistakes. By all accounts, Cooks channeled an intense focus to excelling on the field.
“He wasn’t going to tell you how good he was going to be; he was going to show you,” Brian Gray, his high school coach, told Grantland in 2014. “But if you asked him, ‘Do you think you can do it?,’ he would tell you yes. And he would look you right in the eye.”