As you rigorously prepare and research leading into each fantasy football season, you’ll always find some new/less familiar names near the top of the list. “Introducing” will be a series that features these lesser known players who are expected to begin the season in heavily featured roles for the very first time. Never shy away from players just because they’re yet to make a name for themselves … yet.


Brandin Cooks –WR, New Orleans Saints

Cooks is poised to be one of the biggest breakout candidates of 2015. But before we get to what the future holds, let’s cover where he’s been.

The 5’10’ speedster had his rookie season cut short in 2014 due to a broken thumb. During the 10 games he was on the field, however, he was a boom or bust fantasy option — and the odds weren’t in his favor (three “booms” vs. seven “busts”). On the season, he totaled 550 receiving yards while catching three touchdowns.

Cooks’ inconsistencies can be explained, though. New Orleans’ offense wasn’t what we expected it to be last season, but even while at full speed, Drew Brees’ top options were still Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston. Not anymore.

Graham has been shipped off to the Seahawks, and Cooks has overtaken Colston on the depth chart. Not to mention, even as the WR1, Colston has evened off the last two seasons at an average of around 900 yards and five TDs — not even close to the production we once expected.

Change is in the air in New Orleans — an underrated part of the Graham trade was adding center Max Unger to the Saints’ struggling offensive line. New Orleans also used its No. 13 overall pick on offensive tackle Andrus Peat, meaning the Saints are committed to giving Brees more time to throw the ball. Cooks is the man that reaps all the benefits of the overhaul in The Big Easy.

Cooks’ breakout game last year came in Week 8 against the Packers, just before he got injured. He had six grabs for 94 yards and a TD, but also took a four-yard carry into the end zone for another score. Expect a lot more games similar to this one in 2015.

The targets are going to be there this season, so 6/94/1 should be a pretty average line for Cooks. Obviously, he won’t catch 16 TDs, but he did carry the ball seven times for 73 yards last season (including that rushing TD against GB). Although C.J. Spiller was brought in, expect Cooks to continue to grow his role in the running game, despite being a WR1 on the depth chart. Cooks is also the type of player that can turn a nice play into a game changing play. Sure it was in college, but check out what I mean.

If he can stay healthy, this kid is a DeSean Jackson type talent. In his sophomore season, Cooks has the potential to flirt with 1,500 combined yards and find himself in the end zone eight times. If anything, he’s going to be exciting to watch.

Find me on Twitter @julianedlow

Want to read more from the “Introducing” series? Find all the players covered below.

Carlos Hyde — RB, San Francisco 49ers