When it comes to the game of football, very few things excite me more than an electrifying, play-making wide receiver, and this can largely be attributed to my admiration for the best receiver in the history of the Carolina Panthers franchise, Steve Smith. I also identify with the wide out position more than any other because that is where I spent most of my time when playing football in high school. Truth be told, one of my dreams has always been to simply line up on the Panthers' practice field against an NFL caliber cornerback in press man coverage just to see if I could obtain a bit of separation and catch a pass.
Speaking catching passes, the Panthers could stand an upgrade in this department. No offense to Brandon Lafell, Ted Ginn Jr, and the aforementioned Smith, but dropped passes have suddenly become a plague in Carolina. So much so, that I feel fairly confident that the Panthers would presently have at least one additional win had their receiving corp been more sure-handed.
Moreover, gaining separation against man coverage has also been a sore spot for the Panthers this season. It is painfully obvious that Smith no longer has the explosion he once possessed and although Lafell is very competent at finding openings against zone coverages, he never has been overly effective in one on one situations. The Panthers one true threat to blow the top off of coverage has been a pleasant free agent surprise this year, but Ginn Jr. still drops the occasional pass in crucial situations and isn't a guarantee to return after his one year contract ends.
You can go ahead and count me in the seemingly large contingent of CSR faithful who have been clamoring for a big, strong red zone receiving threat who can catch passes high and low with defenders draped all over them. In fact, Mike Evans, the 6-Foot-Five phenom out of College Station has already made an appearance in my inaugural season of Tuesday Afternoon Prospect for those very reasons. But today I'm going in the opposite size direction and for good reason.
I'm sure I would get a variety of answers if I were to ask the following question: Who is the best receiver in the nation? Is it the aforementioned Evans? How about another member of my inaugural season of T.A.P., Sammy Watkins? I'm sure some of you could make some convincing arguments for both of these standouts along with a plethora of other wide outs, but none of them have outdone the exploits of one Brandin Cooks this season.
At 5-Foot-10, 186-Pounds, Cooks is having a career season at Oregon State after lurking in the shadow of Markus Wheaton during his first two years. He and junior quarterback Sean Mannion are the central figures in the nation's second most prolific passing offense. Through nine games, Cooks, who is also affectionately and appropriately known as "sonic boom", has the most receptions and receiving yards in all of the FBS and is second in touchdowns with fourteen. The California native also leads the nation in most plays over 20 yards(26-almost 3 a game) and 40 yards.
Don't be fooled by Cooks' small stature. The stats don't lie and neither does the film. He is explosive and physical. Like the Panthers own number 89, he possesses the ability to use his strength and elite athleticism to haul in those hotly contested passes in traffic. As you will see in the video, Cooks also has the unique ability to reposition and contort his body in such a way that he is able to come up with errant passes. Because of his vision and acceleration, he is also a dynamic open field runner who can give any offense plenty of yards after the catch. Cooks works very hard at his craft, and has an advanced understanding of how to subtly manipulate defenders hips as a route runner. You could say that he is the total package.
It's somewhat unfair to compare college players like Cooks to great NFL receivers, but the combination of skills that he brings to the table is eerily similar to someone we are all very familiar with here in Carolina. If you haven't been exposed to Cooks as of yet, then you should take some time to watch his film below. Who knows? Maybe you will come away agreeing with me that he looks like a younger version of Steve Smith. With that being said, I believe he would be a steal in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft if he chooses to forgo his last season of eligibility.
What about you CSR? Don't forget to let everyone know how you feel in the poll and the comment section that follows.
WR Brandin Cooks Career Statistics