Jared Cook’s 2013 Fantasy Football Ceiling

Jared Cook
Oct 7 2012 Minneapolis MN USA Tennessee Titans tight end Jared Cook 89 carries the ball during the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome Brace Hemmelgarn USA TODAY Sports

Jared Cook, that giant mound of freakish size and speed, that perennial fantasy football tease, is likely set for a spike in route running this season, if not opportunity.

The St. Louis Rams’ tight end – reuniting with head coach Jeff Fisher in an offense often described as revamped – was essentially the Tennessee Titans’ third-string tight end in 2012 until his offensive coordinator was replaced and the game plan was at least partly centered on getting the football to Cook and receiver Kenny Britt.

I thought Cook would be a good candidate for our burgeoning Fantasy Points Per Route Run (FPPRR) metric that we’ve applied, so far, to Jordan Cameron and Reggie Bush – two players slated to see significant changes in the way they’re used on the field.

That’s one of the FPPR highlights, I think: using players’ previous per-route fantasy production, examining how their current teams and coaches have used similar players (or positions), and projecting their 2013 prospects based on that data.

Read more about the FPPRR metric…
Projecting Reggie Bush Using the Fantasy Points Per Route Metric
Fantasy Football: Running Back Receiving Efficiency
Projecting Jordan Cameron’s Fantasy Football Production

Using FPPR would’ve proven predictive with at least a few players last season, as Sports Jerks fantasy writer Rich Hribar and I will discuss over the next week or two.

Things got bad for Cook in 2012. In Week 4, for instance, Cook hit a low point when he played a meager 24 offensive snaps in a moribund Titans’ offense. In Week 10, Cook played behind defensive-end-turned-tight-end.

I’ve decided to spare you how Titans’ offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains oversaw a spike in Cook’s snaps and routes run, and how quarterback Jake Locker targeted Cook 12 times in one  late-season contest, more than doubling his average per-game targets.

Instead, I think it’ll be more instructive to take a peek at Cook’s FPPRR during his three seasons in Tennessee.

Jared Cook Fantasy Points Per Route Run
2010 .27
2011 .19
2012 .21
AVERAGE .22

Cook’s sky-high 2010 FPPRR of .27 was a result of running just 152 routes in 10 games. Cook, for the record, ran 481 routes in 2011, ninth most among all tight ends. That consistent usage as a receiving option – even in that heinous offense – was part of what made him a fantasy football sleeper in 2012.

Cook proceeded to run a measly 362 routes in 12 games last season, tied for 27th among tight ends with Chicago Bears’ stone-handed tight end Kellen Davis. Like I said, Cook went to a dark fantasy place last season. He was hardly used at all.

Brian Schottenheimer’s tight end usage

Examining a head coach’s or offensive coordinator’s player production might be the most instructive piece of calculating a guy’s fantasy prospects based on FPPRR. Talent gaps will always exist, as it certainly does in this case with Cook and the tight ends who have toiled under St. Louis offensive coordinator Brian Schottemheimer since 2008.

Dustin Keller’s 2011 campaign was, by a healthy margin, the most success a tight end has had in Schottenheimer’s system. That’s something less than a bold statement considering the slow-footed Lance Kendricks was Schottenheimer’s tight end in the coach’s only year in St. Louis.

Player/Year Routes Run Fantasy Points Per Route Run
Dustin Keller 2008 338 .21
Dustin Keller 2009 360 .18
Dustin Keller 2010 456 .22
Dustin Keller 2011 456 .24
Lance Kendricks 2012 384 .19
AVERAGES 398.8 routes run (24.9 routes/game) .21 FPPRR

This averages out to .21 FPPRR, almost exactly the same as Cook’s .22 FPPRR average during his two years in Tennessee.

The 398 route projection seems low to me, and it stems from two mitigating factors: Keller’s low usage during his first two years in the league and Kendricks’ limited pass game involvement. There’s also the aforementioned talent (and usage) gap. Cook, by anyone’s definition, is a superior athlete to anything Schottenheimer has worked with at tight end. Fisher, it should be noted, said the Rams might even use Cook out of the backfield.

It should be noted that scoring among fantasy football’s top-10 tight ends doesn’t demand a ton of route running.

Dennis Pitta, just last season, ran fewer pass routes than 18 tight ends and finished as the seventh highest scoring at the position. Cook, even if he faces the prospect of running around 25 routes, like Pitta, I think top-10 fantasy tight end status is well within reach. (Jason Witten led all tight ends in 2012 with 39.3 routes run per game)

The below shows what sort of fantasy numbers Cook could should he be deployed similarly to how Schottenheimer used Keller and Kendricks from 2008-2012, according to Pro Football Focus’s statistics.

Jared Cook Fantasy Tight End Rank
398 routes X .22 FPPRR = 87.6 fantasy points TE14
398 routes X .21 FPPRR = 83.5 fantasy points TE16

The above numbers don’t account for Cook’s athletic superiority over Keller and Kendricks, or reflect the myriad creative ways Schottenheimer might use his new tight end. I would safely put those projections on the low side of Cook’s potential fantasy output.

Below, using Keller’s maximum usage (from 2010 and 2011) and Cook’s career .2 FPPRR, I think we get a glimpse of his upside, though I think .22 FPPRR is a conservative estimate in an improved offense that seems focused on getting the ball to its most talented players – something that sounds glaringly obvious, but was hardly ever done during Cook’s stint as a Titan.

It’s clear that Cook is a draft day value at his current ninth round average draft position. Keep an eye out though: Cook’s ADP has climbed more than an entire round since early June, and if he creeps much higher, I’m not sure you’ll get much equity for the big tight end.

In other words, if you have to draft him in the seventh round this summer, you’re probably going to get what you pay for.

Jared Cook Tight End Rank
456 routes X .22 FPPRR = 100.3 fantasy points TE11

 

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