You have to decide between two young studs who were first-round picks in 2014 and showed star potential last season. Kelvin Benjamin was Cam Newton’s No. 1 target and showed flashes of becoming an elite fantasy talent. Brandin Cooks’ season was cut short due to injury, but was on track for an impressive rookie season. The 2015 season is around the corner, and when the draft clock is ticking, who will be your choice?
Let’s start with some strengths and weaknesses of each player from a fantasy standpoint:
Kelvin Benjamin (Carolina Panthers):
- 6-foot-5 target who can win matchups because of his size and leaping ability
- Red zone threat who has to be accounted for at all times
- No. 1 on the depth chart without proven talent to challenge him
- Not a burner, not going to beat defenses with speed
- After his rookie season, defenses can adjust and game plan for 2015
Brandin Cooks (New Orleans Saints):
- Quick, cut on a dime slot receiver
- Can win from the inside and beat defenses over the middle or to the sideline
- No. 1 on the depth chart with only Marques Colston to compete with for targets
- Smaller, not going to win in the air
- After his rookie season and loss of Jimmy Graham, defenses can adjust and game plan for 2015
The Argument for Benjamin over Cooks
Benjamin is a physical specimen for a wide receiver. All 6-foot-5 of him on a team that lacks talent on the outside for Newton, which makes him the man on that Carolina offense to produce big points. Not very many corners in this league can cover Benjamin in the red zone, which could mean double-digit touchdowns in 2015. Newton has a tendency to throw high, but it won’t matter with Benjamin’s length and leaping ability. The Saints are going to a more balanced offensive attack, so Cooks won’t see as many targets as he did last year while he was healthy.
The Argument for Cooks over Benjamin
Cooks can run a 4.33 40-yard dash and cuts on a dime. He is a perfect slot receiver for the accurate Drew Brees and the Saints new balanced offense. Cooks will be even more impressive in this offense as the Saints will use the run to create great play-action to the slot receiver. Graham is gone, which gives other receivers on the Saints an opportunity to step up; the biggest beneficiary will be Cooks. Graham owned the middle of the field, which will now be Cooks’ area. Brees will not just turn into a game manager in a run-heavy offense. Cooks will see more than 100 targets this year and will be a younger, quicker, more productive version of Julian Edelman in the NFC.
Would You Rather Draft Decision:
Brandin Cooks (New Orleans Saints)
I’m taking the quick slot receiver over the tall outside receiver in this case. A healthy Cooks in a Brees offense that just traded Jimmy Graham should excel over Benjamin in a run-heavy offense without other proven receivers. Here is the biggest reason that Cooks will outperform Benjamin in 2015: offensive line. The Panthers’ offensive line is horrendous. I’m honestly not taking any Carolina players without a lot of hesitation this season. If Michael Oher is your starter at left tackle, it’s not going to be a good year. Newton won’t be protected, less time to throw; Benjamin won’t be as productive in 2015. Cooks on the other hand, will be in line for an impressive stat line, especially in points per reception leagues. I’m thinking 85-plus catches, 1,000-plus yards, and six-plus touchdowns in 2015 for Cooks as the main man in New Orleans. The Saints worked hard to fix their offensive line and will be much improved in 2015; giving Brees more time to throw and allowing their run game to create more play-action. I’m taking Cooks as a more efficient version of Julian Edelman over a player that will produce like Dwayne Bowe did last season (60 catches, 754 yards) behind that poor Kansas City offensive line. I know what you’re thinking, how can I compare Alex Smith to Cam Newton?
Here are their passing stats from last season:
Alex Smith – 3,285 yards, 19 TD, 6 INT
Cam Newton – 3,127 yards, 18 TD, 12 INT
If Newton wasn’t so efficient on the ground, they would be almost identical. So if their passing numbers are similar, do you think Kelvin Benjamin will provide that much more in production than his rookie season or Dwayne Bowe did last season? Did I mention that the Panthers’ offensive line is horrible?
If you have a “Would You Rather Draft” for Dan, tweet your idea to Shep_Collins and he may pick yours to debate in an upcoming article. Follow Dan for Fantasy Football and NFL Draft insight.