Sports | April 10, 2020 12:51 pm

Why Do NFL Teams Keep Trading New Texans WR Brandin Cooks?

Just 26, Cooks will be with his third NFL team in four seasons after being traded once again

Why Are NFL Teams Playing Hot Potato With Brandin Cooks?
Brandin Cooks was traded from the LA Rams to the Houston Texans. (Joe Scarnici/Getty)
Getty Images

When the New Orleans Saints took wide receiver Brandin Cooks out of Oregon State at No. 20 overall in the 2014 NFL Drat, they had to surrender a future third-round pick along with their first-rounder (No. 27) to the Arizona Cardinals. That was the first time Cooks was involved in a trade in his NFL career, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last.

Just three years later, the Saints sent Cooks to the Patriots for a first- and third-round draft pick in 2017, who in turn dealt him to the Rams for first- and sixth-round draft picks the following year. Which is why it should come as no surprise that he was traded again yesterday.

This time, the Rams — who signed Cooks to a juicy five-year, $80 million contract extension in 2018 — dealt him to the Houston Texans for a second-round pick in 2020 (No. 57 overall) and a fourth-round selection in 2022. Just 26, Cooks will be with his third NFL team in four seasons. He will also have something to prove after a disappointing year in Los Angeles that saw him finish with just 42 receptions for 583 yards and two touchdowns.

Prior to last season, Cooks had four straight years with more than 1,000 receiving yards and at least five touchdown catches while also suiting up for every single one of his team’s games. Tossing out his rookie year and last season as aberrations, Cooks has been an upper-tier NFL wide receiver throughout his career. So why don’t teams want him?

It probably has something to do with this:

That play, which knocked Cooks out of the Super Bowl with a concussion, is likely what has every team other than the Texans spooked.

While talented as a pass catcher and route runner, Cooks leaves much to be desired once he has the ball in his hands. His lack of awareness makes him vulnerable to the kind of major hits that often to lead to turnovers, or worse, a concussion — as it did here.

During his six seasons in the NFL, the young receiver has suffered five known concussions and has twice traveled to Pittsburgh to meet with Dr. Michael Collins of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program. Though Cooks said he didn’t consider retirement after missing two games last season due to head injuries, he may change his tune if he gets a sixth concussion in his seventh NFL season.

As far as being a fit on the Texans, Cooks will slide into a skill-position group that includes wide receivers Will Fuller, Randall Cobb and Kenny Stills, tight end Darren Fells and running backs David Johnson and Duke Johnson, with Deshaun Watson running the show at quarterback. While it is a solid, versatile group of weapons, there are no real game-breakers outside of Watson, and it’s fair to wonder whether the team would have been better served keeping stud wideout DeAndre Hopkins instead of dealing him to the Arizona Cardinals.

In the NFL, you win with horses, not ponies. But thanks to this deal and a number of other questionable moves by Houston coach and GM Bill O’Brien, the Texans have assembled a stable of ponies around their lone horse — Watson.

If Cooks can overcome his concussion issues and wise up to the threat of safeties and linebackers looking to lay the wood on him, he may yet return to elite status. But given the way he’s bounced around the league in recent years, that’s clearly not an outcome many teams not based in Houston have faith in.

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