In 2015, the Packers were missing something in their offense. The glaringly obvious fact was that Aaron Rodgers no longer had Jordy Nelson due to a knee injury. In addition, the Packers were missing a tight end that could run down the field. Richard Rodgers was not fast enough to expose holes in the defense. Receivers were unable to get open, resulting in short drives. They needed someone faster who could run routes.
The Rams cut tight end Jared Cook before their relocation to Los Angeles. The Green Bay organization had been in consideration to trade for Cook, but now that he was a free agent, they set out to sign him.
Cook inked a one-year, 3.6-million-dollar deal, which means the organization was committed, since they usually refrain from signing big name free agents. Green Bay tends to use the draft as a means to build their team. Richard Rodgers did a great job stepping up in 2015. Who could forget that instant-classic catch that was dubbed, “The Miracle in Motown”?
The Packers still needed some depth though. Nelson was expected to lose some speed after his return, so it was necessary that they upgraded their speed elsewhere. The tight end position needed the most speed improvement. Richard Rodgers just was not quick enough to be the full time tight end. Other teams such as the Patriots have made a living by having two good tight ends.
The offense had an extra setback when Eddie Lacy got hurt. They found a running back in Ty Montgomery, but it wasn’t until week 15 that a running back scored a TD for them. The Packers went from passing 56.79 % of the time in 2015, to 62.37 % in 2016. This helped Cook see an increase in targets. This also helped him establish a connection with Aaron Rodgers. The offense will be more balanced next year, but there should be no concern about Cook’s targets.
That increase moved them from 18th to 5th in the league for passing attempts. Due to Nelson and Adams playing well, the ball was distributed evenly. Although Cook isn’t getting points for other receivers making plays, it makes the defense open up for bigger plays to him.
Cook started the first 2 weeks of the season, and saw 79 snaps in which his production was limited. Being new to the offense, and with Eddie Lacy getting hype for his weight loss in the offseason, Cook spent the beginning of the season blocking, or watching his targets go to Jordy Nelson. Jared saw a mere 11 targets through the first four weeks. Week 3 was short lived for Cook, as he suffered a high ankle sprain and he wouldn’t be back back until week 11
Once he was back, he started to find a groove. He caught 6 passes out of 11 targets in his first week back for 105 yards and a TD. This would turn out to be his only TD of the regular season, but the work he did on 3rd downs allowed many of the drives to stay alive, which if he continues to do this, will help raise his ceiling in 2017.
Over the regular season, in which he only played 10 weeks, Cook caught 12 of 16 passes for 200 yards while facing 3rd down. This means that 53% of his yards came on 3rd down. Due to his production, the Packers were 2nd in 3rd down offense, making him valuable to Rodgers and fantasy owners.
For a big tight end, he should have had way more than one TD during the regular season. His total yards were also rather low for his career. He only had 377 yards in 10 games. Other than the injury he sustained this season, the only reason these numbers aren’t better is that Aaron Rodgers has a lot of other targets.
However, he had the 3rd best average yards per catch of his career. His career highs being 15.5 (2011), 13.2 (2013), 12.6 (2016). Cook was tied for 7th among all tight ends in YAC. As stated above, the receivers around Cook helped to expose defenses so that he could exploit them. The Packers are going to have to decide how much money Cook is worth.
Cook will be 30 next season, but he is still quick, and he can still make spectacular catches. I would be careful about drafting Cook too high due to his injury history, however he will be one of the best tight end options of 2017 if he can stay healthy. Assuming he comes back to Green Bay, Cook should have a little more fantasy value next year, due to gaining Rodgers’ confidence.
He has a knack for working back to the quarterback, which is important since Aaron is so good at extending plays with his feet. This ability adds another dimension to his game, giving him a value many others don’t have.
Cook will have a steady season next year by being more of a touchdown threat. In his 3 playoff games this year, he had 229 yards to go along with 2 TD’s. These numbers seem to be a more accurate depiction of what he will do next year, because he was settled in and consistent. Cook should be a lower TE1. It is tough to say if Gronk will be healthy, but there are guys like Kelce, Eifert, Olsen, and Reed who have proven to be successful. It depends on the league as to where Cook falls. I would keep an eye on the draft board and pick him up after those other names begin to be picked. The Packers boasted a 10-3 record in games that Jared played in, and his value will transfer into fantasy points if he stays with the Packers in 2017.
On Friday's episode of Treatment, the Helpers discuss what a sleeper actually is (to them) and toss out a few names who they think are intriguing for next season. It's never too early.
The Helpers start off the podcast talking about the definition of a sleeper. You see the term used on almost every fantasy football website and it comes with a variety of meanings. Some people think a sleeper is any player that nobody is talking about who stands a chance at having a good season. Others think it's a young player who hasn't fully blossomed as a pro and is about to hit his stride. Others think it's a an often-injured player who has talent but hasn't fully performed at the level he's capable of.
But no matter which way you slice it, the term 'sleeper' really means any player who is under the radar in some way, whether it be because he isn't currently starting but may stand a chance to, was injured last season but is healthy now or is young and raw but is just starting to figure out how to be consistent at the NFL level. To us, a sleeper that will perform above and beyond expectations, with the primary tool used to define his expectations being his ADP (average draft position) in fantasy drafts.
The Helpers start out by naming two of their favorite deep sleepers this offseason.
Jordan Matthews, WR (Philadelphia Eagles)
The Philadelphia Eagles are juggling a lot of potential offensive pieces right now. Jeremy Maclin, their prized wide receiver who just finished the best season of his career, will be expecting more money after his one-term deal expired. Maclin will want top receiver money and the Eagles may not want to give up that kind of dough especially with Matthews looking like he has No. 1 receiver potential and also the fact that there are other receivers out there that may not be asking for as much money. Torrey Smith out of Baltimore might be one of those examples.
Matthews finished a solid rookie campaign with 67 catches, 872 yards and 8 touchdowns. He benefited from backup quarterback Mark Sanchez taking over for the injured Nick Foles midway through 2014. More of an intermediate thrower than a deep ball quarterback, Sanchez targeted Matthews more and helped the rookie eclipse 100 yards receiving in three contests while under center.
Which brings us to the next big question for Philadelphia — the quarterback. Rumors keep circulating like a revolving door that coach Chip Kelly will do whatever it takes to land Oregon quarterback and Heisman winner Marcus Mariota in the 2015 NFL Draft. If that somehow does happen, expect Matthews' value to take a hit at least in the short term while Mariota adjusts to the NFL.
Richard Rodgers, TE (Green Bay Packers)
Another intriguing sleeper is Green Bay Packers tight end Richard Rodgers. Rodgers' rookie season was a quiet one, as he caught just 20 passes for 225 yards and 2 touchdowns. But despite his low numbers, Rodgers still has potential because he and quarterback Aaron Rodgers started to gel late in the season. Rodgers caught 5 of 5 targets for 40 in the season finale against Detroit. Two weeks later in the divisional round of the playoffs against the Dallas Cowboys, he caught the biggest pass of the game in the form of a 13-yard touchdown that A. Rodgers ripped between two defenders. Those are the kind of the clutch plays that quarterbacks remember.
On this weeks' diagnosis edition, the Helpers discuss playoff sleepers for the teams lucky enough to make the playoffs. If you're worried about your flex, WR3, QB1 or RB1/2, then hopefully we can help guide you with some guys we think are bound for success in Week 14.
Sleeper quarterbacks (listen to podcast for more)
Alex Smith (owned in 36% of leagues)
If quarterback is your weakness, then you might consider starting Smith this week against an Arizona team that's struggling on offense. The Cardinals' woes when it comes to moving the ball are wearing down their defense, as evidenced by the team giving up 19 and 20 points in the last two games to quarterbacks. Over the last five games, Smith has totaled 16, 21, 4, 15, 19 fantasy points. His one dud in that sequence came against the Seattle Seahawks, and the Arizona Cardinals are a far cry from Seattle on defense right now. Their best cornerback in Patrick Peterson was torched last week by Julio Jones.
Zach Mettenberger (owned in 5% of leagues)
Mettenberger is lucky to get a Giants team that struggled to stop Jacksonville and rookie quarterback Blake Bortles last week. Mettenberger has demonstrated the ability to score points, and this matchup should help him come close to multiple touchdowns.
Sleeper running backs
Andre Williams (owned in 51% of leagues)
We mentioned Williams earlier in the week, so we won't go into too much detail. But he's a worthy flex play if you have him on your bench. You probably can't pick him up as he's owned in over half the leagues currently.
Matt Asiata (owned in 35% of leagues)
Jerick McKinnon may be out after not practicing for the second straight day. Asiata will likely be the head running back against a New York Jets team that's without one of its best defenders in Muhammad Wilkerson.
Sleeper wide receivers
Donte Moncrief (owned in 25% of leagues)
It's surprising to see Moncrief only owned in 25% of leagues and yet it's also not. He can pile up yardage when he gets targets, but he's often overshadowed by the likes of Hakeem Nicks and Reggie Wayne. Well, he played in more snaps than Nicks for the first all season last week, a game where he flourished with over 100 yards receiving. The Indianapolis Colts play the Cleveland Browns this week, and All-Pro cornerback Joe Haden will likely match up with Indy's top WR in T.Y. Hilton. There's a dropoff after Haden in terms of talent at the corner position, meaning Moncrief may have a chance to flourish with Hilton drawing so much attention. Luck could target him on the under route, which is where Moncrief can do a lot of damage after the catch.
Nate Washington (owned in 2% of leagues)
With Kendall Wright's status in jeopardy, Washington could see time in the No. 1 role for the Titans this week. He's among the most available players on the waiver wire this week and has posted fantasy totals of 14, 6 and 12 over his last three games. He's been reliable and could be a nice flex play if you feel like your current guy isn't good enough.
On Monday's weekly First Aid podcast, the Helpers discuss the St. Louis Rams and their emerging defense, the white hot Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Green Bay Packers and whether or not Mark Sanchez is an every week QB1 going forward. Plus weekly awards and a preview for tonight's game with the Pittsburgh Steelers/Tennessee Titans.