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Can We Trust Jared Cook in Green Bay?

Jared Cook signed on with the Green Bay Packers. Is this a good sign for his fantasy stock, or are we all getting snookered yet again?

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of traveling to Okinawa, Japan on a business trip. It was my first opportunity to try real Japanese food, and it was a revelation. You know the Ramen noodles you can buy at the grocery store or even at a so-called Japanese restaurant here in the States? That's like eating wet cardboard when compared to eating the fantastic, inexpensive Ramen back in its homeland. With few exceptions, we are simply in the wrong place to dine on such cuisine.

Jared Cook is about to get his first taste of quality quarterbacking, and it's going to be good.

True, we have been down this road before, under different circumstances. It has always led to a dead end in the fantasy realm, though, Cook snookering fantasy owners with 40 times and leaping ability. His route-running has always left something to be desired, and he might be the king of dropped passes at tight end were it not for Vernon Davis. 

In other words, Cook has burned fantasy owners before. We are all the dog chasing this squirrel

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Cook's natural talent has always been overshadowed by his miscues, and his quarterbacks have rarely been able to leverage his natural talent. His career has been a circle of sadness. That is until he decided to sign with the Green Bay Packers, of course.

Is Cook gearing up to bamboozle fantasy owners yet again, or will he break with past tradition and actually perform for once? 

It's easy to think the former third-round pick will be a mirage in spite of his improved working conditions. He is going on 29 years of age -- not too old, but perhaps at the beginning of a physical decline -- and it doesn't matter much who is throwing him the ball if he is dropping passes.

It's also easy to think the 6'5", 254-pound beast will magically turn into Rob Gronkowski now that he has escaped quarterback purgatory. It goes without saying that Aaron Rodgers is an MVP-caliber quarterback, a far cry from the likes of Kellen Clemens, Nick Foles, Sam Bradford and Austin Davis. How would Gronk have fared in Tennessee or St. Louis all these years?

The truth lies somewhere in the middle, but therein lies good news for Cook and his potential fantasy owners. While he might not reach the lofty heights of the elite at his position, Cook is going to have a good fantasy season if assuming he wins the starting job and can stay healthy. 

"Way to go out on a limb, Alex."

Fine. Cook will have a great season with top-five potential.

Consider this -- Richard Rodgers was the ninth-best fantasy tight end last season in standard scoring formats. That was in spite of his offense crumbling around him, including an offensive line that had Aaron Rodgers running for his life half the time. 

Richard Rodgers isn't nearly as physically talented as his new competition.

Cook's age might nullify some of the physical advantages he had heading into the league, but he should still be the best tight end on the roster come September.

Assuming the Packers didn't go out and sign someone for kicks and Cook is the starter this season, what can we reasonably expect from him? Well, for starters, let's look at his past.

Year Tm G Tgt Rec Yds Y/R TD
2009 TEN 14 15 9 74 8.2 0
2010 TEN 16 45 29 361 12.4 1
2011 TEN 16 81 49 759 15.5 3
2012 TEN 13 73 44 523 11.9 4
2013 STL 16 85 51 671 13.2 5
2014 STL 16 99 52 634 12.2 3
2015 STL 16 75 39 481 12.3 0

Rodgers, in contrast, caught 58 passes for 510 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Not too shabby for a limited player. It also amounted to 8.7 yards per reception. Cook averages over four yards per reception more than that for his career. Of course, Rodgers caught 68 percent of his passes last season compared to 52 for Cook, but depth of targets and quality of quarterbacks are likely major players in that disparity.

For now, let's set a Rule of Six -- entirely made up -- on Cook's 2016 campaign. If the over-under numbers are 60 receptions for 600 yards and six touchdowns, where would you draft him? Those numbers would have put him in the top 10 in fantasy scoring last season, incidentally, and he should hit the over on at least two of those with the Packers if he stays healthy. His baseline production should go up by virtue of his improved surroundings, but his touchdown potential skyrockets. 

Last season Cook scored zero times. He could hit double digits in Green Bay if the conditions are just right.

We need to let the preseason play out before knowing the extend of Cook's involvement in the Green Bay offense, to be sure. That doesn't help much in early drafting, though, so know this -- Cook is easily the most talented tight end the Packers have had since Jermichael Finley, the drop machine everyone loved to draft not all that long ago.

Do with that knowledge what you will.