Let’s have a little bit more fun with snap counts, this time with a player who at first seems insignificant, but you quickly realize his potential importance to a lot of owners in a lot of leagues after a glance ahead to the upcoming Week 9 byes.
Thy name is Jared Cook, the Titans tight end who’s been a breakout candidate for like nine years. Cook was widely drafted as a secondary tight end this year, with an ADP of 145th overall in NFL.com leagues. That’s the kind of draft territory in which you’re clicking, and hoping for something. Anything really, with the minimal draft investment made in Cook’s upside and potential leading to equally minimal concern if that investment fails miserably. Essentially, I just wasted the preceding sentence explaining the basic definition of a flier pick.
So that’s Cook. High on upside, low on trust, and actually high on consistency. The problem is that he’s been consistently average, pacing along at a clip of 46.6 receiving yards per week. And really, that’s fine, right? You’re cool with having average from your TE2 as long as he still provides bust out potential when you’re forced to plug him in due to a bye or injury. Cook does that, or at least he did.
Judging by yesterday’s usage, his upside could be fading quickly.
We can hope that it was only a one-week outlier, but with the recent improvement in the Titans’ running game and Cook’s status as a poor run blocker, we may be seeing the beginning of a downward trend. While he finished with a respectable (or rather, yawningly average) 45 yards on three receptions with most of that yardage coming on a 29-yard grab, Cook’s lack of opportunities to make more plays is concerning. As Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean notes, Cook was on the field for less than half of the Titans’ 59 offensive snaps, participating in just 25 of them (42.5 percent). That’s a significant decline from Week 1 when he was included in 60 snaps, and that usage was incredibly pass heavy, as he was asked to run 48 routes. In fact, Wyatt also notes that Cook has been involved in less than 50 percent of the Titans’ offensive snaps four times this year.
This came in a game that featured another productive outing from Chris Johnson (99 yards on 21 carries), but it was won — or in Tennessee’s case, lost — in overtime by a touchdown. Passing and looking down field was a necessity to gain insurance points, with the Titans posting only three points on two fourth-quarter drives, swinging a door open for Andrew Luck’s heroics that led to the Colts’ comeback win. Cook has shown an ability to work the field deep over the middle, with five receptions for 25 yards or more this year, and even one for 61 yards.
Yet he was still targeted only four times throughout the entire game yesterday. Why do you need to care so deeply about this? Well, I suppose many of you don’t, but many more do. Those who fall in the latter category likely spent an early-round pick on Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, or Vernon Davis.
They’re three of the top tight ends in fantasy (at least they are when Hernandez is healthy), and that glance at the schedule reveals some upcoming woe next week. All three are on a bye, and with Cook still owned in 60 percent of Yahoo leagues and 72 percent of ESPN leagues, there’s a strong possibility that Gronk or Davis or Hernandez owners are also Cook owners.
Waiting to take your TE2 after spending that highly on your top player at the position is a sound strategy. But with Cook’s possible downwards trend, disappointment likely looms for those desperate owners during a week heavy with tight end byes.