During the 2009 offseason, the Eagles let Brian Dawkins slip away to Denver in free agency. They have never come close to replacing him since. Dawkins was a special player whose leadership was irreplaceable.
Last Friday, the Eagles unceremoniously dumped another special player in DeSean Jackson. Replacing Jackson's unique talents will be very difficult, but in a different way than Dawkins. However, one player in the upcoming draft whose style of play emulates Jackson's is Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks, who spoke with Philly.com about a number of topics, including DeSean Jackson.
"His game is unbelievable," said Cooks. "The man can blow the top off, catch the deep routes, catch the underneath routes, produce in the return game. He's just special. He's a freak. I definitely admire his game. Maybe Chip Kelly is looking to take another speedy receiver in that first round, and that could be me. Who knows? And if that's the case, a lot of people will wonder 'Can he do it like DeSean Jackson?' In my opinion, I can do it like him and do it better."
Cooks certainly doesn't lack confidence. He believes that he's among the top of an elite crop of WRs in the 2014 draft class. "I feel like I'm the best receiver in this class and I'm not just saying that to say it," said Cooks. "I put up numbers that nobody else did this year. At the same time I was facing premier talent. I have respect for the other guys and give credit where credit is due, but I'm able to blow the top off, I'm able to catch underneath routes and take them the distance, but I see myself right up there with those guys, and in that top 5 conversation, top 3."
Cooks' production was indeed very impressive. He led the country in receiving yards, and was 2nd both in receptions and receiving TDs.
Like DeSean Jackson in Philly, Cooks didn't just put up numbers. After starting off the season with 1176 receiving yards in his first 7 games, Cooks opened up opportunities for his teammates by drawing an often absurd amount of attention from opposing defenses, like in the screen shot below.
The only real knock on Cooks is his size. At the Combine, he measured in at a hair under 5'10, and has already been bombarded with questions about his height.
"It's one thing you get tired of," said Cooks, "but I tell coaches I can't change my height. I tell them to measure my heart, and it's bigger than anyone else out there. I can't do anything about it, so what I do is just prove my game on the field."
When asked who he compared his game to, Cooks noted Steve Smith (the good one), Antonio Brown, and Jackson. "People want to knock me on my height, and those guys are in the same height category as me and they're potential hall of famers. They have records. They do it big. Those are guys who are out there making plays, and they're under 5'10, and they're doing it at a high level."
Cooks outperformed all of those receivers both in terms of production during their final year at college, and at the Combine. Here are Cooks', Smith's, Brown's and Jackson's numbers during their final seasons in college:
At the Combine, Cooks ran a blazing 4.33 40, which was 2nd in 2014 only to RB Dri Archer. He also put up the best 60 yard shuttle time since 2006, when NFL.com started tracking Combine results, and he tied for the best 20 yard shuttle since 2006. Here is how Cooks' Combine numbers compare to the aforementioned stud NFL receivers:
Cooks noted that he didn't even specifically prepare all that much for the Combine. "I was going off my natural athleticism. I knew I had the speed, I knew I had the change of direction. I just touched on everything. I tweaked a couple things, but it's not like I came into training like, 'I need to focus on this 40 and make sure I get a 4.3.' No. I knew I was going to run a 4.3 no matter what."
There's no question Cooks has speed and change of direction, and it didn't just show up at the Combine. More importantly, he displayed it on the field. This is incredible run after the catch ability:
When Cooks was a senior at Lincoln High School in Stockton, California, Oregon wide receiver coach Scott Foster recruited him, but Cooks had not met Chip Kelly until this past February.
"I met with Coach Kelly at the NFL Combine, and it was all good. The mutual respect is there. He knows who I am, I know who he is."
Cooks is not scheduled to have a formal visit in Philly, although those visits often take place when a team has character or medical questions about a player. Kelly should know all he needs to know about Cooks by now, after having recruited him, played against him in the Pac 12, and spoken with him formally at the Combine.
But... The big question...
Will he buy into Chip Kelly's sports science stuff?!
"I do a lot of my own (nutrition) research," said Cooks. "I want to have a healthy diet. There's a difference between organic food and the food you buy in the grocery store. You're not getting good quality meat. So I wanted to have the best quality meat, vegetables and fruit."
I think he'd buy in.
Brandin Cooks may already be gone by the time the Eagles pick in the first round, but if he's still available, he's capable of making the fan base begin to forget about DeSean Jackson.