Giving back to mom: Cooks already earned his first big professional pay day when he posted a blazing time of 4.33 seconds at the NFL scouting combine in February. Adidas awarded him $100,000 for running the fastest time of any athlete wearing a pair of special adidas cleats.
Cooks said that his first big purchase after winning that prize was a new Mercedes for his mother, Andrea.
“She needed one. She was driving around in a 1999 Saturn, and I wasn’t having that anymore,” said Cooks, whose mother raised him and his three older brothers after his father died of a heart attack when he was just 6 years old.
Cooks’ "gut" feeling: The Saints said they didn’t bring in Cooks for a visit to their facility because they were already sold on him. In fact, the last time they even spoke was at that February scouting combine.
However, Cooks insisted that he had a gut feeling he might wind up with the Saints. And he said he “knew something special was coming” when he saw them make the trade up to No. 20.
“At the combine when I had a formal interview with them I thought it was special, in the case when I walked out the door and I had that vibe,” Cooks said. “I definitely felt that since the combine. And hey, it happened, so I guess that I went with my gut feeling and that was the right thing to do.”
Same, but different: Cooks is actually the second Biletnikoff Award-winning receiver from Oregon State that the Saints have drafted during the Payton-Mickey Loomis era. The last one was Mike Hass, whom the Saints drafted in the sixth round in 2006.
Hass drew a lot of praise for his ability to catch everything in sight during summer camps. But he ultimately failed to make the roster, in part because he got beat out by a seventh-round pick from that year and an undrafted guy who had been on the Saints’ practice squad a year earlier (otherwise known as Marques Colston and Lance Moore).
Bargain price: The price the Saints paid to move up from No. 27 to No. 20 seemed appropriate based on recent history. They gave up their third-round draft choice (No. 91 overall) to the Arizona Cardinals. Two years ago, for example, the New England Patriots gave up the No. 93 pick to leap from 27 to 21.
However, the Saints’ trade was a bargain compared to a deal that occurred two picks later. The Cleveland Browns gave up the 83rd pick in the draft to move up from No. 26 to No. 22 to draft quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Art of the deal: We know the Saints have always been willing to aggressively move up in the draft when they believe a player is worthy – something Loomis expanded on in his pre-draft news conference. But they wouldn’t do it for just anybody.
Payton said the Saints made a list of players that would be worth moving up to get before the draft. And Cooks was the last player remaining on that list when they made their deal. He said the parameters were in place as the Cardinals’ pick approached. But the Saints weren’t sure Cooks would still be around until after the New York Jets’ pick at No. 18, since New York also had a need at receiver.
“You look ahead of you at the teams, but you also understand that the one unknown is always a team coming back in (and trading in front of you),” Payton explained. “There were a couple of teams that had a need at receiver. The Jets, before we made the trade officially, we really sat on that pick waiting. They went the direction of safety, and that all of the sudden made it apparent that this could happen.”
The Saints now have only five more picks remaining in this year’s draft, which means this will be the seventh straight year that they’ve come out of a draft with less than seven total picks (barring another trade).
But Loomis explained that the Saints have felt comfortable doing that over the years, in part because of their success with their undrafted free agents. Last year, seven of the Saints’ post-draft signings cracked the active roster.
Not pre-planned: Heading into this year’s draft, analysts and personnel executives universally agreed that the class was loaded with talent at the receiver position. But Payton said the Saints didn’t take that into account when they decided to part ways with Moore and runner/receiver Darren Sproles this offseason.
“No I wouldn’t say those decisions were based on the way this draft class shaped up,” Payton said. “Those were tough decisions, one with the trade and the other with a guy like Lance Moore. They weren’t predicated on the depth that we were looking at at all. They were separate.”
Along those same lines, Payton said the Saints didn’t feel like it was a must for them to add a dynamic speed element to their offense to fill the void left by those departed veterans. He said the pick was about Cooks’ value.
“I think we have some guys that can run. I think Robert Meachem can run. I think we have other players that are threats. Kenny Stills is someone. Nick Toon, who had a great training camp and didn’t receive as many opportunities a year ago … Joe Morgan will be coming back off an injury,” Payton said. “We have some team speed. This was more about the makeup of this player. Obviously we think he’s a good football player and a good receiver. He’s very confident.
“We felt there were eight players and maybe a little bit of a space with grades and then another clump. We just saw this guy as a real good fit. There were a few others the same way that might not have been at receiver.”