The Pac-12's Next-Best Receiver: Cooks Or Huff?
By Ken Scudero
The best wide receiver in the nation plays in the Pac-12, and he’s likely to be the first receiver taken in the 2014 Draft. I’m talking about USC's Marqise Lee, the guy with the best hands in the country. When looking past Lee in the Pac-12, there are two receivers who are eerily similar in their size and style of play. Brandin Cooks and Josh Huff are the second- and third-best wide receiver prospects in the conference, but which one is better?
Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Cooks opened eyes around the nation in 2012 when he was able to snag 67 balls for 1,151 yards and 5 TDs as the No. 2 receiver behind Markus Wheaton. He was named to Phil Steele’s and Athlon’s Pac-12 preseason first team as well as third-team All-America. In the first game of the 2013 season, Oregon State lost to Eastern Washington, but Cooks had a career day, catching 13 balls for 196 yards and two TDs.
Although he’s a small receiver at 5-foot-10, 186 pounds, he plays big. He lines up on the outside but will most likely be used as a slot receiver at the NFL level. He’s the fastest guy on the field at all times, and when he has the ball, he’s a threat to take it all the way every time.
Cooks is a great route-runner. He’s able to run at full speed, stop dead in his tracks to fake out a defender, and then start up again without being touched. He’s a complete receiver, which is rare for one under six feet. He’s sure-handed, and it’s routine for him to go up over defensive backs to make catches. He may be only 5-10 but he plays like he’s 6-2. He’s an exciting receiver to watch and I don’t think he will drop past the third round in the 2014 draft.
Josh Huff, Oregon
Huff has been overlooked during his career at Oregon where he’s compiled decent numbers but never had a real breakout season. He’s had to play alongside receivers and running backs who are just as fast as he is, so Huff (5-11, 202) has never really stood out as a speed demon type of a receiver -- despite the fact that he is extremely fast. He’s an experienced receiver and has started 23 games over three seasons. He had his best season last year with 32 catches for 493 yards and seven TDS, and Huff opened the 2013 season with five catches for 118 yards against Nicholls State.
Oregon’s offense doesn’t include many complicated routes, as we all know. There are a lot of quick slants, plenty of screens, and the old-reliable stop-and-go. Huff is quick with and without the ball, and he is more than capable of running crisp routes. The offense he’s played in for three years just hasn’t allowed him to completely showcase his route-running ability. He’s got excellent hands and is great in space with the ball. He can make a career in the NFL with the way his game is played because his best attribute is finding holes in the defense and securing the ball. Look for Huff to be drafted in the later rounds next year and be used as a slot receiver.
Who's the better prospect?
Both Cooks and Huff most likely will be used as slot receivers in the NFL next season. They both have great hands, rarely drop a ball, and both are big play threats. Huff is more experienced but Cooks is just more talented, plain and simple. He’s faster, jumps higher and is more versatile. Cooks is the better prospect. but Huff isn’t too far behind. Their games are similar to Tavon Austin’s so it will be interesting to see how Austin fares with the St. Louis Rams this season. Perhaps he will open the door for guys like Cooks and Huff and create more demand for the speedy slot receiver with the good hands.