Amari Cooper Top 12 Wide Receiver 2018 Fantasy Football
Yes, you’re reading that correctly, Amari Cooper will finish as a top 12 WR this season in points per reception (PPR) formats. Just last year Cooper was going on average at 2.09 as the WR10 in 12 team PPR formats according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com. He was highly regarded across the fantasy football world as a wide receiver to jump into the next echelon of wide receivers. Entering his third NFL season, a lot of people thought he was set up perfectly. Cooper, unfortunately, underperformed heavily, finishing as the WR42 in PPR formats. However, this upcoming 2018 Fantasy Football season presents a different opportunity for Cooper and his fantasy outlook this year.
By Justin – follow on twitter
Amari Cooper’s Horrific Start to 2017:
Last year, early and often, we saw the struggles of Amari Cooper. Week one from a fantasy perspective wasn’t awful as he totaled five catches, for 62 yards, and one touchdown. However, he saw 13 targets that game and only caught 38.5 % of those. After his wide receiver 12 finish in week one, we saw Cooper turn into Pooper.
From weeks two-six, Amari Cooper saw 26 targets, only reeling 13 of them in (50% catch rate) and 0 touchdowns… ZERO. Oh, and he only had 84 yards across the 5 weeks, for an average of 2.6 catches and 16.8 yards per game. For those five weeks, a wide receiver you drafted in the second round averaged 4.3 points per week as the 87th ranked wide receiver. If you owned Cooper last year, you would frequently be asking the question, “Why?”
Raiders Offense in 2017
Heading into 2017, the Raiders were thought to be Super Bowl contenders after an amazing 2016 season. The 2016 Oakland Raiders finished seventh in Points For, sixth in yards, fourth in turnovers, and finished the regular season at 12-4 under head coach Jack Del Rio. Derek Carr was in consideration for the most valuable player (MVP) award.
Carr was tied with Aaron Rodgers for third lowest interception rate in the league. Carr, unfortunately, suffered a broken fibula in week 16 forcing him to miss the rest of the season. Cooper in his sophomore season recorded 83 receptions 1153 yards and five touchdowns. Cooper became just one of three players to have 70+ catches and 1,000+ yards in his first two campaigns. Considering the impressive start to Amari Cooper’s career the hype going into 2017 was justified.
In 2017 the Raiders finished 6-10 under Jack Del Rio, ranking 23rd in points for, 17th in yards, and 20th in turnovers. Derek Carr was 14th in passing yards with 3,496 and 13th in passing touchdowns with 22, and tied for 11th in the league with a 2.5 int % with guys such as Andy Dalton, Blake Bortles, and once again Aaron Rodgers (injury). Their offensive line ranked in the top half of the league going into the season but did not perform up to expectations.
Derek Carr also suffered a transverse fracture in Week 4 and you could tell that bothered him the rest of the year, in addition to recovering from his leg break the year before. Amari Cooper had five recorded drops last year (foxsports.com) which was tied for 9th in the league along with teammate Michael Crabtree and other NFL players. Not only did Amari Cooper underperform with his 96 targets, 48 receptions, 680 yards, and seven TDs (missed two games). But the whole Raiders offense did.
Amari Cooper’s Career History
During Amari Cooper’s first two seasons with the Oakland Raiders was historic. He is just one of six receivers to total 2,000 yards in his first two seasons before turning 23. He is also just one of ten receivers to post back to back 1,000 yard seasons in each of his first two years. And he is just one of three players to have over 70 catches and over 1000 yards in his first two seasons…
People seem to forget that about a year ago, Cooper was considered a magnificent talent. He just turned 24 and his talent is still there. But back to his career history, Michael Crabtree and Cooper have been the 1A and 1B in this offense and they put up numbers. His targets increased from his rookie year to his sophomore year but declined heavily in his third year. Cooper missed two games in his 2017 season and apparently battled injuries throughout the season (www.cbssports.com).
There was also a sign of better Red Zone production last year in 2017. He’s always been looked down upon in this category. He tripled his Red Zone TD production in 2017, he led the team with seven Red Zone targets to Crabtree’s 6 before he got hurt in week 11. He also improved his TD rate from 4.4% to 7.3% last year, in what was a down year.
What’s New in 2018 and why Cooper Will Succeed
The Oakland Raiders had to change something after their disappointing 2017 season. So, they did just that. They fired head coach Jack Del Rio and offensive coordinator Todd Downing. They drafted two offensive tackles in the first three rounds (high draft capital) to add to what was already regarded as a top 10 offensive line according to www.profootballfocus.com. They also brought in ‘Spider 2 Y Banana’ aka Jon Gruden for 10 years, $100 million. They also brought
in Greg Olson, not Greg Olsen the TE, but Greg Olson the offensive coordinator from the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2015-2017. So, you might be asking yourself right now, is this a good thing for Cooper? Or a bad thing? Well, it’s a good thing for Amari Cooper, a really good thing. According to www.profootballfocus.com, the Raiders rank 7th in offensive line for the upcoming 2018 season. In 2017, the average amount of targets for a top 12 WR was 144.1, and a top 15 avg was 138.6.
When Jon Gruden coached in the NFL for 11 seasons. His targets for his WR1 were: 153, 145, 133, 140, 142, 139, 122, 152, 143, 98, and 138, an average of 137 targets. In 9 of those 11 seasons, his WR1 finished with 130+ targets. Cooper is arguably more talented than a lot of those wide receivers too. Gruden also in the 11 years that he’s coached, has always had 1 WR above 1000 yards (guys like Michael Clayton… season after he had one of the biggest sophomore slumps).
Per Derek Brown (@Dbro_FFB on Twitter) “Avg finish of WR 13 for WR1 on a Gruden team. Between Gruden & Olson run offense target share for wr1 of 22.8-25.2%.” According to 247sports.com, “Jon Gruden not hiding plan to make Amari Cooper focus of offense.” The Raiders have a condensed passing game this year with, Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, and Jared Cook. Michael Crabtree is gone, Martavis Bryant is likely suspended for a good amount of time, and Ryan Switzer isn’t going to be a factor. Michael Crabtree has the biggest significance here, opening up 14 Red Zone targets (27.5% of last season’s) and 101 targets (18% target share). Cooper won’t get all of this vacated target share, but you can expect him to get some of it. Jordy Nelson has historically been very good in the Red Zone, but he finds himself on a new team and another year older. Derek Carr will be entering his 4th year throwing to Amari Cooper, who has a rapport with Carr. Again, not all will go to Cooper but it’s safe to assume we see his market share increase.
Why Cooper Might Fail in 2018
The one flaw to Cooper’s game is his awful catch rate. His career catch rate is 56.1%. He’s never been targeted more than 132 times in a season and 2016 was his best catch rate, 62.9%. However… the average catch rate for a top 24 WR last
season was, 61.5%. For a top 12 WR last year, it was a 63% catch rate. Cooper’s career average is 56.1%, brought down because of his 2017 catch rate of just 50%. Another reason is that Jordy Nelson is also in town and that may hurt his Red Zone production, but Nelson is 33 and shouldn’t hinder Cooper. Other than these two arguments that in my opinion, don’t devalue Cooper, I can’t find any more. He is still very young and as I previously stated before, he was on a historic track record. The people who are down on Cooper this year or don’t like him are solely looking at 2017. His average catch rate after the first 2 seasons of his career was 59.2%. If you look at his historic first 2 seasons and then look at his third year, something was off. The Raiders offense underperformed all over and is set to bounce back after their horrific 2o17 season.
Amari Cooper Fantasy: My take
Currently going off the board as the WR17 (4.03) in 12 team PPR leagues per FantasyFootballCalculator.com. Cooper’s draft stock has gone up about 6 spots over the past month from 4.09 to its current level. Even if Cooper continues to go up draft boards into the late 3rd round, typically where WR13-16 come off the board, there is still a lot of value to be had at that draft cost. With a target share of at least 130 targets and 20%+ target share in this offense, Cooper should outperform draft price and is a GREAT value where he is currently going. If you get him as your WR2/3 then you will be very happy where you can get him this year. Entering his fourth year with Quarterback Derek Carr, that chemistry will only grow and a career year is definitely possible for Amari Cooper.
Given Jon Gruden’s history on targeting the #1 WR in the offense (avg 137), and the HC/OC target share as the top option (20%+), he should reach his career high in targets, receptions, yards, and TDs in 2018. Giving cooper a 58% catch rate from his career average catch rate of 56.1% is in the realm of possibilities. Touchdowns are not easy to predict and is very difficult to predict year to year. Factoring touchdown variance from five to eight touchdowns in comparison to 2017 wide receiver scoring in PPR formats would place Cooper anywhere from the WR 12 (4 touchdowns) to the WR3 (8 touchdowns) last year in fantasy. Amari Cooper will be a low end WR1 in PPR formats in 2018, with the upside of a mid-range WR1. After just turning 24, and entering his fourth NFL season along with his rapport with Carr continuing to grow, and Jon Gruden’s pass happy offense; Amari Cooper is set up to win people leagues this year at his 4th round asking price.