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Fantasy Football: Love and Hate Amari Cooper

Is Amari Cooper a fantasy asset that owners can trust week-to-week? Should he be traded, cut, dropped, or just left on bench-purgatory?
Amari Cooper

Fantasy football players embody an array of diverse adjectives. Passionate, intelligent, and fickle all immediately come to mind. From the casual players to the hardcore, we all share a love for the game. Where it becomes interesting is when that passion, intelligence, patience, (or lack thereof) and fickle nature all converge on how we manage our respective rosters.

Of the 1,696 total players in the NFL, few are as maddening to have on your team as Oakland Raiders fourth-year wide receiver Amari Cooper. Anyone who’s drafted him high rostered him for more than one good week, or took a flyer on him in daily fantasy games knows the ups and downs that come with him. Many pro football players have down weeks, but Cooper seems to string them together as if he’s playing against himself in fantasy matchups.

Where does Amari Cooper fit on rosters? Is he a fantasy asset that owners can trust week-to-week? Should he be traded, cut, dropped, or just left on bench-purgatory? In this article, we’re going to take a deep dive into Mr. Cooper and see how many of those questions we can answer.

Fantasy Football: Love and Hate Amari Cooper

The Past

In the 2015 NFL draft, Cooper went fourth overall. He wasted no time in showcasing why he was deserving of such a high draft pick. He played all 16 games and went for over 100 yards receiving in five of them. Altogether, he finished with 72 receptions for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns. While the end numbers look great, he began to show inconsistencies right away. During a three-game game stretch, he finished with zero yards one week (on eight targets, mind you), 120 yards the next, and ten yards in the following game.

This has been the bane of every Cooper owner in fantasy football. It was easy to pass off inconsistency as a rookie. Many industry minds took this approach, expecting his sophomore year to be a step up. He had shown that he had a higher-than-normal ceiling but it came with a lower-than-normal floor.

His sophomore season ended with more receptions and yards and one less touchdown than his rookie campaign. However, he still had the inconsistent performances that have nearly defined his young career.

The 2017 season was statistically his worst to date and part of the reason for a drop in his average draft position prior to the start of this season. He appeared in 14 games, posting just 680 yards while hauling in seven touchdowns.

The Present

The 2018 season started in an appropriate fashion for the Amari Cooper faithful. The preseason began with the departure of Michael Crabtree and the hope of more targets funneled to Cooper. Then there was the hype built up by returning coach Jon Gruden. The Raiders brought in Jordy Nelson and negotiated to land the troubled, but talented Martavis Bryant. All of a sudden that massive uptick in targets so many people were expecting evaporated.

However, Cooper still commanded a hopeful draft stock as a locked-in WR2 in PPR scoring formats.  Week one, possibly his highest start percentage of the season, and he imploded. He reeled in a vastly underwhelming one of three targets for nine yards. And every Cooper owner in this great country threw their hands up in the air and uttered curses to Mr. Cooper. Twitter briefly caught on fire, jerseys were ripped from bodies, and infants wept. That last bit may seem to be fictitious, and it is, but is it really that much of an exaggeration on how so many fantasy managers overreacted? Not by much.

Cooper rebounded in week two as Derek Carr remembered that targeting your best receiver is a solid plan. He reeled in all ten of his targets for 116 yards. Week three he caught two-of-five for 17 yards and more infants wept. In week four, Cooper (and all fantasy relevant players for the team) had a great day. He reeled in eight-of-twelve for 128 and his first touchdown of the season.

This has become the mantra of Amari Cooper. Good game, followed by varying degrees of under-production. What do we do with that?

The Options

The options are simple while the decision process is not. Fantasy owners can either stuff him on their bench, utilizing him only in plus matchups or bye week plug-in. We know the conundrum, if we start him, he flops. When we sit him, he has a good game. But it’s worth mentioning, fantasy players don’t win weeks when they aren’t in the starting lineup. If you own him, you’re almost obligated to grudgingly cram him into the lineup.

Making a trade for a player can be tricky. Savvy owners are well aware of his tendencies and probably will reject any straight up lateral move. More casual leagues and owners are often more susceptible to trades based on recency bias. In other words, sell high candidates. Trading is often a muddled landscape filled with everything from lopsided to conversative. Outside of casual leagues or owners, Cooper would have to be packaged for anything worth a solid return value.

Trading really comes down to the basis of how to deal with Cooper. It’s all about roster construction. Teams that are stacked with solid floor players that have a limited ceiling might be more enticed by the home-run potential that Cooper offers. Inversely, teams that have a lot of the more volatile performers would be less likely to add another piece that offers such a boom-to-bust potential.

Cutting Cooper and allowing him to go to waivers is the least productive way to handle him. Especially when the initial cost of ownership is as high as Coopers was. This is the least recommended method for any and all Cooper owners. Anyone contemplating this should wait for the big games, then try to package him in trade offers and solidify their rosters with weekly talent.

Last Word on Amari Cooper

By the metrics, Cooper ranks very high. He has shown that he has the ability to put up big numbers and win weeks for owners. Entering his fourth season, he has 13 games in which he’s gone over 100 yards receiving, one of which was over 200 yards.

Per, he ranks in the 99th percentile on breakout age, in the 97th percentile in agility, and in the 92nd percentile in speed score. All of which are very high marks. Talent has never been the question for Cooper, it’s been consistency based. His catch radius is good, he’s worked on his hands and shown improvement in limiting the drops that used to plague his productivity. There’s a portion of his inconsistency that is directly tied to Derek Carr, who also suffers from maddening weeks of poor performance.

Despite the love/hate relationship with Amari Cooper, he will end the season in the top 24 wide receivers, barring unforeseen injury. However, the path to attainment is marred with absolute lows and incredible highs. He’s nearly a lock for over 1,000 yards receiving and 5-7 touchdowns. He remains an inconsistent performer that can be frustrating for managers to roster. He is the epitome of a roster-construction player who is best suited to a safe-floor type of team that needs a home-run opportunity to offset the lower floor options. Despite his talent, he will continue to be what he has been in that system; a high potential that is capped by an inconsistent quarterback. Given the right team, Cooper can win you a week, or lead to a busted bobblehead and angry outbursts.  

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