The Cleveland Browns got ahead of the free agency wave, trading a fifth-round pick for wide receiver Amari Cooper. Amari Cooper is one of the NFL’s better receivers and one of the premier route runners in the game, but how will life in Cleveland affect his fantasy football value?
Fantasy Football: Amari Cooper Outlook With Cleveland Browns
Amari Cooper the Player
The most important part of any fantasy football analysis is the player themselves. Amari Cooper has long been a solid fantasy football option, and there is a good reason for that. The former first-round pick is an elite route runner and is capable of handling a respectable target share. In 2020 and 2021, Cooper had a 21.1% and 18.8% target share, respectively.
Of course, those two seasons came when Cooper was sharing the field with CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, and Dalton Schultz. Target shares are largely stable, but this elite supporting cast could have driven down Cooper’s target share, at least in part. The Cleveland Browns might have the worst supporting cast in the league outside of Cooper, so let’s take a look at what the wideout did the last time he was the clear top option in the passing attack.
Cooper spent his first three years with the Oakland Raiders. From 2015 to 2017, Oakland never found a reliable second option in their passing attack, and Cooper had a 21.6%, 22.3%, and 20.0% target share in those seasons. Based on this, we can reasonably assume that Cooper will receive approximately 21% of Cleveland’s targets in 2022.
While he’s never been a target hog, he has made the most of what targets do come his way. He averaged 9.2 yards per target during his time in Dallas, and 8.2 yards per target while with the Raiders.
The Coaching Situation
The Cleveland Browns love to run the football. According to RBSDM.com, the Browns had a -5% pass rate over expectation. While quarterback Baker Mayfield’s busted shoulder might have had something to do with this conservative approach, history shows that head coach Kevin Stefanski has always called a conservative game. Even dating back to his time with the Minnesota Vikings, Stefanski oversaw a run-heavy attack despite having Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs at the peak of their powers.
Can't blame it on Baker's busted shoulder either. Same trend in 2020 pic.twitter.com/WZaiy2ndB6
— Dave Latham, was right about Mac Jones (@DLPatsThoughts) March 13, 2022
Assuming Baker Mayfield is healthy, the Browns will probably throw the ball on 50% of their offensive snaps, which is a below-average rate in today’s NFL. This averages out to approximately 31 passing plays per game, leaving 527 targets to go around. If we assume 21% go to Cooper, then that means he’ll finish the year with roughly 111 targets. Now, the only thing to determine is how efficient he’ll be with said opportunity.
The Quarterback Situation
Baker Mayfield had a season to forget in 2021. The quarterback was a below-average quarterback by just about every measure, but I believe that we can blame most of that on his injured shoulder. Now that’s he’s healthy again, let’s assume he plays like he did in 2020.
During his first year in Kevin Stefanski’s system, the former first-overall pick finished the season averaging 7.3 yards per attempt with a 5.3% touchdown rate. He improved as the season progressed, as his yards per attempt jumped to 7.81 over the final 10 games of the season. Keep in mind he also did this with no real threat at wide receiver, as Odell Beckham tore his ACL early in the year.
The 2020 version of Baker Mayfield is not as good as present-day Dak Prescott, but he’s similar to 2015-2017 Derek Carr. Carr averaged 6.9 yards per attempt over that timeframe, while Cooper averaged 8.2 yards per target. Assuming Mayfield can hit 7.5 yards per attempt in 2022, then Cooper should be able to average 8.6 yards per target. Multiplying this by his projected target share and career 63.2% catch rate gives Cooper a season-long projection of 70 receptions for 966 yards and seven touchdowns.
This comes out to approximately 12.3 fantasy points per game in PPR scoring. Accounting for variance, this places him roughly as a low-end WR2 or a high-end WR3, and a slight dropoff from what he was a season ago. He’ll still be good as a flex play, but he probably won’t win you a league.
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