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The Stat That Made Me Start Amari Cooper

I almost didn’t start Amari Cooper, but Mike Clay changed my mind.

It’s Thursday night and I’m hanging out with my best bud/son, having a guys night and playing with Star Wars toys (he’s one).

I got a chance to check my phone, and I opened up Twitter, because I’m addicted to social media.

One of the first tweets in my feed was from Mike Clay:

I opened up the ESPN Fantasy Football app and checked my teams. I own Cooper in three leagues, but I had him benched in every single one, because of how bad he’s been. In two leagues I had Devante Parker starting over Cooper (this was before Parker was ruled out), so I quickly made the switch and put in Cooper. In my third league, I kept him benched.

Obviously, that last minute switch paid off for me. Cooper ended up with 11 catches for 210 yards and two touchdowns. In PPR leagues, that was 44 points. However, most fantasy owners didn’t start him, especially if they didn’t see that tweet.

Why? Because Cooper has been terrible. Scott Barrett stated that “heading into the week, Amari Cooper had only 58 total yards over his previous four games.” He’s been one of the biggest busts this year…until now.

So, what changed? Was this breakout game a breakout because of the matchup or because Cooper finally played well?

I think it’s a little bit of both.

Barrett shed some light on the situation: “On Thursday, Cooper hit career highs in targets (19), yards (210), and fantasy points (33.0). In total it was the 28th best fantasy day for a wide receiver this past decade, and was 2.4 points more than his prior six-week total.”

This tweet from Graham Barfield also explains why this week was different:

Not only did Cooper get the most targets ever, but he also lined up in the slot more than ever. Obviously, the Raiders’ game plan was to get Cooper heavily involved and force the ball to him. This was a get-right game, and it worked…for the most part.

Cooper still dropped two easy catches, and he’s dropped the ball every 5.8 targets. Ouch. The drops make him hard to trust, but when a receiver is getting that many targets, he’s still startable. It’s always a gamble which Raiders receiver is going to explode week-to-week, but Week 7 showed that Cooper still has the talent to have a massive game.

Where do we go from here?

That’s the question everyone is asking. What do we do with Cooper now? First off, unless you have two or three better options because you’re stacked at wide receiver, you have to start Cooper. He just scored 44 points. While he probably won’t repeat that number, he should keep performing well in a Raiders offense that should keep relying on passing the ball to win. Time will tell if this game was an anomaly due to poor cornerback play, or the norm.

Speaking of cornerback play, the cornerback that covered Cooper for the majority of his routes (that Mike Clay referenced) was Chiefs player Terrance Mitchell. I think it’s fair to assume that WR2’s going forward that Mitchell will be covering are good starts. Marcus Peters, the #1 cornerback on the Chiefs, usually shadows the WR1, leaving Mitchell and the other cornerbacks to cover the other receivers. Next week, the Chiefs face the Broncos, which means Emmanuel Sanders could be in for a nice game if he plays.

Is it time to sell high on Amari? I’m not so sure. If someone is willing to give you a RB1 or solid RB2 and you’re desperate for running backs, then sure. But Cooper finally looked like the WR2 you drafted him to be, and you can finally use him as such.

In Week 8, Cooper and the Raiders play the Buffalo Bills, who just allowed 384 passing yards and three touchdowns to Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers. That seems like another favorable matchup for Cooper. Looking even further ahead, the Raiders play the Dolphins, Patriots, Broncos, Giants, Chiefs, Cowboys, and Eagles. Besides the Broncos, all of those are good matchups where Cooper can continue to roll, as long as the drops stop.

What are your thoughts on Cooper? Let me know in the comments.

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