WR Amari Cooper | Oakland Raiders | 4th Year
2017 Stats: 48 rec., 680 yards, 7 TD
Across the board, 2017 was a down year for the Oakland Raiders. Head coach Jack Del Rio was fired, and Jon Gruden is back on the sideline for the Silver and Black. His biggest task will be getting quarterback Derek Carr back on track, and by connection wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Cooper only missed two games last year, but a lingering ankle issue hampered him and a concussion went along with it for a time. So after topping 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, Cooper’s numbers fell off a cliff and if not for a big game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 7 (11 catches for 210 yards and two touchdowns) those numbers would have been even worse.
Gruden aggressively compared Cooper to Hall of Famer Tim Brown earlier this offseason, and said he envisions the fourth overall pick in 2015 being the “main vein” of the Raiders’ passing game. Cooper followed by saying the right things about embracing the role. A hamstring injury took Cooper out of OTAs late last month, but that shouldn’t be a huge concern right now.
Cooper averaged 6.9 targets per game last year, compared to 8.2 targets per game over his first two seasons. But he had six games with at least seven targets in 2017, and a look at his game log seems to clearly show the games he was operating at less than full strength.
Cooper also had a touchdown catch in four of his last five games last season, despite not corralling more than three passes in any of them. Of his career-high seven touchdowns, just three came in the red zone and the other four were from 38 yards out or more.
Better health should help Cooper improve his consistency, but drops (10; third-most in the league last year) have also been an issue for him over his first three seasons. With Michael Crabtree gone, and a diminished Jordy Nelson replacing him as Oakland’s No. 2 wide receiver, Cooper may push toward the league leaders in targets this year. It’s easy to envision career-highs across the board.
Cooper is in mid-tier WR2 territory in early 12-team mock drafts (Round 3-Round 4), regardless of standard or PPR scoring. But I see some WR1 upside in PPR leagues, which his ADP on Fantasy Football Calculator in that scoring format (WR17) does not reflect yet.
How a rebound looks for Cooper this year does not necessarily have a strict definition. Better numbers than last year feels like an absolute certainty, but a legitimate push to become one of the best wide receivers in the league (fantasy or otherwise) is a little cloudier to predict.