After barely making the top 20 in fantasy football in 2018, Amari Cooper reemerged as the seventh-best WR in standard leagues last season. In a Cowboys season that was filled with disappointment, Cooper was one of the lone bright spots on the roster. As a result, Dallas decided to ink the veteran wideout to a five year, $100 million contract. Cooper’s season was plagued with inconsistency, but he seemed to click with offensive coordinator, Kellen Moore. Although with Dallas’ new rookie WR and head coach in Dallas, there will be significant changes that will impact Cooper’s 2020 season.
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Last year, Cooper arguably had the best season of his six-year career. He finished with 79 receptions for 1,189 receiving yards, eight touchdowns, and 246.5 fantasy points. 2019 marked the third time in Cooper’s career that he played a full 16 games, and he averaged 15.4 fantasy points in each of those contests. Remarkably, this was Amari Cooper’s highest fantasy average throughout his career.
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Despite Amari Cooper’s stellar 2019 season, some troubling aspects cloud his projection for next year. For starters, he is a matchup dependent wide receiver who had four of his six worst games against robust defenses. Moreover, Cooper ranked 43rd amongst wide receivers for red-zone targets. Considering that Dallas rated in the top four in terms of points/drive and drive success rate, Cooper’s lack of targets indicates that he struggles to get open in the red zone.
The good news is that he was a top ten receiver when it came to hauling in touchdowns, so he can maximize his minimal RZ opportunities. Nevertheless, his lack of RZ targets forecasts that his touchdown numbers are likely to come down to Earth in 2020. This prediction is further reinforced by the fact that Cooper had a career-high in touchdowns last season, so this might have been his ceiling.
#Cowboys 2020 pass-catcher corps in 2019:
Amari Cooper: 8th/86 WRs in yards/route run
Michael Gallup: 6th in NFL in receiving yards/game
CeeDee Lamb: 1st in nation in yards/route run from slot
Blake Jarwin: 6th among NFL tight ends in yards/target
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) April 28, 2020
Auction Value: $35
Cooper’s auction price was based on his career-best season last year. The problem with selecting Cooper at this price is that his 2020 ceiling is unlikely to make up for this expensive cost. Cooper is also not worth a second-round pick because this is where you would want to pick a high-end RB or elite skill position. Instead, it would be smarter to pick Cooper in the fourth round earliest because this is where it makes the most sense to grab a borderline tier-three wideout.
Similar to Lions receiver, Kenny Golladay, Amari Cooper’s floor is lower in PPR leagues compared to standard leagues. Standard formats will be his bread and butter because he has averaged at least 13 yards per catch in every season of his career. Even if Cooper witnesses overall regression, his fantasy value per catch and per target will likely be solid in 2020.
While Amari Cooper will be reliable in standard leagues, he won’t be as dependable in PPR leagues because he has never been a 100+ catch WR. He is definitely not going to be a tier-one wide receiver because he can’t accumulate 140+ targets. With most elite WRs, like Julio Jones and Michael Thomas attracting 150+ targets, Cooper’s career-high of 132 targets is discouraging. Especially considering that Cooper had his second-most receptions during a single season last year, he’ll likely witness a decrease in catches in 2020. Therefore, he’ll likely regress and fall rankings wise in PPR leagues.
Unfortunately, it looks like Amari Cooper probably reached his ceiling last year. With the retirement of Travis Frederick, coupled with a litany of injuries suffered by Tyron Smith, the Cowboys offense will encounter a serious setback next season. Consequently, it’s unlikely that QB Dak Prescott will eclipse his last season’s passing yardage, which was a career-high.
Although, even if Prescott does accomplish that feat, Dallas’ WR depth chart is more crowded than last year. Therefore, there will be a decrease in targets across the board. This further validates the prediction that Cooper will be a depreciating asset in PPR leagues. Thus, Cooper will probably perform as a borderline tier two/three WR at best but could fall to low-end tier three status.
Dallas Cowboys Offense
After becoming the new head coach of the Cowboys, Mike McCarthy will have a significant influence on Dallas’ offense. First and foremost, McCarthy’s offenses have historically refrained from running the ball extensively. Therefore, Cooper should be featured regularly and continue to generate a high amount of receiving yardage.
Although McCarthy’s noted lack of passing creativity will cause the offense to stall periodically. As a result, Cooper and the rest of the Cowboys skill position players will probably have a notable level of inconsistency. This inconsistency will make it difficult for Cooper to gain the separation needed to get open, especially in the end zone. Since this problem also occurred last season, fantasy owners should be cognizant of this issue.
Even though Dallas fans were ecstatic to see the Cowboys draft Ceedee Lamb, the rookie’s presence will siphon targets away from Cooper. This isn’t an indictment against Cooper, but Lamb will be heavily featured in Moore’s offense from day one. Additionally, since Michael Gallup is already an integral player in Dallas’ offense, there will be fewer opportunities for Cooper to succeed.
Strength of Schedule
The New York Giants and Washington Redskins currently don’t have a strong enough secondary to keep up with the Cowboys’ receivers. The Giants had the second-worst defensive efficiency rate against the pass last season, and their addition of CB James Bradberry will do little to improve that ranking. Skins CB, Kendall Fuller, is a stellar corner, but he specializes in the slot, so he will only cover Amari Cooper every once in a while. Furthermore, with the Cowboys’ three-headed monster at WR, Fuller won’t be solely focused on shadowing Cooper. Philadelphia improved their secondary by adding Darius Slay in the off-season. Still, due to the Eagles’ decade-long failure to find a lockdown corner, it’s too soon to predict whether Cooper is a must-start for that contest.
Outside of the division, Cooper’s schedule includes a variety of both weak and daunting defenses. As a result, fantasy owners can expect him to continue being an inconsistent WR. For instance, he will likely struggle against the 49ers, Steelers, Ravens, and Vikings because their defenses were stout against the pass last season. In these contests, Cooper should be placed on the bench because he is a matchup dependent wideout. Conversely, he will go off against the Falcons and Bengals because Cooper will outmatch A.J. Terrell, and William Jackson III.
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