It is difficult to imagine that Amari Cooper could have had a much better start to his career. The Alabama product made good on the expectations that he would be the best receiver out of the 2015 Draft class. He completed his first season with 72 catches for 1,070 yards and found the endzone six times.
In spite of the great rookie statline, Cooper did leave some production on the field. A foot injury late in the year limited his effectiveness in games and even caused him to produce a goose egg for fantasy owners in week 14. Cooper also dropped passes on the year that could have further padded his stats. In spite of these bumps, many outlets have esteemed Cooper highly. Sports Illustrated recently ranked Cooper as their ninth best outside receiver. Can the young receiver live up to the hype?
Watching Cooper on tape, we see the traits that made him incredibly exciting coming out of college. The polished route running, setting up of defenders with subtle movements, and kicking up an extra gear when speed is needed to gain separation-- all of it shows up in the film. It’s reasonable to expect that Cooper will continue to build on what was already a solid foundation.
One reason for optimism regarding Cooper is his supporting cast. Derek Carr in particular was impressive in his growth last year, in spite of the many predictions he would regress. The rapport between Carr and Cooper grew throughout the year. Michael Crabtree played very well on his one-year deal - so well, in fact, that the team saw fit to reward him with a deal that extends through the 2019 season. Cooper was not the only rookie on his team to step up. Tight end Clive Walford showed promise as a pass-catching tight end element that the team has been missing. Seth Roberts has emerged as a solid deep threat and tertiary wideout. Not only will all these players keep the offense in the red zone in games, they should also stop defenses from focusing solely on Cooper.
Reports indicate that Cooper is feeling more comfortable not only with the offense, but his teammates as well. Rapport with others is often an underrated consideration in fantasy football. As relationships grow, individuals combine to accomplish things that can only be achieved by working together. Our Sigmund Bloom often stated last year that this team shook off the “loser vibe” that had long plagued it. With synergy continuing to build, we can expect even more out of this team and, more specifically, Amari Cooper.
Dropped passes were definitely a problem for Amari Cooper as a rookie. He dropped a total of 18 on the year. While it’s certainly a concern, it’s one that should not be overblown. These drops only accounted for three percent of Cooper’s routes. With such high target volume in this offense, drops are forgivable. Drops are also not necessarily a predictor of future failure. The great Jerry Rice was credited with dropping 15 passes in his rookie season, some at critical points in the game. Bill Walsh looked past these drops because he understood what a special talent he was coaching. We can be confident that Head Coach Jack Del Rio and Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave will display the same confidence and patience with Cooper. Both Derek Carr and Cooper’s comments to the media suggest that they are taking improvement seriously, but are not allowing the problem to impact their psyche. We’ve seen examples or players who let fumble and drop issues “get into their head.” To hear that Cooper doesn’t seem to be one of those players and that Carr remains trustful of Cooper as a target is reassuring.
Lack of red zone involvement last season was concerning. According to Rich Hribar, Cooper was only targeted six times inside the twenty yard line last year. It is something that would surely hold Cooper back statistically this year if it were to continue. However, it’s unlikely to trend this way. As Cooper continues to improve his craft and build his connection with his quarterback, it follows that his scoring opportunities will also grow. Expect AC/DC (the affectionate nickname given by the team for these two) to hook up on touchdowns frequently in 2016.
- He is a standout when it comes to route running, manipulating defenders, and creating separation.
- Cooper is surrounded by an exceptional group of offensive talent that can help him to elevate his own game.
- Cooper needs to clean up his issues with drops if he is to excel in year two.
- He needs his number called more often on endzone routes.
Cooper currently costs a late round two or early round three selection in redraft formats. Not only is Cooper a safe choice to return value on your investment, he’s also one with the potential to exceed expectations. We’ve surely not seen the best Cooper has to offer. We can expect his growth to continue in 2016. In dynasty formats, Cooper is squarely and justifiably in the conversation as a first-round startup pick. If you are able to snag him any cheaper than that, you should be doing cartwheels.
Jason Wood's Projections
David Dodds' Projections
Matthew Burks of iSportsweb thinks Cooper may break into the top ten fantasy wideout category:
“Looking at the 2016 season, it is easy to see that this Raiders team has gotten much better. With a year of the offense under his belt and another year with Derek Carr, my opinion is to buy high on Cooper this season. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that by the end of this year, he’ll be a top 10 fantasy wide receiver.”
Tyler Buecher of NumberFire strongly advises that owners not take Cooper at his current price point:
“Our second-round picks should provide both safety and a high ceiling. Cooper provides neither.Given his week-to-week variance and low propensity for touchdowns, you'd be better off selecting another player with your second-round draft pick this season.”