The staff members at Footballguys are full of opinions. In a Faceoff, we allow two members to voice their opinions on a specific player. One picked the high side, and the other took the low side.
High Side by Daniel Simpkins
Considered by many to be the best wide receiver in the 2015 Draft class, Amari Cooper did not disappoint owners in his rookie season. He snagged 72 balls for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns. Astoundingly, he might have done even more for owners if he had not been hampered by a late-season foot injury.
Many are worried that Cooper has already reached his fantasy ceiling or that he will experience a “sophomore slump” in year two. These fears are unfounded. Cooper is fundamentally sound and does not have many of the technical and route running issues that a typical second-year player possesses. His quarterback, Derek Carr, continued to show growth and build rapport with Cooper as the year wore on. Michael Crabtree was retained after playing last season on a one-year deal. Tight end Clive Walford showed surprising competence for a rookie. The presence of Walford and Crabtree will not only help keep the offense humming, they'll also keep defenses from selling out to stop Cooper.
Some point to Cooper's 18 dropped passes as a sign that he is not as good as advertised. These drops only represented a miniscule three percent of his routes. Cooper is also not the only rookie wide receiver to struggle with drops. Hall of Famer Jerry Rice was credited with 15 dropped passes in his rookie season. While drops are concerning, they are not necessarily a predictor of future failure. Considering Cooper and Carr's comments to the media, it sounds as if both are taking this issue seriously and working together to improve, but at the same time not letting it get into their head. That's exactly the right way to handle this situation.
Cooper is going at the end of round two or in early round three of 12-team redraft formats. He's virtually a lock to not only repeat those numbers, but improve upon them as he and Carr continue to grow together. All four projectors at Footballguys agree that Cooper will surpass 1,000 yards and have seven or more touchdowns. Not only is his floor high, his ceiling is too. That's the kind of pick you want to make in the early going of your fantasy draft!
Low Side by Ryan Hester
The current draft position of WR10 (19 overall) in PPR leagues is far too rich a price to pay for Cooper. While he is entering his second year and is an emerging young talent, he didn't even lead his team in targets last season. And the player that did – Michael Crabtree – is still very much in the fold and not exactly past his prime.
Oakland's offensive emergence last season was due in part to young talents like Cooper and Derek Carr, but much of it can also be attributed to positive, offense-friendly game script. Oakland allowed 24 or more points on seven occasions (with six of those being 30 or more). This put them in a position to pass early and often in many games. Their defense is young and improving heading into 2016, which should bring the number of shootouts down.
While Oakland did engage in a few shootouts last year, they cooled off dramatically as the season progressed. Oakland didn't eclipse 24 points scored in any game after Week 9. Cooper's production dropped off nearly in direct correlation with that point, as he averaged just 3.4 catches and 52 yards from Week 10-17. That compares less than favorably to the 5.6 catches and 82 yards from Weeks 1-9. Whether Cooper hit a “rookie wall,” teams figured him out, or Oakland's defense slightly improving, Cooper didn't produce for the whole season.
When picking a player being drafted based on potential more than performance history, I look for someone who learned as the season progressed and ended strong. If Cooper's season had been flip-flopped and he ended better than he began, I would feel slightly better about his ADP.
At this point, I'd rather select the following players, all of whom are being selected after Cooper on average: Mike Evans (athleticism, volume); Keenan Allen (pedigree, volume); Brandon Marshall (pedigree, volume, red zone prowess); and Demaryius Thomas (pedigree, volume). All of these players command more of their team's targets and have the past performance to warrant a selection over Cooper.
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