Is It Time to Stop Calling Amari Cooper Inconsistent?

A look back at Cooper's time in Dallas and if he should still carry the reputation of inconsistency he earned in Oakland.

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If someone were to invent a fantasy football Rorschach test, one association would make itself. They show a picture of Amari Cooper; the world screams out in unison, "INCONSISTENT!" Looking at his career numbers, this association doesn't make a ton of sense. Six years into his NFL career and he is averaging 1,034 yards and six touchdowns per season. It's often said year-end totals don't tell the whole story, and Cooper's career embodies that truism.

The inconsistency concerns stem from a game-to-game look at Cooper. He would have huge weeks, but quiet ones often followed them. He is a roller-coaster, and fantasy managers do not enjoy extreme volatility. At least that's the reputation he earned as a member of the Raiders. Cooper has now spent almost half of his career with the Dallas Cowboys, and it may be time to re-examine how we look at the star receiver.

A Story In 2 Parts

This reputation of inconsistency is not without its origin story. Cooper was the fourth overall pick in the 2015 Draft and expectations were high. He burst onto the scene with over 100 yards and a touchdown in his second game as a Raider. He even recorded another 100-yard game the next week. Unfortunately, this would mark the first of only two instances where Cooper would have back-to-back 100-yard games for the Raiders in his entire time there. For every good game, there was a bad game, sometimes two or three. Trying to decide whether to start him was a maddening experience.

In 52 games for the Raiders, he finished as a top-12 fantasy receiver just 13 times and fell outside the Top 36 on 29 occasions. One step forward, two steps back is not the route to a fantasy championship, and managers began to approach Cooper like he was radioactive. Nor is it what the Raiders organization was hoping for from their top playmaker. Which is why they traded Cooper to the Cowboys midway through the 2018 season.

Cooper had 58 yards and a touchdown in his first game as a Cowboy (Week 9-2018). He wouldn't finish as a top-12 receiver again until Week 14. The continued inconsistency despite a trade was the final psychological nail in the coffin for many fantasy managers. But to be successful in this hobby, you need to have a short memory. And as it relates to Cooper's perceived value, that's where the problem lies. Cooper and quarterback Dak Prescott developed unquestionable chemistry over the last two seasons, and his numbers might surprise you if you're a skeptic.

From 2019-2020, Cooper played in all 32 games for the Cowboys. During that span, he was a top-12 receiver eight times, 10th most in the league. The league leader, Tyreek Hill, was a WR1 just 13 times during that same span. Cooper was a top-36 receiver in 21 of 32 weeks; tied for league-best over that span. It also means Cooper had just 11 games where he missed the Top 36, a far cry from the tendencies we saw from him in Oakland. And let’s not forget, he played the last 11 games of 2020 without Dak Prescott.

The Small Sample Size of 2020

If the numbers above don’t excite you, what we saw in 2020’s first four games should. Cooper and Prescott's first time playing in Mike McCarthy's system would let them throw -- a lot. Cooper had at least 80 yards receiving in each game. In that four-game span, he was targeted 51 times, catching 37 balls for 401 yards and a touchdown. Cooper was the No. 1 overall fantasy receiver over those four weeks. He was also one of only four receivers to finish as a top-36 receiver in each of those four weeks. It's unreasonable to expect Cooper to maintain a 200+ target pace over a full season, but he should score more than the four-touchdown pace he was on, as an offset. Basically, Prescott + Cooper + McCarthy = Fantasy Success.

Conclusion

Misconceptions about Amari Cooper are making him more affordable than he should be in drafts. He has finished with over 1,000 yards and five touchdowns in five of his six seasons. More importantly, during his time in Dallas, with a solid quarterback and supporting cast, his week-to-week consistency has been among the best in the league. He may not be a WR1 every week, but nobody is, and his floor is as safe as anyone's over the last two seasons.

Early ADP is hard to trust but Cooper is currently going off of draft boards as the 15th receiver in the fourth round of 12-team leagues; which mirrors his 2020 year-end ranking. It's hard to imagine Cooper flat-lining this year with a healthy Dak Prescott. Yes, there are other viable targets including CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup, but the passing volume and Prescott's efficiency leave plenty of opportunities for multiple players to thrive. Cooper represents the best value of any wide receiver taken in this tier and should be a priority.

2021 Projections

Season
Team(s)
Games
Rushes
RuYards
RuTDs
Targets
Recs
ReYards
ReTDs
FumLost
2018
Oakland/Dallas
15
2
20
0
108
75
1004
7
2
2019
Dallas Cowboys
16
1
6
0
119
79
1189
8
0
2020
Dallas Cowboys
16
6
14
0
130
92
1114
5
0

Footballguys Projections
Projector
Games
Rushes
RuYards
RuTDs
Recs
ReYards
ReTDs
FumLost
Footballguys Consensus
16.4
4.1
20
0
93.9
1236
7.2
0.1
Anthony Amico
17.0
2.4
7
0
98.6
1367
8.4
0.0
Sigmund Bloom
17.0
5.0
19
0
103
1238
7.0
0.0
Justin Freeman
15.0
4.8
33
0
80.8
1121
8.1
0.1
Bob Henry
16.0
3.0
10
0
90.0
1240
7.0
0.0
Maurile Tremblay
17.0
7.0
43
0
88.2
1161
6.2
1.0
Jason Wood
16.0
3.0
15
0
106.0
1290
7.0
0.0
Ryan Weisse
17.0
2.0
12
0
95.0
1286
8.0
0.0

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