Is Amari Cooper Finally Ready to Be a Fantasy Football Superstar?
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Amari Cooper
- Amari Cooper played some of his best football after being traded to the Dallas Cowboys. Will he finally rise to consistent fantasy football stardom?
- Ian Hartitz breaks down the wide receiver's 2019 outlook and when you should target him in drafts.
We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2019 season; this is part of that series.
The Cowboys were in dire straits six weeks into the 2018 season, unable to consistently move the ball through the air amid a roster reconstruction that left them with very few proven options at receiver. That’s when they decided to trade what eventually became the 2019 draft’s No. 27 overall pick for the services of the 2015 draft’s No. 4 overall pick: Amari Cooper.
It remains to be seen whether Cooper will ever fully capitalize on his lofty career potential, but the Cowboys have already reaped the rewards of the trade to the tune of a playoff victory and an NFC East title. Cooper deserves plenty of credit for that achievement, as his ability to seamlessly transition to life as Dak Prescott’s No. 1 target provided the entire offense with a much-needed spark.
This season will mark the first time in Cooper’s career that he’s expected to work as his offense’s undisputed top pass-game option for an entire season. Let’s find out if he’s poised for even more real life and fantasy football success in 2019.
Amari Cooper Dominated with the Cowboys
There’s little doubt that Cooper’s time with the Cowboys produced the best professional football performance of the 24-year-old’s career.
- Cooper’s 8.5 targets per game in his 11 outings with Dallas were the most during a season of his career. He averaged 7.5 targets per game during his three and a half seasons in Oakland.
- Cooper averaged a career-high 9.5 yards per target with Prescott under center. Cooper’s rate with Derek Carr was 8.3 yards per target.
- Cooper racked up 150-plus yards in two games, which matched his total amount of breakout performances with the Raiders.
There simply weren’t many wide receivers who produced more than Cooper over the second half of last season. Guarding him one-on-one became a death sentence for pretty much any mortal cornerback.
Amari Cooper ranks with the Cowboys in Weeks 8-17 among all WRs:
Targets: 76 (T11th)
Receptions: 53 (11th)
Yards: 725 (10th)
TDs: 6 (T5th)
PPR: 158.6 (11th)
Two playoff games: 7-106-0 and 6-65-1pic.twitter.com/KtITU0RXJ1
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) May 5, 2019
The overall production from Cooper is tough to hate on. Still, he continued to work as a boom-or-bust option, with most of the booms coming inside the friendly confines of AT&T Stadium.
- Cooper per game at Jerry World (six games): 8.7 targets, 7 receptions, 109.5 yards, 1 TD, 23.95 PPR
- On the road (five games): 8.4 targets, 4.8 receptions, 47.8 yards, 0.2 TDs, 10.8 PPR
The good news for the Cowboys is that Cooper’s sometimes uneven performance still helped produce one of the best version’s of Prescott yet.
Prescott Was Better Than Ever with Cooper
It’s hard to understate just how much better Prescott was after the Cowboys added Cooper to the fold in Week 8.
Prescott’s on-field passing performance was as good as we’ve seen since he entered the league in 2016.
Prescott worked as fantasy’s QB16 in Weeks 1-7 compared to the QB8 in Weeks 8-17. Cooper’s transformation was nearly as prominent, as he went from the PPR WR61 with the Raiders to the WR11 with the Cowboys.
Prescott and Cooper formed one of the most efficient combinations in the league among quarterbacks and No. 1 wide receivers, as Prescott’s average of 9.92 adjusted yards per attempt to Cooper trailed only Jared Goff and Brandin Cooks (10.47), Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill (10.58) as well as Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett (10.95).
It became common for Prescott to look in Cooper’s direction anytime a defense was brave enough to leave their safety away from Cooper’s side of the field.
Prescott probably won’t ever be the league’s best or most consistent quarterback when asked to work strictly from the pocket, but he’s proven to be more than capable of balling out for stretches with talented pieces like Cooper around him.
Fortunately for Prescott and Cowboys fans alike, the 2019 version of this offense looks like the most talented edition in years.
The Cowboys Offense Might Be Better Than Ever in 2019
We’ll see if their new-look offense is ultimately an improved version, but things are certainly looking good.
- All Pro center Travis Frederick, who missed the entire 2018 season with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, is reportedly improving and tentatively expected to be a full-go by the time mandatory OTAs come around.
- The Cowboys replaced long-time slot receiver Cole Beasley with Randall Cobb. This could be seen as a positive for Cooper, who could now see an even more enhanced target share AND more snaps from the inside, although Jason Witten’s decision to un-retire could compromise some of that.
- Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was relieved of his duties, so Jason Garrett will get back to calling plays. The head coach fed his top pass-game option an average of 133 targets during the 2007-2012 seasons, which would be a career-high mark for Cooper.
The Cowboys have boasted one of the NFL’s best rushing attacks for the better part of the past half decade. Their defense was anyone’s idea of a top-five unit in 2018 and doesn’t appear to be particularly poised to take a step back.
But Prescott and Cooper’s ability to continue to elevate the Cowboys’ passing game could be the difference between the team continuing to function as an above-average entity, or finally making another run at championship glory.
At the very least, Prescott and Cooper are poised to again work as valuable fantasy assets as long as defenses are forced to focus on Ezekiel Elliott.