Alex Schillinger: I think the response to Amari Cooper’s 2017 season has been a collective, “What the fuck?” In his first two seasons as a pro, Cooper caught over 150 balls for over 2,100 yards while pulling down 11 TDs. But this year…this year he’s been plain awful.
Mike Bergsman: Awful is an understatement. The crazy thing is he’s actually not been good for quite a while. His last game over 100 yards receiving was in Week 8 of last year. So it’s been 13 games played, and almost a year in real time, since Cooper last broke 100 yards. That’s nuts. Since that last big game, he’s amassed 44 receptions for 484 yards and four touchdowns. That’s only worth 8.95 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues! There’s only one logical conclusion here. Amari Cooper is past his prime. He’s getting old and he just can’t do what he used–wait…he’s only 23? Okay maybe that’s not it.
Alex: It’s not like he doesn’t have skill. He’s proven he can be one of the top fantasy WRs in the league. He’s got character, a strong work ethic and no real injuries.1 Sure he’s dropped a few balls but, c’mon, that can’t be his only issue, can it? He’s not even getting targeted in the first place. Wait…
Look, I know I’m not the numbers guy here but I did some digging. Oakland is averaging seven fewer passing attempts per game than they did last year. My guess: it’s because of their (suddenly, surprisingly) piss poor line. Right now, they are on pace to allow more than twice as many sacks than they did all of last season. That’s disastrous and it’s not like the running game is helping them out at all either. They’re averaging a pedestrian2 4.2 yards per attempt and 30 yards per game fewer than what they ground out3 last year. Honestly, I don’t know that Cooper is the problem…the Raiders kinda suck.
Mike: You’re definitely onto something with the whole Raiders-sucking concept and the numbers back you up. Cooper’s getting targeted 6.6 times per week in 2017, compared to 8.2 per game in 2016. Looking back to Week 9 in 2016, across that miserable 13-game stretch, he’s averaged 6.5 targets per game. That’s really low usage and it’s been going on long enough to suggest that no change is imminent. As a point of reference, Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins, number one and two in targets so far this year, have been targeted 12.8 and 12.2 targets per game, respectively.
Cooper has been targeted outrageously little in the last 13 games but even when he has been targeted, he’s been ineffective, catching only 52.3% of the passes thrown his way. Hopkins has a catch rate of 57.3% with Brown at 62.5%. Is this another Raiders-sucking problem? Well, Raiders wideout Michael Crabtree is catching 79.1% of catches so far this year meaning this one falls squarely on Cooper.
This feels insane to say but here we are: Cooper is not even worth starting as a flex option at this point in what has been an unbelievably bad stretch for him. Even worse, it’s hard to imagine him turning things around given his porous offensive line, poor QB play,4 and lack of a running game. With that being said, he’s still got all that talent that made him so great in the past and his owner is probably dying to give him away. He could be worth a flyer as a trade target if you’re willing to take on some risk.
Maybe I’m not being fair. You drafted him; what do you think , Gollumpus?
Alex: I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s not worth keeping him on your roster. He’s still the top WR on a team that’s not the Cleveland Browns. That still counts for something. Sure, he’s getting hounded by the press about his abissmal hands which, you know, is never good, but I don’t think he’s done for just yet. He’ll do fine this year once Carr is back to 100%. I say that this year-long slump is mostly bad luck and worse circumstance. He’s due to bounce back soon enough, so I think Cooper’s still a good Flex play going forward.