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Amari Cooper Can Be An Elite Wide Receiver, Even If He Drops A Few

Amari Cooper Can Be An Elite Wide Receiver, Even If He Drops A Few

First of all, let me say that I have been on the Amari Cooper bandwagon for quite some time. Very few 21-year-old wide receivers come into the league and put up back-to-back 1,000+ yard seasons. But, in the fantasy game, people dwell on recency bias and box score analysis. Because of this, the “Amari Pooper” jokes have been flying for a little over a year now.

It has boggled my mind how the public has turned these supposed drop issues into a huge deal since early in the 2017 season. It is widely debated often in the Dynasty RedZone Facebook Group since we opened up.

Finally, after numerous debates, I figured that it would be best if I take the time to write an article on why I think this argument is asinine.

Dropped Passes Aren’t An Official NFL Stat

What this means, is that the figures you will find for dropped passes are all over the place.  Basically, any person sitting behind a desk can start up a website and claim that any player has dropped “X” amount of passes, with their own bias or opinions in play.  That being said, it is very difficult for anyone to say a player has dropped any amount of passes.

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The Varying Numbers On Amari Cooper

It is without debate that during Cooper’s rookie year, he had some trouble with “drops”.  I have found statistics that say he dropped anywhere from 10-18 (See what I mean about the drop statistic?) in his rookie season.  In his second season, 2016, the only stat I could find had him dropping a whopping 3 passes.  Then, Cooper opened up 2017 with 5 drops in two games.  Everyone began losing their mind, as an ineffective David Carr was leading an ineffective offense, with an injured Cooper as their scapegoat.

Since that first two games, I have not found an Amari Cooper drop anywhere.  Again, these statistics are tough to find, but if he was dropping the number of passes that the public seems to believe, there would be more talk about it on the world wide web.

Statistics Get Skewed

Ok, so out of the statistics I have found if we find the median point of 14 drops in 2015, the 3 drops in 2016, and the 5 in 2017, Amari Cooper has dropped 22 passes in his career.  He has been targeted 390 times, for a 5.6% drop rate.  So, for argument sake, I will add another 8 drops, for 30 total in 390 chances.  That brings his drop rate up to 7.7% (I have seen claims that he drops 14%, but 0 data on the interwebs proves this), which, I will admit doesn’t sound good.

But let’s tinker with these numbers a little bit.  I don’t think it comes to any surprise that a 21-year-old kid coming into the NFL may have some drop issues.  I know what you are thinking right now, he is a professional, he shouldn’t drop passes no matter his age.  That is fine, I will touch on that in a little bit.

So, let’s go back to the beginning of 2017 when these claims really started to heat up.  Amari started the season with the dropsies, but even those stats were heavily weighted by one possession.  This possession was absolutely brutal.  In the end zone, Cooper was targetted 3 times and dropped all 3 passes.  This one drive inflated his season totals by over 100%.

For argument purposes, if we take out his 21-year-old rookie season and that one brutal drive in 2017, over the course of his last 257 targets, he has dropped a total of 5 balls or 1.9%.  Yes, this experiment does favor my argument, but these 257 targets make up the 66% most recent targets he has received.

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Think Of Dropps Like Strikeouts In Baseball

It is true, drops are frustrating just like watching your favorite hitter strike out in baseball.  The thing is, we have learned that strikeouts aren’t the devil like was believed for so long.

Adam Dunn, the mammoth ex-QB, taught us all a lot in his 14-year career.  he struck out a whopping 2,379 times.  If you weren’t a numbers geek like me, you were likely wondering how a guy with a .237 batting average that struck out 193x per year, could stick around for so long.  It was easy to see his 37 home run average per 162 games, but people just couldn’t understand how he kept finding his way into lineups.

Well, it was really easy actually.  The value of his other 490 at bats was far greater than the detriment his 193 K’s caused his team.  He found his way on base at a .364 clip for his career.  That was .127 points higher than his BA, which at the time was crazy.  During his prime, he was typically hitting 40+ home runs, walking over 100 times and driving in 100+ runs with OBP’s that were around .385.

This was the death of the strikeout being the death of a players career.

A similar thing would’ve happened in football if the drop was an official statistic.  Many Hall of Fame wide receivers are now getting credited with an astounding amount of drops.  While researching for this article, I ran into another article by Michael David Smith, that was posted on NBC Sports titled, “Terrell Owens Dropped Passes, As Great Receivers Do“.

I was astounded by the numbers that were being dropped in the article.  Newly inducted Hall of Famer, Terrell Owens, led the league twice in dropped passes and finished in the top four a whopping 7x.  I have yet to hear anyone say that Owens couldn’t catch.

To top it off, Michael Irvin, Tim Brown, Rod Smith, Marvin Harrison, Brandon Marshall, Wes Welker, and Reggie Wayne were ALL mentioned in the article.  All receivers, minus Welker, that have been considered or now are in the Hall of Fame.

But, the news that really shook me, was that Jerry Rice, the GOAT (if you believe he was better than Randy Moss), was mentioned during multiple seasons for having the dropsies.

I have never heard that any of those guys couldn’t catch.  Have you?

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The Catch Percentage Argument

The other argument that I keep hearing, is that Cooper doesn’t have a high enough catch percentage.  At 57.7% for his career, I can understand the fact that people would feel that it leaves a little bit to be desired.  But honestly, for a guy that works down the field, it isn’t nearly as bad as people think.  Actually, that Terrell Owens guy that I mentioned before, had a 57.7% catch rate for his CAREER.  Don’t believe me, divide 1,078 (receptions) by 1,867 (targets).

To top that off, Amari Cooper’s 2017 numbers are greatly skewed by poor QB play.  Since Derek Carr’s 2016 injury, he has not been performing well on the deep ball.  In 2017 he ranked 30th in deep ball accuracy, Coop’s bread and butter.

So, now people are naturally going to look at Carr’s 2018 numbers and say, what is the excuse?  Carr has completed a league 2nd best, 71.7% of his passes.  That sounds like gravy until you dig a little deeper and realize that his average CAY (Average Completed Air Yards) is a minimal 4.4 yards.  That is LOWER than Eli Manning’s!  The only two quarterback’s with lower CAYs in the NFL were replaced by Josh Rosen and Carson Wentz early in the season.

To put that into perspective, when Deshaun Watson completes a pass, it averages 2.9 more air yards, after that, it is up to their weapons, but he ultimately comes in at 2.7 more yards per completion.  That is a lot of yards over the course of a season.

What Has The Issue Been In 2018

It seems to me that Carr got gun shy after his poor 2017 campaign and is afraid to throw it downfield.  In turn, that hurts the chances of Amari Cooper being productive, simply because the volume is not there.

In week 2, Cooper saw 10 targets, caught all 10 for 116 yards.  In week 4, he saw 11 targets, caught 8 for 128 yards and a TD.

So, just like most good receivers, Cooper has no problem producing when he gets the volume.  Over the last 2 years, when he receives 10 targets or more, he has put up an average of 7.8 receptions, 112.8 yards, and .8 TD’s per game.

Or in fantasy terms, 23.88 fantasy points per game or 1.90 points per target.

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Compare That Top 2018’s Top Wide Receivers

  • Julio Jones, WR7: Has seen 9 or more targets in all but one game, for 81 total targets.  Has scored 133.3 fantasy points, without a touchdown.  That is 1.65 fantasy points per target.
  • Emmanuel Sanders, WR3: Has seen 7 or more targets in all but one game, for 61 total targets.  Has scored 140.72 fantasy points, with 3 touchdowns.  That is 2.31 fantasy points per target.
  • Nuk Hopkins, WR4: Has seen 10 or more targets in all but two games, for 71 total targets.  He has scored 139.00 fantasy points, with 4 touchdowns.  That is 1.95 fantasy points per target.
  • Davante Adams, WR5: Has seen 12 or more targets in all but two games and 8 or more in all, for 71 total targets.  He has scored 138.70 fantasy points, with 6 touchdowns, or 1.95 fantasy points per target.
  • Amari Cooper, WR60: Has seen 10 or more targets in 2 games, 3 or fewer in 3 games, for 31 total targets.  He has scored 56.90 fantasy points, with 1 TD, or 1.84 fantasy points per target.

I have been saying this for over a year now, the problem in Oakland was not Amari Cooper’s fault.  Yes, he did have that one horrific drive, but their usage of him, coupled with the complete ineptitude of Derek Carr’s deep ball, should be blamed.

What Happens Now

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It is no secret, I am not a fan of Dak Prescott’s NFL ability as a quarterback.  But, the fact of the matter is that he is probably better than Derek Carr.  He averages 6.4 CAY, which is a whopping 2 yards more than Carr does, showing that he is willing to play a little deeper down the field.  Couple that with the fact that he has not had a deep threat for most of the past two years and I honestly think we could see Dallas open up the offense a bit more.

It is no secret that if you can stop Ezekiel Elliott, you can pretty much stop the entire Cowboys offense.  With Cooper now in line, teams will have to respect the deep ball.  This should open up the field for not only the running game but even the short pass to Beasley.

I have a hard time believing that Dallas is going to pay their first rounder (which unlike most, I think was 100% fine and I would rather have Coop than any rookie WR coming in) and Cooper not average 10 targets per game.

It Is Time To Buy

Your window to buy is now.  People have mixed emotions and from what I can tell, the public perception of Cooper is shit right now.  So, I will be trying to buy in spots that I do not already own him, because I have little fear that it is going to pay off big time.

Elite Status For Amari Cooper?

The talent is there.  I am not sure this Dallas offense will help provide the opportunities, but I find it hard to believe that they won’t make him an integral part of their offense right after their bye week.  A year and a half ago, Cooper was a 23-year old that was a top 10 dynasty asset though.  The number 4 overall pick in the draft with two 1,000 yard pro-bowl seasons under his belt already.

I can’t believe how many people have jumped off him so far.  He is still younger than 2nd-year wide receiver Cooper Kupp, and only about 6 months older than rookie Calvin Ridley.  While they were putting up numbers in college, he was busy putting up numbers in the NFL.

I believe he gets back to it.  Do you?  Drop a comment or join the Facebook Group and let’s chat about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About The Author

Rick Butts

I started playing in free fantasy football leagues when I was in 8th grade. In 2004, I started playing professional poker online and soon after found paid fantasy leagues. But, my love for fantasy didn’t jump to the next level until 2015 when I started my first dynasty league. As they say, “The rest is history.”