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Cooper Kupp Will be a Stud (Fantasy Football)

by Marc Mathyk | @Masterjune70 | Featured Writer
Jun 19, 2018

Cooper Kupp may be primed to produce gaudy stats in his second season

Last year was not a banner year for rookie wide receivers. First rounders Corey Davis, Mike Williams, and John Ross failed to live up to expectations. There were only a handful of rookies that managed to impress.

JuJu Smith-Schuster was a considered a revelation and led the pack with 917 yards on only 58 receptions. Based on yards, he was the 22nd best receiver, 19 spots ahead of his 2017 MyFantasyLeague ADP.

Second on the list of rookie wideouts was Cooper Kupp, only a few places behind Smith-Schuster. Based on yards, he was the 24th best receiver, 24 spots ahead of his ADP. Both receivers ended up being low-end WR2’s last year.

This year, based on the expert consensus on FantasyPros ADP rankings, Smith-Schuster is currently going 22nd, which makes sense considering that is where he ended up last year. Kupp, on the other hand, is currently ranked 36th in the fantasy ranks, a full 12 spots after where he ended up last year in real life. He is undervalued and is ready to ascend in his sophomore year towards stud status.

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Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen?
One argument against Kupp’s ascension is the arrival of Brandin Cooks. Many believe that he is a definite upgrade from the departed Sammy Watkins. However, it would be foolish to assume that Cooks will step in and have the same impact he had in New Orleans and New England.

First of all, on those teams, he was tethered to two of the best quarterbacks the NFL has ever had. With Brees, Cooks had a breakout sophomore season. In his third year there, he maintained but was surpassed by rookie Michael Thomas in targets.

Last offseason, he was traded to the Patriots, which seemed like a shocking move. With Brady, he was once again the top earner in targets, but that was with no Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski was missing some time.

Cooks has not taken that next step forward. Now he is going to a team that has Jared Goff, a quarterback not known for his deep ball. Therefore, Cooks won’t likely live up to his current ADP at 21, even if he is more productive than Watkins was last year as the 63rd ranked receiver in total yards.

Like Watkins, he’s a field stretcher who’s not typically a slot receiver, and Goff likes slot receivers. Last year, Cooks only played 11.6% of his snaps in the slot and the year before with the Saints, he was just there 15% of the time.

Compare this to Kupp, who was the Rams’ main slot receiver, having a 54.8% share. The next player to line up the most there was Robert Woods, and he only represented 14.3%. Kupp’s role seems to be solidified and does not appear to be changing in 2018.

Many Cooks truthers are going to be disappointed to see their bright star dim significantly when paired with a quarterback not yet ready for Canton. And if Brandin Cooks is so good then why was it so easy for New Orleans and New England to get rid of him? There seems to be some questions concerning either Cooks the player or Cooks the man since both the Saints and the Patriots did not think he was worth the price tag to keep on the roster. Either way, the Rams will find out this year.

Outta the Woods?
Another player who had a solid year in 2017 was Kupp’s teammate, Robert Woods. Unlike Watkins, who only saw a total of 70 targets in 15 games, Woods saw 85 in only 12.

It was Woods’ best year to date as he was on pace for 75 receptions and over 1,000 yards before missing time due to injury. Since Watkins went to the Rams late in the offseason and was never really on the same page as Goff, Woods was the beneficiary as the go-to guy on the outside.

If Cooks vultures targets from anyone, it most likely will be from Woods. Despite his surprising season last year, Woods has yet to eclipse 65 receptions in a year and has never reached 800 yards in five years in the NFL.

Although Kupp’s season was overshadowed by Smith-Schuster, who stole most of the rookie wide receiver thunder with a few monster plays, Kupp looked competent and comfortable. Now entering his sophomore year, he has the same quarterback and finds himself slotted in a familiar role that is pretty much his. Look for Kupp to step it up a notch and improve in all areas.

Kupp is used to being the target hog. When he played in college at East Washington, he had 428 receptions (107 average per year), for 6,464 yards (1616 average per year), to go along with 73 touchdowns. Some might be quick to criticize Kupp because all of his success came on a Division I-AA team.

However, Kupp’s 73 receiving touchdowns rank first in FCS history, and more impressively, his 6,464 career receiving yards are easily the most in FCS history. He was able to eclipse Jerry Rice, who had 4,693 at Mississippi Valley State from 1981-1984. Yes, the same Hall of Fame Jerry Rice, who just happens to be the best NFL wide receiver of all time. The Rams took a chance on a smaller school player and it paid off in 2017 and will continue to pay off this year and in the future.

Kupp Runneth Over Defenders
To illustrate Kupp’s impressive numbers from last year, let’s take a look at some of his statistics from 2017 and compare them with both Cooks and Woods:

Kupp versus Cooks and Woods in 2017

Statistic Cooper Kupp Brandin Cooks Robert Woods
Games Played 15 16 12
Targets 94 114 85
Receptions 62 65 56
Yards 858 1082 781
Touchdowns 5 7 5
Yards per reception 14 16.6 13.9
Target Separation 1.85 1.55 1.45
Air Yards (per target) 494 (5.3) 856 (7.5) 485 (5.7)
Yards After Catch (per reception) 364 (3.9) 226 (2.0) 296 (2.5)
Red Zone Receptions 13 8 6
Contested Catch Rate 50% 13.30% 40.00%

It is clear by analyzing the table above that Cooks is the field stretcher, who thrives on air yards and splash plays. He leaves Tom Brady who was number one last year in air yards (2,880 air yards) and now finds himself paired with Jared Goff who was 18th in that metric (1,805 air yards).

The most impressive area that Kupp excelled at was his target separation. For a player not known for his speed or burst, he ranked 19th overall, compared to Cooks (43rd overall) and Woods (55th overall). Another stat that bodes well for Kupp is his use in the red zone. He was third in the league last year with 13 receptions compared to Cooks’ eight (16th overall) and Woods’ six (28th overall).

The last statistic that favors Kupp is his yards after catch. Kupp was the 12th best receiver in that category, putting his outstanding 10.83 Agility Score (89th-percentile) to good use. Out of the three, Kupp also had the best end zone target share, but at only 24.0% (37th overall), he hopes to improve on that number in 2018.

If he can get more looks in the end zone, he can use his large frame, good hands, and 50% catch rate to reel in more touchdowns. There are so many statistics from last year that put Kupp on the upward trajectory.

Not the Expert Consensus’ Kupp of Tea
According to the expert consensus rankings on FantasyPros, Cooper Kupp is an incredible value at 36. Here are some receivers who are ahead of him in the rankings. A case can be made for Kupp finishing ahead of all of them since all come with question marks. And remember, he had more total yards than all of them last year:

  • Stefon Diggs, 14th – Had similar numbers to Kupp; new quarterback this year; often gets hurt
  • Alshon Jeffrey, 21st – Played with one of the best quarterbacks last year and still had almost 100 fewer yards; many mouths to feed in Philadelphia including an ascending Nelson Agholor and new teammate Mike Wallace.
  • Michael Crabtree, 26th – Moving to a new team with a below average quarterback in Joe Flacco; he’s 30 years old; remember Jeremy Maclin last year.
  • Julian Edelman, 27th – coming back from a significant injury; 32 years old; awaiting a possible four-game suspension; will Brady finally catch up to his age?
  • Pierre Garcon, 29th – Missed a lot of last season with an injury; will be 32 years old in August; has never played with Jimmy Garappolo.
  • Corey Davis, 30th – Disappointing rookie year; averaged 11.0 yards per reception; gets hurt; Rishard Matthews has been more dependable; is Mariota all that good?
  • Jamison Crowder, 31st – Always hyped in pre-season; has a new quarterback in Alex Smith; lots of potential young wide receivers who are hungry to prove themselves.
  • Devin Funchess, 32nd – Had his “breakout” year but had fewer yards than Kupp did as a rookie; D.J. Moore, a first-round pick is now on the team; Greg Olsen, who commands 100+ targets is back.
  • Emmanuel Sanders, 33rd – Missed time because of injury; now 31 years old; highly touted rookies like Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton ready for action; new quarterback (though that should help not hurt).
  • Sammy Watkins, 34th – Perennial disappointment; on a new team with tons of weapons already

Ram it Down the Throat of Your Competition
When it comes to fantasy redraft leagues, Kupp is a WR2 value going as a WR3 right now. It is entirely possible that he slips even further as there is not much love for him. He didn’t have much love as a rookie, and with the addition of Brandin Cooks, many are souring on him even more. So let your friends take Corey Davis, Emmanuel Sanders, and Sammy Watkins ahead of Kupp.

By getting Kupp as your WR3, you are essentially getting WR2 value. He might not have the same upside as other receivers since he plays in the slot, but he does come with a safety net.

He has done nothing, but produce every year he has played football. He will continue to get better, command more targets and make more impressive plays on the field. Cooper Kupp will be the leading receiver on the Los Angeles Rams this year, and if he is on your fantasy team, this stud will lead you to success.

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Marc Mathyk is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Marc, check out his archive and follow him @Masterjune70.

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