Rapid React: Amari Cooper Traded to Cowboys (Fantasy Football)
Despite new head coach Jon Gruden’s assertion just a week ago that the Raiders weren’t shopping Amari Cooper, the former Alabama wide-out and first-round pick is headed to Dallas. The move was announced Monday afternoon, and the Raiders will receive the Cowboys’ 2019 first-round pick in the deal. Rumors have swirled around a possible deal for Cooper for the last few weeks, and the Raiders seem to be in full rebuild mode under Gruden having already traded defensive stud Khalil Mack before the season started and putting S Karl Joseph on the market.
Cooper was drafted as the fourth-overall pick in the 2015 draft after a wildly productive career at Alabama. He started off his NFL career with flare, notching back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons on a combined 155 receptions, grabbing 11 TD passes in the process. He made the Pro Bowl in each of those seasons, but the wheels came off last year when Cooper went 48-680-7.
This year, he’s gone 22-280-1, but most of that production has come in just two games — Weeks 2 and 4. He didn’t play much in Week 6 because of a concussion he sustained in the game, but in his other three games, he has a combined 4-36-0 line. The roller coaster ride of production has become a hallmark for No. 89 in his short NFL career, and he’s been even more disappointing this season because of the high expectations that came with the absence of Michael Crabtree.
Now that he’s in Dallas, Cooper will look to find some consistency as the clear number-one option in an absolutely weak receiving corps. Let’s take a look at how this trade will impact the fantasy stock of Cooper, his former Raiders teammates, and some Cowboys pass-catchers.
Amari Cooper (WR – DAL)
Cooper finds himself in a much better situation in Dallas, and he should immediately become the team’s top dog at receiver. Although Cooper was the Raiders’ de facto number one this season, Derek Carr seemed averse to getting him the ball with regularity, and Cooper is only the team’s third most targeted player in 2018. In Weeks 2 and 4, Cooper had a combined 25 targets. In Weeks 1, 3, and 5, he had a combined nine targets.
Although Dak Prescott has proclaimed his love for “spreading the ball around,” his play on the field speaks differently. In Dak’s first two seasons, he peppered Cowboys castoff Dez Bryant with 228 targets, a healthy 24% target share. This season, with no clear top option, five players on the Cowboys own at least a 10% target share, with no player accounting for more than 20%. The Cowboys’ leading receiver this year is Cole Beasley, and Dallas won’t win a ton of games if that continues.
Amari Cooper’s numbers have been inconsistent, with six games of 10 receiving yards or fewer and 10 games under 35 receiving yards in his last 19 games, but this change of scenery is certainly better for Cooper’s production and consistency down the stretch. He is a wildly talented receiver and has exploded for some monster games in his career when given the targets. The Cowboys are starving for a star wide receiver, and they have found one in Cooper. Look for him to be a top-25 fantasy option at WR, with the potential for a much higher finish.
Jordy Nelson (WR – OAK)
He started the year slow, going for only 55 total yards in Weeks 1 and 2, but before Oakland’s meltdown against Seattle, the former Pro Bowl Packer scored in three straight contests from Weeks 3 – 5. In those games, he averaged five receptions, nearly seven targets, and almost 90 yards. His production won’t be consistent on a bad Raiders offense, but Cooper’s departure does open the door for additional looks. Nelson leads the Raiders in TD receptions and is second in receiving yards with 323. He’ll be a low-end WR3 for the rest of the season, but there’s nothing to get too excited about here.
Derek Carr (QB – OAK)
Carr simply hasn’t played well this season, and although he hasn’t been keen to target Amari Cooper as often as he should, he’s still losing a valuable weapon in the passing game. Cooper has accounted for nearly a quarter of Carr’s 13,203 passing yards since 2015, the most of any Raider. Carr will likely continue to feed his top two receiving options, Jared Cook and Jalen Richard, with a few more passes going to Jordy Nelson. Expect Carr’s production to come down with the Cooper trade, but it won’t be a dramatic drop-off. Carr is still just a mid-range QB2 in fantasy.
Jared Cook (TE – OAK)
He’s having arguably the best season of his career, and his team-leading target share should only increase after the Amari Cooper trade. Cook is on pace to surpass his career marks in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and receiving TDs. He leads the Raiders in receptions (32) and receiving yards (400). He’ll remain a TE1 moving forward, and expect his numbers to climb slightly.
Jalen Richard (RB – OAK)
Richard has been targeted 37 times this season, second most on the team behind TE Jared Cook. No Amari Cooper means more targets in the passing game, and with Marshawn Lynch placed on IR, Richard could be in for a big uptick in touches and production from here on out. The door is open for weekly flex consideration, especially in PPR leagues.
Ezekiel Elliott (RB – DAL)
He’s been the centerpiece of the Cowboys’ offense since entering the league in 2015, and that won’t change now. In fact, Cooper’s presence on the field will open up the offense for Zeke, who has faced at least eight men in the box on 24% of his runs this season. Expect opposing defenses to honor the passing game more and Elliott to find more running room. The Cooper trade is good news for Zeke owners.
Dak Prescott (QB – DAL)
He started the year virtually unplayable, but he’s come alive in the last two weeks, demolishing a reeling Jaguars team in Week 6 and posting a solid game against Washington in Week 7. The Cowboys have a friendly schedule after the Week 8 bye, and the week off will give Dak and Cooper time to get on the same page. The third-year signal-caller is on the rise.
Cole Beasley (WR – DAL)
He’s the Cowboys’ leading receiver with a paltry 350 yards in seven games. He has a moderate floor in PPR formats, but his ceiling is very low. Cooper’s presence definitely takes away from Beasley, but he’s likely to keep his role in the short passing game. Beasley is a desperation play most weeks.
Allen Hurns (WR – DAL)
The former Jag has been nearly invisible in his first season in Dallas, going 13-158-1 so far. Nearly half of his production came in Week 7, where he managed 74 yards, easily a season high. Hurns hasn’t been on the fantasy radar at all this season, and that doesn’t change now that he’s teammates with Amari Cooper.
Michael Gallup (WR – DAL)
Gallup had his best game of the season in Week 7, going 3-81-1. On the season, the third-round pick from Colorado State has only secured 10 balls for 190 yards in seven games. Cooper’s presence on the offense should open up the field for his teammates, but this Dallas offense can’t support two fantasy-relevant receivers. Gallup isn’t a fantasy option right now.