It’s crazy how much the Amari Cooper narrative has changed over the past month. Cooper was one of the most inconsistent players in fantasy with the Oakland Raiders, constantly infuriating his owners. He’d either record over 100 yards and a score or two catches for 15 yards, and there was really no in-between. However, Cooper has played up to his massive potential ever since joining the Dallas Cowboys.
Cooper was expected to be a bench piece at best following the trade, but his fantastic performances have made him a must-start moving forward. This begs the question: is Cooper for real? We’ve been down this road with Cooper before, and some may question if he can sustain this success. The good news is that everything Cooper’s doing is completely sustainable. While he may not put up 180 yards and two scores every week, the Cowboys have made him the clear top option and are utilizing him in a way which best fits his strengths.
Fantasy Football: Amari Cooper Is Here To Stay
There’s no way to perfectly predict fantasy production, but one of the safer ways is by tracking targets and snap percentage. Obviously, the more a player is on the field, the more opportunities they’ll have to earn fantasy points. The same logic applies to targets.
Since joining the Cowboys, Cooper has seen 32 targets in his four games played. This is obviously great news for Cooper owners, as it means Dak Prescott is constantly trying to get him the ball. Cooper’s made the most of his targets, hauling in 22 receptions for 349 yards and three touchdowns.
His snap count tells a similar story. Since joining the Cowboys, Cooper has seen no fewer than 68% of any game’s snaps. Ironically enough, yesterday’s eight-catch, 180-yard performance was his lowest snap percentage of the season. Prior to Thursday Night’s game, Cooper had played at least 78% of every game with the Cowboys.
So what are the Cowboys doing that the Raiders couldn’t? Cooper hasn’t had this run of success since back in 2016 so it’s fair to be skeptical of the results. Did Dallas figure something out with Cooper, or is this just an extended flash in the pan?
Digging into the advanced stats shows that the Cowboys are simply doing what the Raiders should have been doing all along. Per NFL Next Gen stats, Cooper is averaging three yards of separation this season. This is above the league average, which means that Cooper has been doing enough for his quarterbacks all season long.
Since we know Cooper’s getting open consistently, let’s look at where his targets are going. Since being acquired from Oakland, the Cowboys have used Cooper almost exclusively in the short passing game. While some of that usage might be due to Prescott’s limitations as a passer, there’s no denying the strategy is working. Eight of Coopers’ nine targets on Thanksgiving came within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage, and he still managed to put up an unbelievable final stat line.
This wasn’t a one-week anomaly, either. Since joining the Cowboys, Cooper has received just five targets that went 15 yards downfield. Dallas is taking advantage of Cooper’s lateral agility and large frame to come down with passes and make yards after the catch. So far, it’s working wonders.
Surprisingly, the Raiders utilized Cooper in a similar manner. Per SharpFootballStats.com, only 22.5% of Cooper’s targets went further than 15 yards downfield. Like in Dallas, the Raiders primarily used Cooper in the short-to-intermediate portions of the field.
However, unlike Dallas, Oakland just chose not to target Cooper. Despite consistently getting open, quarterback Derek Carr just didn’t look Cooper’s way. Cooper’s 67% success rate was 15.5% higher than league average, meaning that he was one of the leagues’ best at picking up the necessary yardage when targeted short.
Despite this, Carr targeted Cooper just 24 times this season in the short part of the field. There’s really no excuse for this, as Cooper was the most talented and most successful receiver in Oakland.
Last Word on Amari Cooper’s Recent Surge
Amari Cooper has been everything the Dallas Cowboys needed and is playing up to his first-round potential. Since joining Dallas, Cooper has been one of the most successful receivers in the league, highlighted by his dominant eight-catch, 180-yard, and two-touchdown performance on Thanksgiving.
After years of inconsistency, Cooper is finally in a position to succeed on a weekly basis. Dallas is utilizing him as their unquestioned top passing option. Because of this, he’s seeing a sizable portion of the snaps and the targets in the Cowboys offense. Additionally, Dallas is using him in the short portion of the field, which plays well to Cooper’s strengths. All of this production is sustainable and should carry over for the rest of the season.
Most of Cooper’s struggles in Oakland were due to forces outside of his control. He consistently got open and made plays whenever he was targeted. However, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr just refused to target him on a consistent basis. Whether this was due to playcalling or subpar quarterbacking is up for debate. However, there’s no denying Cooper was drastically misused the last few years in Oakland.
This version of Amari Cooper is the true Amari Cooper. All of his battles with inconsistency were due to an inefficient Oakland Raiders squad. Anyone who bought low on Cooper after the initial trade should be ecstatic, as Cooper has transformed into a weekly startable asset just in time for the fantasy football playoffs.
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