CBS play-by-play announcer Andrew Catalon told an anecdote during the Oakland versus Tampa Bay matchup in Week 8 about wide receiver Amari Cooper. While playing at Alabama, Cooper told Catalon that he expected to win every single game. Despite Oakland having missed the playoffs 14-straight seasons, Cooper said he now has the same expectation for the Raiders. Fantasy football owners with Cooper in the lineup expect to win just about every week too. That’s how good the second-year wide receiver has been in the first half of 2016.
The touchdowns are sparse, mostly due to Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr favoring Michael Crabtree in the red zone, but Cooper has had some monster games. In four of the first eight contests this season, he has recorded 100 receiving yards. This past weekend, he posted his best stat line of the season with career-highs of 12 catches, 173 yards and a touchdown.
Behind the best performance of his career, Cooper hits the halfway point of the season with 787 receiving yards, which ranks third-most in the league.
That’s pretty good for a guy a lot of fantasy owners were frustrated with due to the fact that Crabtree appeared to be heavily targeted as well, particularly in the end zone. The biggest difference between the two legitimate No. 1 receivers is Crabtree has scored six touchdowns versus Cooper’s two, but Cooper averages 3.0 additional yards per reception. Other than that, both receivers have between 74-81 targets along with 47-52 catches.
Crabtree scored half of his touchdowns in Week 4 against Baltimore, which certainly frustrated Cooper fans, but since then, Cooper has benefitted greatly due to the fact opposing defenses can no longer simply double cover him. In fact, over the last four games, Crabtree has seen most of the better cover guys, leading to great matchups for Cooper.
The second-year pro has taken advantage with 32 catches and 469 yards during that stretch. He also has both of his scores in the last four weeks.
That was clearly the advantage he had Sunday against Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers matched up veteran cornerback Brent Grimes with Crabtree for most of the day. That left rookie Vernon Hargreaves III to cover Cooper.
Hargreaves experienced covering Cooper from college. The cornerback played at Florida and was assigned to cover Cooper, who played at Alabama, when the two teams met in 2014. It was an unfair contest, as Cooper ate him up just as he did Sunday.
Cooper won’t have a rookie that he already has experience beating covering him the rest of the season, but the fact there appears to be a growing trend of the “secondary” corners matching up against him is great news for fantasy football players.
— Nick Hjeltness (@NickHjeltness) October 30, 2016
Sunday was also the first real time that Carr routinely looked in Cooper’s direction. The second-year receiver had just two targets in the first half against Tampa Bay, but on the first two drives of the second half alone, Cooper had five targets, one of which he caught in the end zone for a score. Carr and the Raiders made it a focal point of getting Cooper the ball in the second half.
Admittedly, there are a few reasons to consider selling high on the the former Alabama receiver. Not only will Cooper likely not line up against a rookie cornerback the rest of the season, but the Raiders face a fair amount of tough secondaries. Oakland must still play Denver twice, Houston and Indianapolis, which all rank in the bottom five in terms of fantasy points allowed to wide receivers according to Yahoo.
Plus, Carr isn’t going to attempt 59 passes and throw for 513 yards along with four touchdowns every week. Cooper and Crabtree both went over 100 yards Sunday, and that can’t be anticipated to happen each game either.
But if owners do elect to keep Cooper, that is far from a bad choice. He should continue to receive opportunities for huge games due to the fact defenses must stop both him and Crabtree.