We Might Be Expecting Too Much From Amari Cooper

Amari Cooper was the first wide receiver selected in this year’s NFL draft, and expectations are high for his rookie season. Team RotoViz likes Cooper a lot as well – perhaps too much.

Here’s our staff composite projection for Cooper’s rookie season.

Player Proj Finish FP Tar Rec Yds YPR TD
Amari Cooper WR18 226.6 132 82 1019 12.5 6.6

On the surface, that seems like a reasonable projection. But let’s dig in. Here are four reasons why we might be expecting too much from him.

1. Have we entered a new era, where rookie WRs can routinely top 1000 yards, or is history still relevant? I don’t know the answer, but even last year, in arguably the best class of rookie wide receivers ever, only three rookies finished as top-20 fantasy WRs: Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, and Kelvin Benjamin.  More on this later, but those three averaged 14.3, 15.5, and 13.8 yards/reception, well above the 12.5 number we project for Cooper.

2. In the past 3 years, 69 WRs have had between 12 & 13 YPR: only eight have matched or exceeded the fantasy points we project for Cooper. Those eight averaged 9.9 TDs, well more than our target for Cooper. Of those 69, only nine topped 80 catches or 1000 yards. None were rookies. In other words, our projection for Cooper would be historically anomalous.

3. Out of 59 first round WRs since 2000, only five topped 1000 yards. They averaged 15 yards/reception on 75 catches. Our projected catch total is similar, so either Cooper needs to catch many more balls, or be more efficient. We’re already projecting Cooper for the second-most targets by a first-round rookie since 2000, and being more efficient might be a problem, because…

4. Derek Carr is not that good.

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Yes, Andre Holmes did manage 14.7 yards/reception on 99 targets last year. But Carr doesn’t appear to be the type of quarterback likely to either improve much or support a top-tier WR. From the QB Sim App, we see Carr’s comps posted only 6.7 yards/attempt in the next season.

Using Comps from PFR1 here’s how the top WR for each QB fared in the following season:

Comp QB N+1 WR YPR Note
Brandon Weeden Josh Gordon 16.8
EJ Manuel Mike Williams 9.6
Chris Weinke Mushin Muhammed 8.1
Ryan Fitzpatrick Chad Johnson 5.9 Went 2 years w/o attempt.
Trent Edwards Steve Johnson 8.7
Derek Anderson Braylan Edwards 9.5
Ken Dorsey Arnaz Battle 9.6
Cade McNown Dez White 9.8
Akili Smith Craig Yeast 6.2
Matt Moore Steve Smith 10.7 Went 1 year w/o attempt
John Beck Jabar Gaffney 8.1 Went 4 years w/o attempt

After posting a season like Carr’s 2014, three of these QBs went at least a full season without attempting another pass. That’s. Not. Good. Only one of their top WRs managed a yards/reception better than what Cooper would need to hit our target projection. Takeaway: to post the type of season we project, Cooper needs to be great enough, as a rookie, to overcome what looks to be epically bad QB play.


Something seems amiss. Unless Cooper receives a record-number of targets for a rookie WR, or is able to be far more efficient than most receivers with similar QB play, he seems unlikely to reach our target projection. Of course, both of those things are possible, and some better-than-expected touchdown scoring would help too. In redraft, I’m tempering my expectations. In dynasty, I’m looking for a potential buy-low opportunity in the future.

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  1. More than 100 attempts, played in 2000s; top WR with more than 10 targets.  (back)