Amari Cooper Could Lead the League in Targets

This article is part of a series about wide receivers who could lead the league in targets.

The short list of WRs who are expected to lead the league in targets in 2016 consists of Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Odell Beckham Jr. However, there are several other WRs with a legitimate chance to challenge the big three. Among those potential underdogs is sophomore stud Amari Cooper.

The last three season leaders in targets were Julio Jones (203), Demaryius Thomas (184), and Pierre Garcon (182). In order for Cooper to secure the prestigious fantasy title of target leader, he will probably need to hit at least 180 targets. No rookie or sophomore receiver has ever topped 170 targets, but as the landscape of NFL offenses shift towards more and more passing volume, these usage records will fall.

Turn Up the Volume

Last season, the Oakland Raiders were tied for 13th in the NFL in pass attempts with 606. It’s certainly possible for that number to increase in 2016, but how likely is it? I’ll use the Projection Machine to explore this question:

OakProjMach

The Projection Machine initially works off of three factors: average scoring margin per play, pass tendency, and pace tendency. In projecting Oakland’s offense, I’ve listened to Vegas and given them the appropriate average scoring margin in respect to their estimated win total of 7.5. I’ve also accounted for some regression to the mean in terms of run to pass tendency. Pace tendency is where I’ve projected a slight increase from last season as Derek Carr enters his third season and second with Bill Musgrave. With these settings plugged in, we have 607 pass attempts to divvy up. After projecting just one more pass attempt than last year, we don’t have to worry about the Oakland passing offense needing to do something they haven’t already done.

A Bull Market Market Share

PlayerProjected Target PercentageProjected Targets
Amari Cooper30%182.31
Michael Crabtree21%127.62
Seth Roberts10%60.77
All Other WRs8.5%51.65
Clive Walford11%66.85
Mychal Rivera6%36.46
Latavius Murray6.1%37.07
DeAndre Washington5%30.38
Roy Helu2.4%14.58

In case you’re wondering how big of a jump Cooper would have to make in order to reach a 30 percent share of targets, he received 21.7 percent of Oakland’s targets in 2015. If 30 percent feels high… it is. Below you will find the league leaders in targets for the last 10 seasons and their corresponding percentage of team targets:

YearPlayerTeam Target Market Share
2015Julio Jones32.9%
2014Demaryius Thomas30.5%
2013Pierre Garçon30.2%
2012Calvin Johnson27.9%
2011Roddy White30.8%
2010Roddy White31.3%
2009Andre Johnson29.4%
2008Brandon Marshall29.6%
2007Brandon Marshall33.3%
2006Torry Holt30.7%

What I gathered from this list is that in order to lead today’s NFL in targets, you need to have a target percentage of at least 29 percent or be Calvin Johnson. This actually digs up an underlying question that we are trying to unearth in our series on potential target hogs of 2016: Who can secure almost a third of their team’s targets? So if my projecting 30 percent of targets to Amari Cooper for 2016 seems like too high of a number, please keep in mind that is pretty much has to happen in order for Cooper to reach Brown, Jones and Beckham territory.

Why I Would Hang With Mr. Cooper

While the target share caveat seems daunting, Cooper is certainly capable of reaching it. Rewind to the 2015 NFL draft when Amari Cooper was drafted fourth overall. I’m going to channel my inner Captain Obvious and remind you that draft position is important to a wide receiver’s usage and success. Of the eight receivers to reach 182 targets in a season over the past decade, five were drafted in the first round. The pedigree and organizational need to feed are there for Cooper.

Another essential point to my argument for Cooper that I need to defend is what seems to be the sudden evaporation of targets for Michael Crabtree. After resurrecting his career last season with an 85/922/9 stat line and 24.3 percent of Oakland’s targets, I have Crabtree dipping down to a 21 percent target share. I’m okay with that for two reasons. First, a 21 percent target share is still a significant amount for a WR2; only four WR2s in 2015 finished with higher shares. Second, Amari Cooper is simply a more efficient player:

CrabVCoop

Before wrapping this up, let me use just one more app to further feed my love for Cooper in 2016:

GoCoop

The Wide Receiver Similarity Scores App gives some very interesting N+1 seasons based on Cooper’s 2015 rookie season. It’s exciting to see four seasons on this chart in which receivers received the sought after 29 percent or greater target share.

Conclusion

To be honest, Cooper wasn’t really on my radar until the morning I started writing this article. I wasn’t avoiding him, but I also wasn’t appreciating him and his current situation. He’s certainly not the favorite in our series of potential target leaders for 2016, but as the 12th wide receiver being taken in MFL10 drafts, I have come to realize that a top-5 finish is certainly within his reach. Draft Cooper with confidence and keep your backhand strong when one of your league mates tells you he’d rather have Michael Crabtree.

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