TFF Writing Contest Round 1, 3rd Place Finish: Brian Grow
June 20, 2015 | Chet
Editor’s Note: Congratulations to Brian Grow who finished in third place for Round 1 of The Fake Football Writing Contest Sponsored by Victiv with the following piece. Give Brian a follow on Twitter at @FantasyOutlaw.
Rookie wide receivers in 2014 raised the bar, skyrocketed expectations, broke records, took the league by storm, use whatever superlative you’d like to describe them. The utter disregard that this class had for the “Rookie wide receivers take a year or two to develop” mantra, that has been so prevalent in fantasy conversations, was crystal clear. The 2014 class produced three 1,000+ yard wide receivers (Evans, Beckham Jr, Benjamin, with Watkins knocking on the door at 982 yards) and five 8+ TD scorers (Evans, Beckham, Benjamin, Matthews, Bryant). This isn’t the only striking thing about the class, however. These top performers overshadowed some receivers that would have been the top producers of other classes. Brandin Cooks, Jarvis Landry, John Brown, Allen Robinson, Donte Moncrief, Devante Adams, all supported many assertions that this is the best, deepest class that we’ve ever seen (you’ll find a glob of articles raining plenty of praise, so I’ll go no further).
Experts and amateurs alike have looked to the 2015 rookie wide receiver class, wide eyed and salivating, to snag the next big WR. This class undoubtedly has receivers who will produce for their NFL teams and for your fantasy team, but while last year almost any piece of the WR pie got you solid production, this class will not live up to your expectations, that 2014 has unfairly given you. However, it is our duty to sift through the mountains of information, stats, tape, interviews, and measurables, to connect the dots that will allow us to select the players that will elevate fantasy teams. After following that process, I would like to present my case for the WR that will produce the most in 2015.
Amari Cooper is like finding a perfect pair of shoes. Much of the time you have to sacrifice something (ie, they look awesome, but blister the crap out of your feet, or they feel like you’re walking on clouds, but you look down and realize you’re wearing Dante Fowler’s Draft night kicks). With Cooper, you get the fit, the support, the look, and he goes with everything (yes, even Oakland silver and black). With him, you aren’t giving up much in any of the important attributes for a stud WR. When looking for 2015 producers, I look for three things: 1) talent/skill, 2) opportunity, and 3) cost.
One of the first things that I look at is college production. Cooper delivers above and beyond in this category. His 2014 numbers:
2014: 124 receptions, 1,727 yards, 16 TDs
Average/game: 8.86 receptions, 123.3 yards, 1.14 TDs
Now, these numbers absolutely have us salivating and they absolutely should. Even in games where he didn’t have 100+ yards he is still putting up good numbers in PPR settings, and really only put up one absolute stinker in 2014. What I do next is look at if the tape matches what I see in the production. Amari Cooper did what he should in college, and what he did was make SEC defensive backs look silly. His elite route running allowed for him to rack up catches, which turned into big yards and plays. He has good sized hands and is able to catch way from his body, but also knows when to protect it and let it come into his body. He has speed and quickness and excellent tracking ability for deep balls. But even with all these attributes, wide receivers who have similar skills (whether perceived are not) haven’t made it. What completes Amari Cooper is the mental edge he has, the smarts, the understanding of the game, the IQ that makes these skills precise. Observation from Raider’s camp have pointed out that Amari is looking like a seasoned veteran, running crisp routes and having no problem with the playbook. These may not seem like ‘Extra! Extra! Read all about it’ stories, but the tales of Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson show us exactly what happens when the mental edge is missing from a wide receiver’s makeup.
The biggest knock that has been spoken of him is that he ‘lacks ideal size’ (funny that Sammy Watkins wasn’t labeled with this knock even though ESPN stats puts them at exactly the same size 6’1’’, 211 lbs). Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers has proven that not all elite WRs come in a 6’3’’, 220 lbs frame. All in all, I believe that Amari Cooper is the most talented WR in this draft class.
In 2014, the Oakland Raiders let loose their rookie quarterback Derek Carr and ended up as the 4th highest team for pass attempts. When you look at the receiving corps of James Jones, Rod Streater, Andre Holmes, Denarius Moore, Kenbrell Tompkins, Mychael Rivera, and Brice Butler, you can imagine why the Raiders were a bottom feeder in the league with completion percentage at 58.0%. When you watch games, that is more a reflection of the receivers than of Carr. The best position for the players above are role players and with the arrival of Amari Cooper, Derek Carr finally has a true #1 receiver, which shifts each of these other receivers into more natural complementary players instead of trying to pigeonhole them into responsibilities they aren’t ready for. I would not be surprised to see Cooper’s name within the top 10 of players targeted in the league this year. Not rookies, all players. If Kelvin Benjamin can land as the 6th highest targeted receiver in the situation he landed in with Carolina, it isn’t difficult to draw similarities to the one Cooper had just landed in with Oakland, and in my estimation, Amari Cooper is a supremely more talent player than Benjamin. If Amari Cooper does have a tough time in his first year, the sheer volume that he will receive provides him with one of the highest floors of all the 2015 rookies.
For redraft, per FantasyPros.com, Amari Cooper’s ADP is 71st overall and as the WR30, in PPR formats! I’m strongly skeptical that it will stay this way, seeing that he is behind guys like Vincent Jackson, Victor Cruz, Martavis Bryant, Jeremy Maclin, and DeSean Jackson. If he does stay this far down by the time you are doing your redraft leagues, he could be one of the biggest steals of your draft. I imagine by your draft day, he will have crept up to the 4th or 5th round which is about the right price for him.
In dynasty leagues, per DynastyLeagueFootball.com, Amari Cooper’s ADP is 21st overall as the WR14 in startups and has jumped Todd Gurley as the consensus 1.01 in rookie drafts. For reference, he is just before TY Hilton and slotted right behind Jordy Nelson. There may be a player or two I’d take over him at that startup ADP, but to me, his cost is just about right in that range.
Amari Cooper is a jack of all trades, but some say “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Well, when it comes to playing wide receiver, maybe Cooper should be deemed king of all trades, because he does everything much above average. The skillset that he possesses, elite route running, great hands, high football IQ, the opportunity that Oakland presents with Carr slinging it all over, and the current cost you can get him all culminate into the WR that will be the most productive in 2