Don’t @ me with former Raiders WR Amari Cooper ain’t worth a first round pick. People who say Cooper is not worth a first round pick are the reason players despise fantasy football. They probably don’t even watch games because you don’t need to be an insider to see Cooper open on every play. The point is, it’s lazy to point to his declining stats to define his value. Context matters in football because there are so many variables every play.
Sure, I am biased towards the Raiders and star players. That is because I know how hard it is to find a great player in any draft, and I also know the emotional and financial feelings that come with your team employing a great player. Stars not only change games and give hope, but they move merch and seats too. So yeah, I am always gonna question when Oakland moves a player for a shot in the dark that is the draft pick.
Still, that doesn’t mean I don’t know a fair trade when I see one. Thus, here is why the Raiders got fair value for Cooper and why they were only going to trade Cooper for a first round pick.
Beyond Coop’s stats
Listen, I know Cooper’s stats have been frustrating the past two seasons. He’s only got 280 yards receiving through six games this year, after only 680 receiving yards last season. That is a big drop off from 1,070 and 1,153 receiving yards he had in his first two seasons. However, his targets fell by almost 40 total last year and he battled injury. This year he’s only been targeted 32 times too which is low considering how open he is.
Moreover, the entire teams’ output and play calling also failed him. You can’t look at Cooper’s stats declining without acknowledging that both his offensive line and defensive line have regressed. Derek Carr’s struggles throwing deep and preference to checkdown have been documented, and this offensive line has looked like a shell of itself. That’s caused both the running game and passing game to not have any rhythm.
Furthermore, all this and Cooper is still in the Football Outsiders’ top 30 of total value for receivers. As a result, he ranks far above average. Still, even Football Outsiders admits this metric is impacted by the play of a QB. Again, it is hard to separate Cooper’s output from the entire offense.
Still, Cooper has never been a consistent focal point in the Raiders offense. Carr often looked at Jared Cook and Michael Crabtree as his primary clutch targets through Cooper’s time in Oakland. Their big bodies often bail Carr out when his ball placement is bad. Cooper is a much smaller target compared to those two.
Not to mention, this season Cooper ranks in the top five at yards per separation. He also suffered an injury and missed half a game. Cooper’s also faced top corners like Chris Harris, Marcus Peters and more. Many of his 19 games with less than 30 receiving yards he was targeted less than five times or targeted within five yards, per Pro Football Focus. That gives some context to his stat issues and proves it ain’t all his fault.
Additionally, this isn’t the same deal as the Raiders recent trade of Khalil Mack. In that scenario, Oakland gave up on a player they shouldn’t have because he was holding out. In this deal, they realized they weren’t going anywhere and cashed in an asset for a fair market value.
Consider this, the Rams gave up a first round pick for Brandin Cooks. Cooks flashed more productive than Cooper, but Brees and Tom Brady threw to him. Again, context. You can’t use the fact that Gordon got traded for a fifth round pick earlier this season, either. Gordon earned a reputation as damaged goods and everyone knew that.
Last season, the Bills traded Sammy Watkins for a second round pick and a starting corner. They also traded a third round pick and more Kelvin Benjamin before their deals were up. Cooper boasts fewer injury concerns and more consistent production than those guys. Speculation found Odell Beckham Jr. on the block for two first rounders before this season. Cooper isn’t quite there with OBJ, but he’s not that far off either.
Moreover, it was reported the Eagles were willing to send a second round pick for Cooper. The Redskins and Colts were also interested. Hence, there was a reason the Cowboys felt the urge to offer up that first round pick. They had no other choice.
Cooper also still has a ton of potential, too. He’s a two-time Pro Bowler at age 24. His measureables won’t jump off the screen but his route running does. He’s among the most polished route runners in the entire game. Cooper’s speed and acceleration make him a threat from any position on the field at any time. He’s the type of player that not only stretches the field but teams got to adjust coverages to account for the fact that he will blow by you. That’s especially the case if you have a QB willing to throw to him deep. Unfortunately, the Raiders never took full advantage of that.
Of course, some of the criticism he has faced stemmed from him leading the league in drops for two of his three full seasons. His 20 percent drop rate last year was among the league’s worse. That could explain why Carr doesn’t look to him on big downs and why his production has dropped off the past few years. However, Cooper didn’t have as big of an issue with drops in 2016. He should be able to get back to that. He’s young enough that a change in scenery might be what he needs to finally take that next step as a No. 1 receiver.
Not only is Cooper still developing but one could also argue that Cooper now and next season will contribute more than a rookie who has to learn and adjust to the game. Therefore, Cooper had the potential to command a first round pick on the trade block.
Additionally, Cooper’s scouting reports have always knocked his hands, the fact that he doesn’t have elite size and that he doesn’t have the type-A, throw-me-the-damn-ball and WR No. 1 mentality. All those have been somewhat true as Cooper has been exactly the player the Raiders thought they’d get at No. 4 in 2015. In that case, maybe you could say Cooper has been stagnant and he does deserve some blame for not improving.
Still, acknowledging that discredits all the things Cooper brings to a team. He brings elite mental processing knowing how to get open. Cooper’s competitive toughness is also elite as he consistently disguises his routes, runs hard when he knows he’s not getting the ball. Plus, a great run blocker for his size and frame, he punishes defenders. Cooper is a baller, gamer and if you’re reading this you’re probably a Raiders fan who knows that. You know what Cooper can be in Dallas.
You also know that Cooper hasn’t vocalized any frustration despite the underutilization and dysfunction in Oakland. At times, his body language looks like he’s frustrated or not having fun. Yet, he never displayed that outward. Besides, I can’t really blame him after these two years.
Regardless, Cooper is a leader by example and he brings intangibles you want players to emulate. Teams enter the draft hoping they can find a player with Cooper’s character and upside. That ultimately made the Cowboys pull the trigger as they even called around and asked about him. They could use a player who puts his head down and works no matter what is going on off-the-field or in the front office.
Nonetheless, It was a fair deal where Dallas got a No. 1 receiver and Oakland got a high draft pick to build around. Coop’s reputation, potential and upsides warrant a first round pick so please stop with your one-liner tweets about the Raiders pulling a fast one on the Cowboys. Anything close to that seems not only misinformed, but disrespectful.
Dallas realized that no draft picks are guaranteed and they figured Cooper merited a gamble. Other teams expressed interest, so the Cowboys made an offer that the Silver and Black couldn’t refuse.
With Cooper as a No. 1 in Dallas, the Cowboys will have a fair shot at really evaluating Dak Prescott’s potential as well as where their offensive line is and how they can build around Zeke. In fact, I’m happy Cooper is out of the sinking ship in Oakland. I wish him the best, no matter how much I hate the Cowboys or wish we would’ve got another player in the deal. Hopefully, Dallas will use him better and appreciate him more than the Raiders ever did.