The Cleveland Browns’ Amari Cooper and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Chris Godwin have been fantasy football stalwarts throughout the entirety of their respective careers, and each wideout has gotten off to a solid start in 2023.
Which of the two veterans is the better start option for fantasy managers this week?
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Amari Cooper’s Fantasy Outlook This Week
Cooper offered a tangible reminder of what makes him one of the most productive — yet arguably underrated — top-tier receivers in both a real-world and fantasy sense in Week 6.
Playing with turnover-prone PJ Walker as his quarterback against a fearsome San Francisco 49ers defense, Cooper still found his way to a 4-108 line on eight targets, a performance that featured noteworthy 58- and 26-yard catches.
The production included Cooper’s second 100-yard effort over the first five games and third with at least 90 yards. Now, Cooper appears to have a good chance of getting Deshaun Watson back under center for a favorable Week 7 matchup against the Colts, as the veteran quarterback was able to put in a full practice Friday.
Watson’s availability against Indianapolis remains far from guaranteed, as head coach Kevin Stefanski noted he would still need to see how Watson’s bruised rotator cuff responds heading into game day following the work he put in Friday. Nevertheless, even if Cooper is ultimately forced to work with Walker as his battery mate for at least one more game, there’s now evidence to suggest he can produce in that arrangement.
Additionally, the Colts make for an appealing target, having allowed 243.7 passing yards per game, including 266.3 per home contest. Indianapolis has also surrendered an elevated 10.8 yards per completion on its home field and a 66.7% catch rate to wideouts on an 80-1,011-6 line to the position overall.
Finally, it’s worth noting Cooper’s 9.4 yards per target is his highest figure in that category since 2019, while the 16.7 yards per reception he’s averaging is a career-best. He’s also laying claim to 43% of the Browns’ air yards and has a 16.2-yard aDOT (average depth of target), giving him quite the statistical foundation for big-play potential.
Chris Godwin’s Fantasy Outlook This Week
Godwin has had to adjust to a new quarterback in Baker Mayfield and the new offensive scheme run by Dave Canales. To date, it would be difficult to argue that matters haven’t gone reasonably well.
Naturally, “reasonably well” implies there’s still some room for improvement, and that’s particularly true from a fantasy perspective with Godwin. The seventh-year pro does have a solid 27-332 line through five games, and he’s actually had more of a downfield presence than during the final two years in former offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich’s system.
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Godwin’s 9.0 yards per target and 12.3 yards per reception are both his best figures since 2020. The same holds true for his 9.0-yard aDOT, and the fact he lays claim to just under 24.0% of his team’s targets is certainly encouraging in its own right.
However, Godwin still hasn’t found the end zone despite logging seven red-zone targets in five contests. Mayfield has showered Godwin with plenty of attention overall, but he’s still treated Mike Evans as his top target. Additionally, the Bucs’ receivers face an undesirable matchup in the Week 7 visit from the division-rival Falcons.
Atlanta has conceded a stingy 60.8% catch rate to receivers and just 188.3 passing yards per game over the last three contests. The Falcons also rank in the top half of the league with 9.5 yards per completion allowed and did a good job on Godwin in the two meetings in 2022, allowing him a 12-116 line with Tom Brady as his quarterback.
The Falcons are even tougher in the secondary now, with Jeff Okudah and Jessie Bates enjoying strong first seasons with the team, and Atlanta’s defensive front has helped out the unit’s backfield with a 35% pressure rate.
Which of the Two Wide Receivers Should You Start?
In the Pro Football Network Start/Sit Optimizer, PFN’s Consensus Rankings say that Godwin is the player to start. His projected 13.3 fantasy points in full-PPR formats consist of a projection of 60.8 receiving yards on six receptions. That shapes up as a signature Godwin stat line and edges Cooper’s projected 11.7 fantasy points on 3.7 receptions and 55.0 receiving yards.
However, when you isolate my rankings, I see Cooper outpacing his projected numbers and Godwin’s production as well. Naturally, Watson’s presence would up the chances of Cooper enjoying success, but as already noted, he can certainly hit for a productive game with Walker as his quarterback.
Cooper’s average of 73.4 yards and 7.8 targets per game and matchup against the Colts’ defense on the faster track of Lucas Oil Stadium stand out. It’s also important to note Indy could well force Cleveland to be more pass-heavy due to its success stopping the run and its own offensive weapons, more so than a run-centric Atlanta team might compel Tampa Bay in the same manner.