Now that he’s been traded to the Cleveland Browns, dynasty fantasy football managers must adjust how they view WR Amari Cooper for the 2022 season and beyond. Paired with a new QB and in a new offense, has Cooper’s value changed following the recent moves, and what should managers do if he is on their fantasy roster?
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Amari Cooper’s dynasty profile for 2022
The 2022 NFL offseason, at least the last month or so, has been absurd. It seems no player is safe, and at any moment, all of our phones could start blowing up with notifications concerning the latest news.
While some transactions came out of left field, Cooper leaving Dallas was not as much of a surprise. It was widely rumored he would be either released or traded due to the cap situation the Cowboys had placed themselves in for 2022.
The only question was where Cooper would play. That question was answered when he was traded to the Browns, which is very intriguing. For one, this is no longer a Baker Mayfield offense. It’s Deshaun Watson under center now.
That is a significant difference, as Watson is unquestionably an upgrade. When we last saw Watson in 2020, he threw for over 4,800 yards with 33 TDs to Brandin Cooks and Will Fuller. He’s a top-six QB, and you could argue he’s slightly better than Dak Prescott.
Cooper is the unrivaled No. 1 option once again
Cooper is the unquestioned No. 1 target on the Browns’ offense. Jarvis Landry remains a free agent following his release. The rest of the depth chart is comprised of Donovan Peoples-Jones, Jakeem Grant, Anthony Schwartz, and Ja’Marcus Bradley. Those four combined for 108 targets in 2021, only 4 more than Cooper had in just 15 games. That was his lowest number of targets since 2017.
The Browns have been a run-first offense under Kevin Stefanski, rushing on 46% of their plays last season (the NFL average was 42%). While I don’t expect them to become pass-happy, you don’t make a blockbuster trade for a top-tier QB to have him hand the ball off 35+ times a game.
Cooper is a top-24 receiver in dynasty
Still 27 years old, Cooper is in the prime of his career. He is one of the best route runners in the NFL and will be the red-zone target for Watson. While I do expect the Browns to add to their WR room, it’s not unreasonable to pencil in Cooper for 27% or more of the targets.
If the Browns still had Mayfield at QB, this would be seen as a downgrade for Cooper in dynasty. Yet, with Watson, it’s a slight upgrade over his previous situation, as he’s not sharing a room with a fellow elite WR in CeeDee Lamb.
Cooper is a solid mid-WR2 who can give you over 1,000 yards or more every season, just as he has in each campaign in which he’s played 14 or more games. While there is a premium on the incredible youth at the position right now, Cooper should not be forgotten about when retooling your dynasty teams.
Fantasy projection for Cooper
It’s difficult to give a confident projection at the moment. The biggest question isn’t even with Cooper, but his QB. Although Watson was cleared in a criminal court, there is still the civil side of things.
He will be suspended, that much I am certain. Even the Browns seem to be hedging their bets, given the structure of his 2022 salary. But it’s anyone’s guess as to how long Watson’s ban will be. It could be four games, eight, or even the whole season. Until we have a definitive answer, I’m reluctant to go too far into projections.
Cooper will greatly benefit once Watson is the QB
What I can say is this: Cooper will be busy regardless of who is under center. With Watson, the targets will simply be far more efficient. Cooper would project to see volume in a similar ballpark as Brandin Cooks did in 2020 (24%).
He could even reach a slightly higher target share, as there is no Fuller on this squad. Cooks was the WR15 with over 1,100 yards on 120 targets in that season. Fuller was the WR28 (11 games) on 21% of the targets (75).
When paired with Watson, Cooper is a weekly high-end WR2 for fantasy. However, with Jacoby Brissett, Cooper is closer to a low-end WR2, if not a WR3. Stefanski will rely on his rushing attack with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to move the ball in games without Watson. Cooper will see targets, but they’ll be less efficient. His weekly value will be more boom or bust depending on his ability to pull in red-zone targets.
I would only invest in Cooper for 2022 once we have a clear and definitive answer on how the league will handle Watson. From that point, we can get a clearer picture of how to value Cooper and the Browns in general.