Amari Cooper Fantasy Outlook: Can He and Deshaun Watson Get on the Same Page in 2023?

    His numbers dropped dramatically when Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson returned in 2022, but what is Amari Cooper's fantasy outlook in 2023?

    At PFN, we’ve researched more than 350 fantasy football players, trying to identify which ones are overrated, underrated, and priced right. With that in mind, here is Cleveland Browns WR Amari Cooper’s fantasy outlook for 2023.

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    Amari Cooper’s 2023 Fantasy Outlook

    The Browns’ Deshaun Watson experiment is entering its first of many full seasons. For this franchise, anything less than a Super Bowl might be viewed as a failure. Regardless, they first need to establish that they’re a playoff team.

    Watson isn’t some random player. He’s a three-time Pro Bowler and dual-threat QB who’s supposed to give Cleveland a long-term anchor at the NFL’s most coveted position. Yet, despite averaging more time to throw than any other starting quarterback, he frequently wilted in his return to the field a little over midway through last season.

    His connection with Cooper highlights how Watson impacted his No. 1 WR’s fantasy value and why the wideout’s outlook this season is as cloudy as it’s ever been.

    With veteran Jacoby Brissett under center for the first 11 games, Cooper did just fine, averaging 5.2 catches for 72.0 yards on 8.5 targets (61% catch rate) while also netting .64 touchdowns per game. But with Watson at the helm, Cooper averaged only 3.5 catches for 61.3 yards on 6.5 targets (54% catch rate) while securing only .33 touchdowns per game.

    Some of that assuredly is correctable in 2023. Watson can’t possibly be as middling (or sub-middling) as he looked while shaking off the rust late last season. Remember, he used to be one of the league’s top QBs. He’s still only 27 years old. There’s gotta be enough juice in that arm to power the Browns’ aerial attack.

    And yet, there are headwinds. The arrival of 2021 second-round draft pick Elijah Moore, as well as the third-round selection of rookie Cedric Tillman, seemingly gives Watson all the remaining tools he needs to return to the upper echelon of the quarterback universe.

    This is no longer a “Cooper & Company” receiving corps. Along with the solid Donovan Peoples-Jones and 2022 third-round pick David Bell, Watson will have a lot of options.

    Oh, and don’t forget the ascending David Njoku and a backfield led by the elite Nick Chubb.

    And yes, it’s easy to toss around names of players and say, “See? There are plenty of mouths to feed.” We all know that on some teams, this is bunk — that the top talent rises, and the lesser talent fight for scraps.

    Yet the Browns are in a unique situation, led by a quarterback who has to prove that he more than deserves to earn the most guaranteed money in NFL history.

    Adding to the concerns for Cooper’s fantasy value is the fact that he tied his career-high with 132 targets in 2022. There’s almost no chance that he’ll earn more looks this year because this is no longer a top-heavy passing attack. Last year, Cooper, Peoples-Jones, and Njoku combined for 308 of the 418 targets to WRs and TEs — or a 74% receiver target share.

    That’s not sustainable in 2023 — not with Moore and Tillman on board.

    So when analyzing Cooper’s fantasy outlook, we’re confronted with three major questions. First, can he and Watson get on the same page? Because last year, they frequently weren’t.

    Second, how much will Cooper’s targets drop in light of the dramatically increased competition in this passing game? And finally, tying back to the first question, is there a decent chance that the 29-year-old Cooper might not be Watson’s No. 1 receiver?

    On that last point, in Watson’s six games last season, he threw to Cooper more than anyone else three times, while Cooper tied for the target lead once. And twice, Cooper lagged behind Peoples-Jones or Njoku.

    So yes, there is a chance that Cooper might occasionally (or more than occasionally) take a backseat to Moore, Peoples-Jones, or Njoku. We might witness a huge second-year leap from Bell or some impressive outings from Tillman.

    Cooper’s standing atop the depth chart is no longer assured. Yes, it’s more likely than not, at least for one more year. But if you’re betting on Cooper in fantasy, you’re probably assuming he’ll be the lead guy. Be wary of the distinct possibility that he won’t be four, six, eight times, or more.

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