Amari Cooper’s fantasy outlook and projection for 2021

Amari Cooper finished as the WR15 in PPR fantasy formats in 2020 -- with Dak Prescott returning, what is Cooper's outlook and current ADP?

It has been a mixed 12 months for Amari Cooper, but what is his fantasy football outlook heading into 2021? With Dak Prescott back under center, is Cooper worth selecting at his current ADP?

Amari Cooper’s fantasy outlook for 2021

Cooper will continue to operate as the Cowboys’ No. 1 receiver. Lamb has generated a lot of buzz this offseason, and rightfully so, but Cooper is a receiver that fantasy managers should not overlook.

Cooper and Prescott were on fire

Cooper got off to a dominant start last season with a healthy Prescott during the Cowboys’ first 4 games. He averaged 13 targets, 9.2 receptions, 100 receiving yards, and 21.3 PPR fantasy points per game. The Cowboys averaged 31.5 points per game during that time frame.

Prescott and Cooper were firing on all cylinders prior to the quarterback’s season-ending ankle injury. The impact of Dak Prescott’s return cannot be overstated — it is a significant boost for Cooper and raises his fantasy ceiling. The Cowboys’ offense has multiple playmakers at every position. Cooper, Lamb, and Gallup all have the potential to see 100+ targets and exceed 1,000 receiving yards.

Cooper’s statistical production declined from Week 5 to 17. The veteran receiver caught passes from quarterbacks Andy Dalton, Ben DiNucci, and Garrett Gilbert. As a result, Cooper’s per-game production fell to 6.6 targets, 4.6 receptions, 59.4 receiving yards, and 12.6 PPR fantasy points per game.

Still, Cooper had a solid year and finished as the WR15 in PPR formats. He finished the year with a career-high 92 receptions, 1,114 receiving yards, and 5 touchdowns. Cooper also became the fourth player in Cowboys history to finish with 90 or more receptions in a season.

With Prescott back under center in 2021, the sky is the limit for Cooper in this offense. The Cowboys led the NFL with nearly 43 pass plays per game. This trend should continue this season, considering the state of Dallas’ defense.

Dallas’ defense is still a liability

The Cowboys’ defense has made improvements this offseason but could still be tested in 2021. Dallas has matchups against five of last season’s top seven passing offenses. Thus, the offense will have to control the time of possession and score as many points as possible. As a reminder, the Cowboys’ defense allowed the ninth-most fantasy points per game to opposing offenses in 2020.

The Cowboys’ offensive line should return to prominence

The Cowboys’ OL struggled to stay healthy in 2020. Right tackle La’el Collins (16 games missed), right guard Zack Martin (6), left tackle Tyron Smith (14), and left guard Cameron Erving (10) all missed significant time with injuries in 2020. Before the injury-riddled campaign, the Cowboys’ OL unit had been lauded in previous seasons for their run blocking and pass protection.

Multiple reports suggest that Collins, Martin, Smith, and Erving have not suffered any setbacks in their recovery. Therefore, the unit is well-positioned to reclaim its elite status in 2021. Cooper’s statistical woes on the road have also been a hot topic among fantasy players over the years.

The Cowboys’ running game will also continue to prosper

Dallas’ running game is also in excellent shape with running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. Elliott has finished as an RB1 in 61% of his 71 active career games in PPR formats. Pollard has played limited snaps in his two-year career but has averaged 5 yards per rushing attempt and has four RB1 performances on his résumé.

Defensive coordinators are going to have migraines stopping the Cowboys’ offense in 2021. This is an offense you want exposure to in fantasy football. Cooper is being overlooked in drafts. Let’s break down his fantasy projection.

Fantasy projection

Given the information we have around Cooper and looking at his fantasy outlook in Dallas, he projects for around 140 targets, 95 receptions, and a little over 1,200 receiving yards in 2021 with 8 touchdowns. Cooper is a solid WR2 in PPR with a low-end WR1 ceiling.

Injury concerns for Cooper saw him held out of training camp, but it never seemed likely he would miss time once the season got underway. There might be some rustiness early in the season, but Cooper should not be someone to shy away from in drafts. If anything, the injury has helped lower his value in recent weeks.

Amari Cooper’s ADP

Cooper is being drafted in the mid-late fourth round of fantasy drafts when you review redraft ADP data from Fleaflicker. This trend is similar in pay-to-play fantasy formats, such as the National Fantasy Championship, where he has an ADP of 40.97 (WR15 overall). Furthermore, Cooper’s ADP in half PPR formats on Sleeper is 41.8.

Should you draft Cooper at this ADP in 2021?

You’ll want exposure to the Cowboys’ passing game in 2021. Cooper and Lamb are projected to finish the season with the highest target shares on the team. Additionally, Cooper quelled the “can’t play on the road” narrative in 2020. His 48 receptions for 468 receiving yards in eight road games nearly doubled his statistical production from 2019.

You’ll want to leave the fourth round of your fantasy draft with one of them on your roster.

Eric Moody is a Senior Fantasy Analyst for Pro Football Network and a member of the FSWA (Fantasy Sports Writers Association). He is also the co-host of the In The Mood for Fantasy Football podcast. You can read more of his work here and follow Eric on Twitter @EricNMoody.

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