Like most of the offense, Amari Cooper struggled in 2017, and we ask, will he rack up more or less than 1,200 receiving yards in 2018?
The list of Oakland Raiders players who disappointed in 2017 was very long, but Amari Cooper was at the top. After two productive seasons, I expected Cooper to begin ascending into top 10 receiver status in 2017. Unfortunately, he descended and at times flat out disappeared during many games.
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Now as the 2018 season approaches, a new offensive scheme, good health, and more pivotal role have Cooper poised to remind people why he was taken top 5 in the 2015 NFL Draft. So what would constitute as a great season for Cooper?
His personal bests are 83 receptions (2016), 1153 yards (2016) and 7 touchdowns (2017). I want to take a look at receiving yards individually and breaking down if Cooper is in position to eclipse the 1200 yard mark in 2018.
Before we address Cooper specifically, let’s look at the league as a whole. Last season only six receivers had over 1200 yards. Which is pretty low considering the way teams are passing the ball these days. So this is definitely no easy feat, and there are a few benchmarks Cooper will need to hit if he wants to get there.
For one, he’ll need a lot more targets than he did in 2017. Cooper’s targets dropped from 130 and 132 in his first two seasons, all the way to 96 last year. Of the receivers who’ve had 1200 yards in the previous five seasons, the lowest number of targets was 127 (DeAndre Hopkins in 2014). So at the minimum, he’ll need to return to his previous target numbers. Though to be safe, it is probably better to have around 140 or more targets. In that 5 year span I just referenced, only three players reached 1200 yards while having 132 targets or less, which is Cooper’s highest target total yet.
Jon Gruden has made it clear that Cooper will be the center of the Raiders passing offense, so now it’s up to Cooper. He will need to avoid his tendency to disappear during long stretches of games. If that happens, he’ll easily get the targets he needs.
Making himself a good target every week will also make his yards per game less deceiving. For example, even though Cooper had 1153 yards in 2016, he only had one game over 75 receiving yards after week 8 of the season. In 2017, he only had two games over 75 yards. I keep bring up a 75 receiving yard threshold because that’s what Cooper must average to safely hit 1200 yards.
And lastly, but probably the most obvious of the criteria, Cooper will need to stay healthy. He definitely played through some nagging injuries last season which contributed to his poor play. Achieving 1200 yards would be a sign that he has both mentally and physically endured the whole season.
Cooper hasn’t proven himself consistent enough yet for me to have 100% confidence he’ll reaching this feat. Plus, even though he is being pegged as the primary focus of the passing game, there are many players to spread the ball to on offense. Martavis Bryant and Jordy Nelson will eat up targets and so will Jared Cook at tight end. Then you have to factor in the running game which has a chance to improve.
Also, if Cooper is the number one guy, he’ll get the best corner from the opposing teams on the schedule. Such as Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Casey Hayward (twice), Patrick Peterson, Chris Harris Jr. (twice) and William Jackson III. I will have to see Cooper win these matchups consistently before I believe it. This does not mean in any way Cooper will have a bad season, I still think he’ll reach over 1000 yards in 2018. Just not sure he is at the next stage yet, but I’ll gladly be proven wrong.