The Oakland Raiders have made what appears to be a very questionable string of moves at wide receiver within just a few days span. After watching Jordy Nelson get released by Green Bay, the Raiders immediately dumped Michael Crabtree in order to sign the longtime Packers receiver, which was met with justifiable criticism by some industry experts. However, I think new head coach Jon Gruden wanted this move with one player and one player only in mind- Amari Cooper.
With the move seeming like an impulse decision with many critics noting Jordy Nelson’s extensive injury history as the red flag. There were several industry analysts quick to label it an unnecessary risk for a franchise who cannot afford to miss in its personnel decisions. While I do agree with this analysis from a heads up perspective comparing Crabtree to Nelson, I strongly believe most of his critics are missing the bigger picture and what this will do for Amari Cooper’s career going forward.
Gruden clearly wanted to break Derek Carr’s bad habit of eye balling Crabtree on what seemed to be every passing play last year with the exception of a handful of games. Something Gruden himself has been very outspoken about as a color commentator when the Raiders played games he was assigned to commentate on. He would often question the play calling from Oakland coaches for not making Cooper their featured receiver as he’s seemingly more explosive than Crabtree.
Yes, Cooper had a nagging injury that clearly effected his play in 2017 but even then, the numbers don’t lie. Nine times last season he had 7 or less targets in a single game and in three of those he wasn’t targeted more then twice. During this nine game stretch, the Raiders found themselves a lowly 2-7.
In games Cooper was targeted eight or more times, which is true number one WR usage in the NFL- Oakland had a 3-2 record with both loses coming against elite secondaries in the way of Denver and Buffalo. That to me is an all around scheme fail by the coaching staff and they rightfully paid for it with their jobs and is something coach Gruden immediately aimed to repair coming in.
I personally love Jon Gruden for fantasy football as he’s ALWAYS been a coach that feeds his studs because he knows they give him the best chance to win games. A simple philosophy more commonly used in the NBA than in the NFL; Gruden fully embraces great talent and whole heartedly refuses too oppress it.
With that being said, his coaching style should have every fantasy football league owner salivating at the mouth when it comes to Amari Cooper and his immense upside in this offense. He instantly becomes the teams featured number one receiver with Joey Galloway upside. Galloway saw 152 and 143 targets after earning that featured role himself in his second and third seasons under Gruden.
To be perfectly clear, I’m not by any means a Jordy Nelson hater. I just think he’s reached a point in his career where injuries have caught up and are preventing him from getting enough separation to be an elite option with average quarterbacks. If you just analyzed Nelson’s production based on your fantasy league score this past season, one would just immediately assume Brett Hundley was the culprit for Nelson downfall after Aaron Rodgers went down with the broken collarbone sustained in week 6 after he was on the receiving end of a vicious hit from Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr.
However, when you compare Davante Adams SPR (Successful Play Rate) before and after Rodgers shoulder injury, his production was amazingly identical with Hundley at quarterback, while Jordy’s plummeted to league lows within that time frame and is a clear sign of negative regression with lesser quarterbacks at this point in his career. Considering Derek Carr’s numbers were more comparable to Hundley’s (and not even close to Rodgers), Nelson should fare better with Carr then he did in his time with Hundley but I think it’s safe too say that we’ve seen the last of Nelson at the pro bowl.
If Cooper can stay healthy, he has a legitimate shot at not only being a receiver with top five upside in fantasy this season, but a top five finish among all non-quarterback positions. Which is why I’m taking Amari Cooper and his 150 Target upside as my top bold prediction of must owns at wide receiver for 2018.
Make sure you look out for more articles as we wrap up the draft season here at Across the Fantasy Pond.
By Shaun Bo – @FFJuggernauts