Thanksgiving signifies the start of the home stretch of the NFL season. This season, it also happens to be the first week without byes since the beginning of the year. That means every fantasy owner will have his or her entire roster available for the rest of the season. With that in mind, and with the holiday decreasing our typical ranks, we asked our fantasy editor the following question.
Now that byes are in the rear-view mirror, depth isn't nearly as important as it once was. Who's a depth back or receiver that has been a fringy fantasy starter that will fall out of favor with his fantasy owners now that everyone has their full roster available every week?
Michael Beller: How the mighty have fallen in Oakland. The Raiders, believed to be a Super Bowl contender back in the summer, are 4-6. The only reason they’re still alive in the playoff hunt is that both their division and conference are especially weak this season. Derek Carr looks like no more than a league-average quarterback, and is ranked 23rd at the position in standard-scoring leagues, behind the likes of Case Keenum, Josh McCown, Jacoby Brissett and Blake Bortles. Marshawn Lynch has not ascended to pre-retirement heights as some absurdly expected. He has 390 yards and four touchdowns on 97 carries, ranking 33rd among running backs in standard leagues and 40th in PPR formats.
No one in Oakland, however, has fallen as hard as Amari Cooper. He left his fantasy owners always wanting just a bit more in the first two seasons of his career, but he still turned in strong WR2 seasons. After two straight 1,000-yard campaigns with a total of 11 touchdowns, and with a role on a seemingly ascending offense, there was good reason to believe Cooper would break out in a big way this season. His ADP of 21.14 overall, which made him the ninth receiver off the board in a typical draft, reflected that the belief was widespread.
Instead, he has gone in the opposite direction. Cooper has 41 catches for 490 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games this season, which translates to 7.3 points per game in standard leagues, and 11.4 points per game in PPR formats. He’s the WR34 in standard and WR29 in PPR. Those rankings would be a major disappointment even if they reflected the actual week-to-week value he has returned for his owners. They don’t, however, and that’s where this story gets truly ugly.
Back in Week 7, Cooper exploded for 11 catches, 210 yards and two touchdowns in a Raiders 31-30 win over the Chiefs. That one performance was responsible for 45.2% of his standard-league points and 38.6% of his PPR points to date. He has had one other game with double-digit points in standard leagues. The ninth receiver off the board in a typical draft this season, Cooper has had two WR1 weeks all year.
On the other side of the coin, when weeks have gone bad for Cooper, they’ve gone very bad. He has eight games with fewer than 60 yards this season. He had a three-game streak with fewer than 10 yards. Cooper has had more weeks where he was outside the top-50 scorers at his position (four) than ones where he was in the top 20 (two). In a game like fantasy football, which is a season-long game made up of weekly performances where consistency is crucial, Cooper has been one of this season’s most significant net negatives.
And yet, Cooper is still being started in 72% of Yahoo leagues and 66% of CBS leagues in Week 12. The question is why? Forget about the fact that he’s going up against a Denver secondary that is still elite and has given him fits all five times he has faced it in his career. Cooper doesn’t deserve to be a fantasy starter in any matchup, let alone a bad one. Now that owners have all their receivers and backs available every week the rest of the way, I’m betting Cooper’s owners will finally deem him unworthy of even their last flex spot.