- Cooper's actual fantasy football value may not change that much, but his move to Dallas hurts Derek Carr, as well as on-the-rise Cowboys receivers Cole Beasley and Michael Gallup.
The NFL’s uncharacteristically busy trade market saw another deal on Monday, with the Raiders sending Amari Cooper to the Cowboys for a first-round pick.
The appeal of this trade from Oakland’s side is easy to see. It recoups full value for a first-round selection that made plenty of sense at the time, but simply hasn’t panned out the way anyone expected it would have over the last three-and-a-half seasons. It’s a little harder to understand the Cowboys’ motivation to make this deal, or at least why they would pay so steep a price. Yes, they’re desperate for a receiver, but they’re already 1.5 games behind Washington (with a head-to-head loss) in the NFC East, and they’re now on the hook for the nearly $14 million owed to Cooper next season. That’s an awfully expensive bet to make on Cooper finally realizing his first-round potential.
Cooper-to-the-Cowboys sends significant fantasy reverberations across two offenses. Let’s take a look at all the players affected by the trade.
Cooper: Cooper is the player on the move, but his fantasy value may change the least of all affected players. He leaves behind a slow-paced, low-value offense for another slow-paced, low-volume offense, both of which are helmed by quarterbacks who aren’t likely to put up numbers rivaling Patrick Mahomes or Drew Brees anytime soon. He does have less competition for targets in Dallas than he did in Oakland; there isn’t anyone on Dallas’s roster resembling Jordy Nelson or Jalen Richard. He will, however, team up with a high-volume running back in Ezekiel Elliott, so all that may come out in the wash. There’s some hope that a change of scenery will serve him well, but there’s little reason to change your rest-of-season expectations for him. Cooper was a WR3 before the deal, and he remains one now that he’s in Dallas. He also gets an extra bye, which arrives this week.
Derek Carr: This is nothing but bad news for Carr. Cooper wasn’t exactly setting the league ablaze—he had 22 catches for 280 yards and one touchdown before the trade—but at least he was a threat defenses had to account for and a weapon for the quarterback. Now that he’s in Dallas, the top receivers on Oakland’s roster are Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant and Seth Roberts. Nelson will likely be among the team’s top three in targets at the end of the season. With so few threats on the outside, what little fantasy value Carr had is all but gone. He may have some value as a streamer in traditional leagues, and he’s a QB3 in superflex and two-quarterback formats.
Jordy Nelson: Nelson is one of the obvious winners as a result of this trade. With Cooper gone, he’s now the No. 1 receiver in Oakland. Nelson has done well to find the end zone three times this season, but his lack of volume was starting to become a concern. He had just 31 targets through six games, receiving fewer than five looks in four of those contests. With Cooper in Dallas, Nelson can likely expect somewhere between six and eight targets per game the rest of the way. The Oakland offense may keep many of those from being high-value targets, but volume is no longer an issue. It wouldn’t be a shock if he outperformed Cooper the rest of the season.
Jared Cook: Like Nelson, Cook is a clear winner. He should rival Nelson for the team lead in targets the rest of the way, and he was already playing at a high level relative to the rest of the tight end position. Through six games, Cook had 32 catches for 400 yards and two scores, ranking seventh at his position in points per game in standard leagues, and fifth in PPR formats. At the very worst, his target share should remain flat, which almost guarantees he ends the season as a TE1. At the best, he could push 10 targets per game the rest of the season. Cook will be an easy player to start most weeks, even on an offense as punchless as Oakland’s.
Jalen Richard: Richard, the primary pass-catching back in Oakland, experienced a windfall in fantasy value over the last week. First, Marshawn Lynch’s groin injury opened the door to a higher snap rate and a handful more carries to go along with his meaty role as a receiver. Cooper’s departure should be a handful more targets, as well. Richard could be looking at 15-plus opportunities (targets plus carries) per game the rest of the way, which would have him on the flex radar, especially in PPR leagues, every week. He remains available in about 70% of leagues across the industry, which should make him one of the most popular players on the waiver wire this week.
Dak Prescott: The Cooper acquisition is a boon for Prescott, though not necessarily one that will make him anything more than a streamer in traditional one-quarterback formats. Dallas ranks 26th in the league at 60.4 plays per game, and Cooper may not change that. Prescott has completed 62.1% of his passes this season for 1,417 yards, 6.88 yards per attempt, eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Cooper certainly gives him another threat, as well as someone who will command attention in the red zone, but he doesn’t significantly move the needle for Prescott from a fantasy perspective. Before the trade, Prescott was a low-end QB2. After it, he’s a mid-tier QB2. He’ll show up on the streaming radar, but he’s not someone you want as your regular starter, with or without Cooper.
Ezekiel Elliott: Elliott is the biggest winner among Cooper’s new teammates in Dallas. He has had his work cut out for him this season, getting as little help from the passing game as is realistically possible. Despite that, he has rushed for 619 yards and three touchdowns on 132 carries, and caught 25 passes for 175 yards and one more score. Cooper’s presence shouldn’t hurt Elliott’s target share much, if at all, and it should also take away at least some of the attention opposing defenses shower on the Cowboys’ rushing attack. Given that Elliott is one of the players in the league who can make defenses pay with nothing more than a sliver of daylight, the pressure Cooper takes off the run game, however modest, gives him a bump in fantasy value for the rest of the season.
Michael Gallup and Cole Beasley: Finally, Gallup and Beasley are potentially the biggest losers as a result of this trade. Both had shown encouraging signs the last few weeks, with the former catching three passes for 81 yards and a touchdown in Week 7, and the latter totaling 16 garbs for 157 yards and two scores in the team’s last two games. Cooper could dominate target share in Dallas, siphoning away opportunity and value from both Gallup and Beasley.