Amari Cooper Should Be a Target Monster in Cleveland


A very active week of trading in the NFL continued Saturday, with the Dallas Cowboys shipping veteran WR Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a fifth-round pick in April’s draft. The two teams also swapped places in the sixth round. 

That’s a meager return for the Cowboys, but Dallas wasn’t in a position to drive a hard bargain. Had they not found a trade partner, the team would have been forced to cut Cooper before March 20. In this case, something is certainly better than nothing.


As for the Browns, the team’s Odell Beckham experiment proved to be a failure, and Jarvis Landry is very much on the downslope of his career. So in Cooper, the team does get a de facto No. 1 receiver. Of course, this is the NFL, and things can never be simple. Baker Mayfield is coming off an injury-plagued and disappointing 2021 campaign. Reports surfaced this week that Cleveland may have interest in Derek Carr and Deshaun Watson, who won’t face criminal charges after a Texas grand jury declined to indict him Friday.

For now, we have to assume Cooper will be catching passes from Mayfield in 2022. Beckham and Mayfield never seemed to be on the same page in their time together, but Cooper presents a slightly different skillset. His career aDOT of 10.9 yards is nearly two yards lower than Beckham’s, which means he’ll be more of an intermediate target for Mayfield. That’s something we really haven’t seen in Mayfield’s time with the Browns, as Beckham was a high-aDOT option and Jarvis Landry was a low-aDOT one. In theory, Cooper’s game should play well with Mayfield’s skillset.

Cooper also figures to dominate the target share, especially if the team moves on from Landry. Shortly after the news of Cooper’s trade surfaced, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Landry was given permission to seek a trade. If a trade materializes or Landry is cut, the Browns will be left with Donovan Peoples-Jones and second-year man Anthony Schwartz to go along with Cooper. The team still has a fleet of tight ends who will eat up target shares, but Cooper would figure to eat in 2022. A target share of 25-30% is a very real possibility. 

To be fair, the Browns will remain a run-heavy offense that will continue to feed Nick Chubb the rock. Last season, Mayfield averaged just 29.9 passing attempts per game. Over a 17-game season, we’re talking just north of 500 passing attempts. While that isn’t necessarily optimal for a volume-hungry fantasy football playing public, we still would be looking at roughly 150 targets if Cooper can approach a 30% share. Now, that’s a big number, but it’s extremely possible given the lack of mouths to feed on the current depth chart if Landry is out of the mix. 


Last season, just seven receivers saw more than 150 targets, and of that group DJ Moore was the only one to not finish as a WR1 in fantasy. We can’t put the cart in front of the horse here, but it’s fair to say that this is a favorable move for Cooper strictly from a volume standpoint. He’ll be in the front-end WR2 conversation.

As for Dallas, the team has been expected to move on from Cooper in one way or another. The Cowboys also have to decide whether they want to re-sign Michael Gallup or let him test free agency. Regardless of Gallup’s status, CeeDee Lamb is now cemented as the alpha receiver in Dallas. Lamb didn’t quit meet his 2021 fantasy hype, but he did manage a top-20 fantasy finish and led the Cowboys with 116 targets. With Cooper’s 99 targets now vacated and the possibility of Gallup’s shares also opening up, we can all but guarantee a larger workload for Lamb in 2022 and beyond. Given his high ceiling, this increased volume all but locks Lamb into the top-10 fantasy wideouts for 2022 drafts. 

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