After the first few studs at wide receiver, it can become tough to decide which pass catcher to select in your draft. One of the tough decisions many will need to decide between for the 2020 fantasy football season is whether to draft Amari Cooper or Odell Beckham Jr.
Cooper is coming off a rollercoaster season which saw him put up PPR totals of 39.6, 31.7 and 26.8, but he also had weeks of 0, 1.3 and 2.9. Still, he finished the year as WR10. Beckham Jr. also provide some fantasy rollercoaster highs and lows, although more of a Disney World than Six Flags type of experience, with highs of 28.1 and 20.4, then lows of 4, 5 and 5.9, twice.
This offseason has seen changes for both receivers, with both players getting new head coaches. In addition to the coaching changes, Cooper is joined by arguably the most talented rookie WR, in CeeDee Lamb, while Beckham Jr. is joined by last season’s fantasy TE6, in Austin Hooper.
So, which of the two is primed for a bigger season and, more importantly, which will help you win your league this year?
Amari Cooper Fantasy Outlook
ADP: 4.02, WR14
The Case For:
The newly-minted $100 million man, Cooper, is a great combination of athleticism and route running. Cooper led his team with 119 targets last season. His 79 receptions for 1,189 yards and eight touchdowns put him in the top 10 for end-of-season WR PPR points. Dak Prescott has established himself as a solid NFL starter and this team has the potential to be one of the best offenses in the league yet again. With both Michael Gallup and now Lamb at receiver, as well as Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, teams will not be able to double team Cooper. And, with his route running ability, he should be able to feast with the targets that come his way.
In the first half of the season, the Cowboys’ strength of schedule is fairly light against the pass, and especially wide receivers, which should lead to some big weeks early.
The Case Against:
On a per game basis, Cooper was out-targeted last season by Michael Gallup, 8.00-7.44, and was out-targeted in 7-of-14 games that both played together. He has been inconsistent throughout his career. In Dallas, he has finished as a WR2 (top-24) at his position just 11-of-25 weeks the past two seasons.
Taking this even further, Cooper had four 100-yard games last year, three of which came before the Cowboys’ bye in Week 8. Those four games accounted for 49% of his season yardage (585/1,189). Those numbers were with him being WR1 or 1a with Gallup, but now he also has to compete with Lamb for targets.
The schedule also becomes significantly tougher down the stretch for the Cowboys, based on preseason projections.
Odell Beckham Jr. Fantasy Outlook
ADP: 3.10, WR12
The Case For:
Beckham is one of the most talented and exciting fantasy players in the league when healthy. Although he played with a sports hernia throughout most of 2019, he finished as WR25. He had 74 receptions for 1,035 yards and four touchdowns last season, on his 133 targets. Over his career, Beckham has been a top-25 fantasy WR in 48 of his 75 career starts, which is eclipsed by only Michael Thomas and Julio Jones, among active players.
Entering this season, the Browns have improved their offensive line from last year’s porous version that had Baker Mayfield running for his life. They also added what would appear to be an instant upgrade at head coach, with Kevin Stefanski. These two improvements alone should lead to OBJ easily outpacing his numbers from last year, and he does have potential to finish as a top-five WR.
The Case Against:
OBJ was targeted 133 times last season, compared to 137 for teammate Jarvis Landry. Inside the red zone, this discrepancy widened significantly, with Landry getting 20 targets in comparison to OBJ’s 11 (inside the 10, Landry had 11 while OBJ had five). The addition of Austin Hooper and new coach Stefanski will surely siphon some targets away from the WR position to the TE position. As a comparison, the Browns in 2019 targeted their WR 64.3% of the time and TE 13.4%, while the Vikings, where Stefanski was the OC last season, targeted their WR 47.5% of the time and TE 23.9%.
Looking into play calling tendencies even further ,the Browns will likely run the ball more than they did last season, when they passed 57.8% of the time. Stefanskis’ Vikings actually ran more than they passed last season (50.5% run vs. 49.5% pass).
Durability has been a problem for OBJ, as he has missed 21 games in his six years in the league, as well as played through nagging injuries for large parts of other seasons.
The Verdict: Odell Beckham Jr.
While OBJ did not even lead his team in targets last season, he did average 8.31 compared to 7.44 for Cooper, who relied on the big play and several big games to finish last year where he did. I will take Beckham for my fantasy team, as he has been much more consistent throughout his career. He also provides a safer floor, while having just as high of a ceiling.
While the Browns suffered through a train wreck of a season in 2019, the entire team will take a step forward this season, which will only help OBJ improve on last season’s subpar numbers, by his standards. Even if the Browns become more run-oriented this season, OBJ will receive more targets than Cooper. With his game breaking ability and track record when he is on the field, Beckham becomes the better choice for the 2020 fantasy season.