Cooper Kupp Is a Hard Pass at His Fantasy Football Price
Cooper Kupp had a really weird 2019 season.
After a smoking-hot start, Kupp saw his production tail off over the second half of the campaign. But with Brandin Cooks out of town, early drafters are expecting more first-half Kupp in 2020, taking the Los Angeles Rams' wideout 37th overall (WR14), per BestBall10's ADP data from since the beginning of May.
Kupp's 2019 comes with some red flags, though, and he's tough to stomach at his current cost.
A Tale of Two Halves
The phrase "a tale of two halves" is overused in sports. I mean, I just used it twice if you count the section header. But if there was ever a season that fits the mold of a tale of two halves (that's three), it was Kupp's 2019.
With Kupp coming off a torn ACL, it was fair to expect him to start slowly. He very much did not, racking up 58 catches (on 87 targets), 792 yards and 7 scores over the first eight games of 2019. Dude was ballin'. At the end of Week 8, Kupp was the overall WR2 in PPR formats.
Things got weird -- read: bad -- after that.
|Per-Game Stats||Targets||Catches||Yards||TDs||Target Share||PPR Rank (PPG)|
|Weeks 1-8||10.9||7 2||99 0||0.62||28%||WR2|
|Weeks 9-16||5.2||4 1||38.5||0.57||14%||WR43|
Kupp turned in a zero-catch game in Week 10 -- with Cooks sidelined no less -- and didn't have another 100-yard game the rest of the way after putting together five such outings over his first eight contests. From Week 10 through Week 16 (not counting fantasy-irrelevant Week 17), Kupp was the PPR WR43 by points per game (11.4), with his 4 touchdowns in that time the only thing keeping his fantasy output from completely cratering.
What in the Heck Happened?
In a span of a few weeks, Kupp went from set-it-and-forget-it weekly fantasy stud to a player you had to at least consider benching.
Was he playing through an injury? While we'll never know for sure, I can't find any such reports this offseason, and Kupp played at least 92% of the snaps in four of the seven games from Week 10 to Week 16. If he was hurt, it didn't stop LA from running him out there.
While random variance is certainly possibility given that a seven-game stretch is a pretty small sample size, something that makes this feel like more than a random blip is that the turning point came right after the Rams' Week 9 bye. Bye weeks give teams a chance to zoom out and take a big-picture view of things, and often times squads emerge from the break with noticeable changes.
For the Rams, they came out of their 2019 bye with the intention of getting their tight ends more involved. That's what the numbers show, at least. From Week 10 to Week 12, either Tyler Higbee or Gerald Everett logged at least a 70% snap rate in each game. And once Higbee had the stage to himself after Everett got injured, Higbee played 97%, 86%, 89% and 96% of the snaps from Week 13 to Week 16.
Higbee's emergence came at the expense of Kupp. Higbee's target share of 25% (per AirYards.com) from Week 13 to Week 16 blew Kupp's 11% target share out of the water. Everett was a beast with his newfound volume, too, going for at least 104 yards in all four games in that stretch. Kupp's snaps, for the most part, also took a big hit in that four-game run, as he recorded single-game snap rates of 72%, 29%, 92% and 61%.
Post-bye, from Week 10 through Week 16, the Rams' offense went through Robert Woods (26% target share) and Higbee (21%) while Kupp (14%) fought with Cooks (11%), Everett (11%) and Todd Gurley (8%) for scraps.
Maybe there was more at play with Kupp than we know, but it kind of seems like the Rams made a conscious effort to get their tight ends more involved. And in doing so, they discovered that Higbee is pretty good. Unfortunately for Kupp owners, Higbee's rise was a big blow to Kupp's snap share and target volume.
How to Handle Kupp in 2020
The big question here, obviously, is how much of what we saw from the Rams' offense at the tail end of 2019 will carry over into this fall. Well, that's a tough question to answer for anyone outside of the Rams' building.
But after what Higbee did down the stretch last campaign, it's hard to imagine LA reverting him back to the low-volume role he used to have. And on top of that, this offseason Rams coach Sean McVay took a break from reciting full play-by-play logs from 2017 to say he's "got to do a better job of utilizing" Everett's skill set, so it looks like the Rams are going to continue keeping their tight ends heavily involved.
Our JJ Zachariason's projections back all that up as he has Higbee (100 targets) and Everett (46) combining for 146 looks -- right in line with the 149 they teamed up for in 2019.
That's not good for Kupp.
Yes, the loss of Cooks -- who had 72 targets a year ago -- will help some, but no longer being the clear number-two -- behind Robert Woods -- in this passing attack hurts Kupp's overall ceiling as well as his weekly floor. JJ's projection for Kupp has the Rams' receiver getting 119 targets, 15 fewer than his total from last season.
Our site projections are a little more into Kupp as far as volume goes (132 targets), but even then, he's our WR22. For JJ, Kupp is the WR21. Remember: Kupp is currently coming off the board 37th overall as the WR14.
Kupp looks like one of the more overpriced players in the current fantasy football market and is a guy to avoid unless his ADP falls.