Now that free agency, the NFL Draft, and the schedule release have all passed, we have our initial layout in place in team depth charts and strength of schedule. With that, we want to take a look at some players across the fantasy landscape that are either polarizing, over or undervalued, or just interesting topics of discussion and walk through some pros and cons on where those players are regarded in fantasy circles.
So far we have explored players such as Kenyan Drake, Austin Ekeler, Marquise Brown, Tyler Higbee, Mecole Hardman, Nick Chubb, the trio of DeVante Parker, Preston Williams and Mike Gesicki , D.J. Chark, Odell Beckham, Aaron Jones, Leonard Fournette, and Amari Cooper. For this installment, we are taking a dive into fantasy prospects and current market for Cooper Kupp.
Week 1 Age: 27.2
Contract: Signed through 2020
Using the Dynasty ADP app available at RotoViz, Kupp has continued to rise over the course of his rookie contract. As it stands this offseason, Kupp is being selected as a top-40 option overall and a top-20 wide receiver.
Since entering the league in 2017, only 15 wide receivers have scored more total PPR points that Kupp has while he ranks as the WR15 in points per game (14.9 points) over that span. Improving his fantasy output each season, Kupp has checked in as the WR28, WR14, and the WR7 in points per game over his first three seasons in the NFL. The seventh wide receiver selected in the 2017 NFL Draft, Kupp has only been outscored by JuJu Smith-Schuster over his first three seasons from that draft class.
In 2020, Kupp set career-highs across the board in targets (134), receptions (94), receiving yards (1,161), and receiving touchdowns (10). Not only was that season good for the WR4 in overall scoring output, but Kupp was also able to accomplish that after suffering a torn ACL the season prior, Week 10 in mid-November. Players returning from an ACL injury typically see a reduction in prior season output, even with a full year of recovery. It should not be understated how impressive it was for Kupp not only to be ready for Week 1 of last season, but to also hit the ground running with the best output of his career.
2019 Game Log
If you played fantasy in 2018 and rostered Adam Thielen, then you have a good idea what it was like to roster Kupp a year ago. Through eight weeks, only Michael Thomas had more targets, more receiving yards and scored more PPR points than Kupp had to date on the season, while only Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins had more receptions than Kupp, who caught 58-of-87 targets for 792 yards and five touchdowns over the opening eight weeks of the 2019 campaign. Kupp had five 100-yard receiving games to that point and was entering the bye week coming off the second-highest scoring game of his career. Over those opening eight games, Kupp received 27.9% of the team targets and had 17 more targets than the next closest player on the team (Robert Woods) over that stretch.
Exiting the bye, the back half of the 2019 season went much differently. Kupp caught 36-of-47 targets for 369 yards and five touchdowns over the final eight weeks of the season. His five touchdowns were able to keep the bottom from completely falling out, but Kupp’s usage took a massive hit as the Rams changed course offensively. Kupp received just 15.7% of the team targets over the final eight games and his 47 targets, were third on the team by a significant amount, trailing Woods (79) and Tyler Higbee (66). Of the 10 games in which he posted 99 receiving yards or fewer, seven came of those final eight games of the season.
While there was speculation that Kupp’s early ACL recovery had potentially caught up to him and he was banged up over the end of the season, finding actual proof of that speculation is much tougher to find. He was never on the injury report any week of the season, and when the Rams were forced to chase points over the back half of the season, Kupp played nearly all of the snaps.
When we covered Tyler Higbee a few weeks ago, we noted the transition that the Rams made over the course of the season in terms of personnel use and offensive approach. I will not go completely over that transition here, but the cliff notes are that over the final seven games of the season, the Rams used 11 personnel for 63% of their offensive plays while using 12 personnel on 34% of their pays (fourth) as opposed to using 11 personnel on 81% of their snaps over their opening nine games of the season.
A byproduct of playing more 12 personnel and reducing three-wide receiver sets meant not only fewer opportunities for Kupp overall, but it also meant that Kupp was forced to get fewer actual slot opportunities when he played in the 2WR formations. A primarily slot-centric NFL player, Kupp was asked to win more often in an area that he was not as strongly suited for.
Through those opening 10 weeks of the season, Kupp averaged 2.36 yards per route run, running 71.9% of his routes from the slot while being targeted on 26.3% of his routes. Over the final seven weeks during that transition, he ran 60.4% of his routes from the slot while being targeted on 19.8% of his routes over that span. In the slot, he was still targeted on 23.1% of his routes, but was targeted on just 14.8% of his routes on the outside. From an overall production stance, Kupp had 24-253-1 from the slot during those games as opposed to 12-116-4 receiving otherwise.
For his career, Kupp has now run 64.7% of his routes from the slot, being targeted on 23.2% of those routes while averaging 2.2 yards per route run. On 35.3% career routes on the outside, Kupp has been targeted on 19.8% of those routes while averaging 1.8 yards per route run. The positive news is that Kupp has scored 10 of his career 21 touchdowns from outside of the slot.
The catch here is how much 12 personnel do we anticipate the Rams to run moving forward? As discussed in that post on Higbee, early team signals are that they want to continue the approach, but there is also some fragility there. In two of the three team losses over that end of the year run, the Rams were dusted and went right back to being a primary 11 personnel team in those games. If the Rams cannot control game script as they did to close the season, then we are going to see a lot less 12 personnel. Right now, we have the Rams forecasted for 8.5 wins. With seven of their opening 11 games facing teams with higher forecasted win totals this season, we could see that desired personnel usage be impacted negatively by game script to open the season.
The other element in play for Kupp is that he is entering the final season of his rookie contract as he approaches the age apex for wide receiver production. Since Kupp was from a small school, he was a non-early declare and is a touch older than you would anticipate a player who is entering the final season of his rookie contract to be. In terms of comparable Dynasty ADP, Kupp will enter the 2020 season older than Amari Cooper and Stefon Diggs, players who entered the league before him. This offseason, the Rams invested a second-round pick in Van Jefferson. The team also has Josh Reynolds approaching unrestricted free agency, but Jefferson has more overlap in terms of projected NFL role to Kupp than that of Reynolds.
Kupp is an interesting dynasty case because we know that he is an effective player that can win consistently inside through this offensive scheme. The ability to run their desired personnel is not concrete while the Rams traded Brandin Cooks this offseason, freeing up even more passing volume to spread around. Should the read be wrong on the Rams and they revert back to playing a plethora of three wide receiver sets, Kupp is going to be in a position to thrive once again. On the other end, if the Rams do get the game script they desire and maintain their end of 2019 approach, Kupp will take a hit in immediate production with an unresolved contractual future with the organization he has been so successful with.
For Dynasty purposes, I am much lower than the current market on Kupp — and would absolutely explore being able to use him in a deal to get a number of Tier Six wideouts in rankings there — but do still see some 2020 upside to remain in the immediate WR2 mix.
As usual in closing here, in dynasty, every player has potential to be both a buy and sell at the same time. You just have to find the proper context in your league on which he is valued per owner. Startup ADP and cost is not going to be an exact market for you with team context a driving force in established leagues, but here are the buy and sell point suggestions using that as guideline pending which side you fall on.
2020 Rookie Pick Value: Mid First (1.05-1.07)
RB Value Targets: Aaron Jones, Leonard Fournette, Todd Gurley
WR Value Targets: Courtland Sutton, D.K. Metcalf, Stefon Diggs
TE Value Targets: Mark Andrews, Evan Engram, Zach Ertz
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