The Yays and Nays: How Cooper Kupp Is Having One of the Best Fantasy Seasons of All Time
It’s Cooper Kupp appreciation day at The Analyst.
Entering Week 17, Kupp is 33.58 points ahead of the next closest player, Josh Allen, and 49.20 points ahead of the next closest position player – Jonathan Taylor.
And just among wide receivers, Kupp has outscored Davante Adams, currently WR2, by 89.20 points. The gap between Kupp and Adams is roughly equivalent to the gap between Adams (WR2) and D.J. Moore (WR15).
Barring something drastic over the next two weeks, Kupp is going to win the ultra-rare receiving triple crown (receptions, receiving yards, touchdowns). They are just a few of the many receiving categories Kupp leads, and leads by a significant margin.
But it’s not fair to just limit Kupp’s exploits to this season, because he is having a historically dominant season.
- If he maintains the solo lead in all three triple crown categories, Kupp would become the first player since Sterling Sharpe in 1992 to lead all three categories by himself. Along with Jerry Rice in 1990, Kupp would be the third player to achieve the feat since 1960.
- All Kupp needs to do is hit his average yards per game (115.6) over the final two to finish with 1,965 receiving yards, which would break Calvin Johnson’s NFL record (1,964).
- If Kupp averages nine receptions over his final two games (he currently averages 8.8 receptions per contest), he will end the season with 150. That would surpass Michael Thomas’ record for receptions in a season (149).
- Kupp already has the most games (14) in any single season with 90 receiving yards. Michael Irvin in 1995 and Antonio Brown in 2014 each had 13 games.
- Kupp’s active streak of 11 straight games with 90 receiving yards is the longest streak by any player since 1960. Odell Beckham Jr. previously held the record, with nine straight games in his scintillating rookie year in 2014.
- Kupp has 10 games with 100 receiving yards. If Kupp can register one more 100-yard effort, he would tie Irvin and Johnson for the most games with 100 receiving yards in a season.
- Kupp has eight games with 100 receiving yards and a touchdown, the most since Brandon Marshall in 2015. Before that, it was Torry Holt in 2003. The record is nine, set by Elroy Hirsch in 1951, and tied by Irvin in 1995 and Randy Moss in 2007.
- Kupp has seven or more catches in 14 of the 15 games he’s played this season, tying Brown for the most such games in a single season.
- And finally, Kupp has 21 catches of 25 or more yards. Tyreek Hill (22) in 2018 is the only player with more dating back to 1991.
With everything listed above, the thing that clearly stands out is Kupp’s consistency. Turning those historic numbers into fantasy-focused numbers, here are Kupp’s weekly finishes among wide receivers this season: 10th, first, third, 40th, 20th, second, first, seventh, seventh, sixth, BYE, 10th, fifth, second, first and 11th.
To recap, that’s three finishes as the best weekly wide receiver. Adams and Justin Jefferson are the only other wide receivers with more than one (they both have two). That’s six weeks as a top-three wide receiver. Adams (five) is the only other wide receiver with more than three such outings. That’s 12 (out of 15!) weeks as a top-10 wide receiver and a top-11 performance in each of his last 10 games! Deebo Samuel has the next most such finishes with seven.
Kupp, with two potentially critical games for the Rams’ playoff positioning remaining, has already scored more PPR points than most of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history. Johnson, in his best season, scored 360.1. Moss in his historic 2007 season had 385.3 PPR points.
So far as we can decipher, the only wide receiver to ever top the 400-point threshold was Rice in 1995. He scored 406 PPR points and had what still may be the greatest game ever in fantasy history. Against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 16 (fantasy championships), Rice caught 14 passes for 289 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Add a 10-yard rush and Rice finished that game with 61.9 PPR points.
Kupp is 8.60 points away from reaching the illustrious 400 mark. So, it is not hyperbole when we say that Kupp has had arguably the greatest fantasy season by a wide receiver ever. He just needs to finish the season off in style – and hopefully on the field.
In our preseason piece, we called Kupp “the most undervalued player in all of fantasy football.” His ECR was WR18. Our models aggressively had him securely in our group of top 10 wide receivers. And yet, even our models weren’t this optimistic. Little did we know… that in fantasy championship week, Kupp would be our clear No. 1 projected wide receiver of the week. And that it would be warranted and expected.
As always, let’s jump around and evaluate some Week 17 projections that are built using several of our AI-powered models. According to Fantasy Pros, our Week 16 projections were among the most accurate of the week.
We’ll get into some yays and nays before highlighting a few DFS value plays.
Note: The ranking to which we compare ours in this piece is the expert consensus ranking (ECR) from Fantasy Pros. These rankings update throughout the week. (We pulled these numbers from Friday.) Once again, we are using PPR unless noted otherwise.
Additional Note: With COVID numbers spiking, there’s always a chance these players could be impacted. As of this writing, none of these players are in the health and safety protocols.
Dak Prescott, QB (DAL) vs. ARI (ECR: 8, Our Rank: 5): Prescott was our first quarterback yay all the way back in Week 1, so it’s only fitting that he’s back on our yay list for championship week.
And he’s back in a big way, because everything is bigger in Texas and that’s certainly true of the offensive numbers the Dallas Cowboys are accumulating. The Cowboys are averaging 38.4 points per game at home. They’ve scored more than 40 points in four of their seven games and Prescott has thrown 20 touchdown passes at home against only two interceptions. In seven home games, the fewest fantasy points Prescott has scored is 18.88.
This week, only Aaron Rodgers is projected to throw fewer interceptions among players with two or more projected passing touchdowns. Prescott has finished as a top-three quarterback in his last three home games. Our models like his chances of a top-five finish, with a top-three finish absolutely in reach.
Jeff Wilson Jr, RB (SF) vs. HOU (ECR: 36, Our Rank: 6): Right off the bat, don’t be alarmed by Wilson’s ECR. Eli Mitchell’s ECR is 28th as there is still some uncertainty whether or not Mitchell will be able to suit up. If it’s Wilson’s job on Sunday, however, he immediately becomes a top-10 play.
For as surprising and satisfying as the Houston Texans’ win last week versus the Los Angeles Chargers was, they still allowed Justin Jackson to finish as the top-scoring running back. In Week 16, James Robinson finished sixth. In Week 15, Rashaad Penny finished third and in Week 14, Jonathan Taylor was third. In case you’re counting, that’s four straight weeks with the opposing team’s lead running back finishing in the top six.
The lead back in a Kyle Shanahan-led offense is a fantasy paradise. If Mitchell is healthy enough to play, don’t be afraid to play him as he would vault into our top 10. But for now, it looks like it’s Wilson’s job for one more week. Only four running backs are more likely to score a touchdown this week. Our projections like his chances of getting into the end zone and finishing in the top 10.
Damien Harris, RB (NE) vs. JAC (ECR: 15, Our Rank: 10): There are 16 players with at least 175 carries this season. Harris’ 2.06 yards after contact per rush ranks third, just behind Javonte Williams and Nick Chubb.
Even better than that, Harris has scored a touchdown in seven of his last eight games. He has over 100 rushing yards in four of his last eight games, culminating in his monster 103-yard, three touchdown effort against the excellent Buffalo Bills defense. Now he faces a Jaguars defense that has allowed more rushing touchdowns (18) than all but three teams.
Harris’ chances of scoring a touchdown are even higher than Wilson’s. Only Taylor is more likely to score a touchdown this week, according to our projections. Despite his limited work in the pass game, his consistency in finding the end zone makes Harris a low-end RB1 this week.
Brandin Cooks, WR (HOU) vs. SF (ECR: 26, Our Rank: 15): One of our most consistent “yays” all season makes it back on the list for championship week. When we wrote about Cooks all the way back in Week 4, we ended by saying: “Don’t be surprised if Cooks is somewhere around WR12 at the end of the year. That’s what he does.”
Well, because Cooks missed last week due to COVID, he dropped to WR19. However, on the season, Cooks is averaging 14.75 PPR points per game. Hunter Renfrow (WR12 entering Week 17) is averaging 14.77 points per game.
Since the full-time switch to Davis Mills, Cooks has had back-to-back 100-yard receiving games. This week, against a Niners secondary that struggles mightily against the deep ball, Cooks could easily make that three straight games. Regardless of whether he ultimately ends up reaching that number, he’s a legit WR2 and not merely a flex play.
Allen Robinson, WR (CHI) vs. NYG (ECR: 78, DK Price: 3,800): It’s been a brutal year for Robinson. His stock has fallen so low, his ECR for this week is, remarkably, WR78. He only has one touchdown and still doesn’t have a game with 70 receiving yards.
We’ve included Robinson in this section because he provides a unique insight into how our projections work. He’s our top value DFS play and a top-45 wide receiver this week if either Nick Foles or Andy Dalton starts at quarterback. Why? Because when those two are quarterbacking the Chicago Bears, they call a designed pass on roughly 56% of their plays. For Justin Fields, that number drops to 44.3%. And even worse, Fields also ends those passing plays with a scramble or a sack 11.7% of the time.
Also considering the scramble and sack percentages of Dalton and Foles, there is a 14.5% difference in pass attempts per game between those two and Fields, which roughly equates to nine passes over the course of the game. Combined with Fields third-worst completion percentage (58.9), it’s extremely difficult for any receiver in that offense to provide relevant fantasy value with him at quarterback.
Joe Burrow, QB (CIN) vs. KC (ECR: 10, Our Rank: 17): If you’re wondering if we watched Burrow last week, we did. And our models ingested every snap of data from his 525-yard outing. Yet, he still makes our nay list. Why?
Well, not every opponent is the Baltimore Ravens, a team excellent against the run and terrible against the pass – especially this most recent iteration of the Kansas City Chiefs. Since the beginning of November, a stretch of eight games, the Chiefs defense is only allowing 12.88 points per game. It’s getting healthier, has added Melvin Ingram as an edge rusher allowing Chris Jones to move inside, and it’s been particularly dominant in the first half.
The Chiefs rank first by a wide margin in points allowed in the first quarter over the last eight games (three) and in the first half of games (40).
Last week, because of the Ravens’ strength against the run, Cincinnati abandoned the ground game early and threw the ball 46 times to only 19 designed runs. That ratio is likely to more closely resemble its season-long ratio of passing on only 57.2% of downs and the passing game won’t be nearly as successful. Burrow is more of a QB2 this week than a sure-fire QB1.
Ronald Jones, RB (TB) vs. NYJ (ECR: 8, Our Rank: 17): Jones got 20 carries last week. That’s good! Jones had 60 yards rushing. Not as good. Backup running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn had 70 rushing yards on only seven carries. Doubly not good.
Yes, the Carolina Panthers are much stronger on defense than the New York Jets. But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ran the ball 31 times and attempted 31 passes, the first time all season those two numbers were even remotely close to each other. The Buccaneers pass on 65.8% of their plays, the fattest mark in the league. In fact, the Bucs don’t usually relent in blowouts either, as evidenced by their 45-17 win over the Miami Dolphins earlier this season when Brady (and Gabbert) attempted 44 passes to just 25 rushing attempts.
With Jones likely losing volume due to the nature of aggressiveness from the Buccaneers offense, his need for a touchdown increases. He becomes a touchdown-dependent play for the week, not one that is going to be able to secure RB1 status without a touchdown.
CeeDee Lamb, WR (DAL) vs. ARI (ECR: 8, Our Rank: 19): For the second time all season, and the second time in back-to-back weeks, we’re on Lamb as a risky play. And as it turned out, even though the Cowboys scored 259 points last weekend, or so it seemed, Lamb finished with a pedestrian stat line of four catches for 66 yards – fourth on the team in receiving yards.
This week, Prescott is a quarterback our models are high on. But one of the main reasons for that is because his weapons are the envy of lots of quarterbacks around the league. Any given week, the run game, Amari Cooper, Dalton Schultz, or Michael Gallup can be the lead actor in the Cowboys’ offense.
For the second straight week, we’re projecting an equal spread of targets and receiving yards amongst the offense. Our models don’t project that Lamb will receive enough targets to turn in a WR1-type performance.
Michael Pittman Jr, WR (IND) vs. LV (ECR: 19, Our Rank: 26): Pittman’s projection shouldn’t be all that surprising. With Carson Wentz likely out with COVID, the Indianapolis Colts will be turning things over to Sam Ehlinger.
Which means that, even more than usual, this is shaping up to be a Taylor-heavy game plan. With fewer targets than normal headed Pittman’s way, he is more dependent on a touchdown. Unfortunately, Pittman hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 9 and during that six-game stretch, he has the same number of games with single-digit points as he does games with more than 10 PPR points.
Look for Taylor to be heavily featured early and often. Pittman is a risky, touchdown dependent, WR2 during championship week.
Best DFS Value Plays
Jonathan Taylor, RB (IND) vs. LV (DK Price: 9,000): Like we just mentioned in Pittman’s section, Taylor is going to see the ball early and often. Last week was Taylor’s first since Week 4 without a touchdown. No running back is expected to receive more carries, gain more rushing yards, or is more likely to score a rushing touchdown. Building your lineup around Taylor this week is smart.
Stefon Diggs, WR (BUF) vs. ATL (DK Price: 7,900): Seemingly quietly, Diggs is just having another ho-hum season as WR6. He’s scored a touchdown in two straight games and six of his last nine. Only Kupp and Adams are more likely to score a touchdown this week. Diggs is a rock-solid DFS play, despite his pricey status.
D.J. Moore, WR (CAR) vs. NO (DK Price: 5,600): For a player who, despite all his struggles, is WR16 on the season, Moore’s price point just doesn’t reflect his overall skill set. Our projections are worried about Sam Darnold’s ability to efficiently deliver Moore the ball, but at less than 6,000, Moore’s reward outweighs his risk.
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Research support provided by Michael Donovan.