Amari Cooper’s end days with the Raiders were one of the great failures of imagination in recent NFL history. Despite 1,000-yard seasons his first two years in Oakland, Cooper’s Silver and Black career was going backwards, declining amidst a wave of drops and poor play from an injury- and confidence-hobbled Derek Carr. Cooper’s confidence, as well, seemed to be in the gutter, bottoming out as he managed just 22 catches for 280 yards in six games in Jon Gruden’s offense.
To think that Cooper cleared 20 yards only two times with Gruden at the helm is almost inconceivable, as he’s been steady instead of slow on his rare off days for the Cowboys. Held below four catches one time all season, Cooper has reached 80 yards in 6-of-9 appearances. That includes Sunday evening’s demolition of the Vikings, where Cooper seemed to catch 2-3 passes every drive. His 11 grabs matched the second highest total of his career, while his 147 yards were sixth most.
Both a short-to-intermediate range tactician and genuine deep threat, Cooper has unlocked the Cowboys’ passing game, as well as Dak Prescott’s career. He has become one of the most complete receivers in the NFL this season even as he plays through a variety of injuries. A softer schedule has helped, but it will remain so for Week 11 against the Lions. The gauntlet is then thrown down in the form of @NE, vs. BUF, @CHI and vs. LAR. Cooper then passes go again with a season-ending slate of the Eagles and Washington.
18 games in Dallas have made Cooper the player we thought he was coming out of Alabama. That includes high-floor, high-ceiling WR1 status in fantasy.
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Five Week 10 Storylines
David Johnson looks dead legged in Tampa. Slowed by back and ankle issues so far this season, Johnson didn’t look like he belonged on the Cardinals’ game day roster against the Bucs, taking the rock just five times for two yards while managing all of 1/8 through the air. The one time Johnson popped at all was when he let Lavonte David Hulk strength a fumble. Not the same in any of his three campaigns since his epic 2016, Johnson appears in desperate need of extended rest. Barring an official aggravation or new ailment, that’s not going to happen. With Chase Edmonds (hamstring) week to week, the Cardinals could have a three-man backfield on their hands as early as Sunday’s rematch with the 49ers. Even if Edmonds doesn’t play, Kenyan Drake, who scorched the Niners for 162 yards from scrimmage in Week 9, will be the preferred RB2.
Christian Kirk welcomes himself to the season. One of 2019’s biggest disappointments coming into Week 10, Kirk made up for lost time vs. the Bucs, exploding for 6/138/3. For his 33-yard touchdown, Kirk got a step on Sean Murphy-Bunting and caught a laser from Kyler Murray. On his 69-yarder, Kirk smoked Ryan Smith and caught another Murray dime in stride. For No. 3, Kirk made his own luck, catching a pass tipped by Devin White for a 15-yarder. Consider the mean regressed to. To get a hot streak going, Kirk will have to get the better of a 49ers defense that limited him to 2/8 just 11 days ago.
Darius Slayton welcomes himself to the NFL. The No. 171 overall pick of the draft, Slayton earned some dynasty league love as a deep threat. It was certainly understandable as Slayton entered the big leagues with 4.39 speed and a 20.3 YPC earned the hard way in the SEC. His ball skills were considered too raw for him to make an immediate impact with Eli Manning or fellow rookie Daniel Jones, but he was worth having around for potential 2020 contributions. A rash of skill player injuries forced Slayton into the lineup earlier than expected and he’s responded with two-score games in two of his past three appearances. That includes Sunday’s 10/121/2 explosion on a team-leading 14 targets. With Sterling Shepard’s (concussion) season in doubt and Evan Engram (foot) without a firm timeline, Slayton will be worth the add in the 90 percent of leagues in which he’s still available … if you can make it through the Giants’ Week 11 bye. Slayton will then be welcomed back to a tough matchup with the Bears.
Kareem Hunt catches seven passes in Browns debut. Both Hunt’s seven grabs and nine targets tied his previous career highs. It was a bold-faced announcement that this is now a two-man backfield, and that Hunt will be a desperately-needed third weapon in the passing game behind Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. It gives Hunt immediate PPR FLEX value, and spells trouble for Nick Chubb’s RB1 consistency. Chubb cleared 100 yards rushing for the third time in four games and fourth in six against the Bills’ shaky run defense but will find the sledding much tougher for Thursday’s short-week date with the Steelers. A volume monster in a bad offense, Chubb can’t afford any reduction in workload. Hunt made that look like a given on Sunday.
Devonta Freeman’s rare run of good health comes to an end. Sleepwalking through another unimpressive performance, Freeman departed against the Saints with a third quarter ankle injury. It’s most unwelcome news for a player who battled through foot, groin and knee issues in 2018. Third-year pro Brian Hill assumed a three-down role in Freeman’s absence, something he figures to keep for Week 11 against the Panthers if Freeman can’t go, as Ito Smith (neck) is already on injured reserve. Hill is a priority add in free agency ahead of a matchup with a Panthers Defense that can’t stop getting gutted by the run.
Five More Week 10 Storylines
Jared Goff once again barely resembles starting quarterback on the road. We’ve written at length about Goff’s struggles so far this season, but Sunday’s fiasco was a new low. Goff looked like Sam Darnold against the Patriots, wilting in the face of the Steelers’ pressure as he tossed two interceptions and lost a fumble six. Goff, somehow, failed to find either of Cooper Kupp or Todd Gurley for a reception. Every quarterback is going to have bad days, especially on the road, but this was the kind of five-alarm appearance that should not be possible in Year 4 of a supposed franchise player’s career. Goff cannot be counted on if he’s away from home or facing an above-average pass rush. Seeing as those two scenarios make up the bulk of any QB’s schedule, and … you get the picture. Khalil Mack and the Bears are on tap for Week 11.
Ronald Jones sets the new standard for “mixed day.” Fresh off being anointed the leader of the Bucs’ backfield, Jones scored a rushing touchdown and doubled his previous 2019 receptions total with his 8/77 effort as a receiver. Good, right? It would have been had Jones not forced a fumble … on himself. With no one else in sight, Jones inexplicably coughed the ball up as he attempted to re-secure it. This was on the Bucs’ second-to-last series. He took a backseat on the final possession as Peyton Barber scored the game-winning touchdown. Barber ended up out-rushing Jones 43-29 on the same number of carries (11). It’s impossible to believe Jones didn’t give back at least some ground ahead of the Bucs’ Week 11 date with a feisty Saints Defense that will be smarting following Sunday’s embarrassing loss to the Falcons.
Patrick Mahomes looks like himself, but Chiefs suffer another loss. Who needs kneecap stability when you can make jump passes that result in 63-yard touchdowns to Mecole Hardman? Mahomes’ 446 yards were the second most of his career, while the three-score day was his fifth in the seven games he’s played to completion this season. An Aaron Rodgers-level passer, Mahomes seems to be a LeBron James-level athlete in his imperviousness to injury. With Mahomes’ health in order, the same can be said for a supporting that grew deeper and more experienced as Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins missed time. With an extra day to rest up for a Monday night date in Mexico, the Chiefs figure to take out their recent frustrations on hapless division rival San Diego (err, Los Angeles).
Kalen Ballage achieves new levels of futility. Ballage entered Week 10 as one of the league’s worst players in 2019. He exited it a legend of inefficiency, taking the rock 20 times for 43 yards on the ground while “adding” four receptions for two yards. It was just the ninth time since 1981 that a running back gained 45 or fewer yards on 24-plus touches. The league’s least “elusive” back according to Pro Football Focus, Ballage is completely incapable of getting more than what’s blocked. Since the Dolphins don’t block anybody … not good. It’s on to Plan Z at running back for the Dolphins, who have only “Patrick Laird,” “De’Lance Turner” and Myles Gaskin behind the league’s easiest player to tackle. None of the gang will be an RB4 for Week 11 vs. the Bills.
D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel keep up their incrementalism in Green Bay. The breakouts have yet to come, but their floors are now firmly established. Moore has cleared 100 yards in back-to-back games, catching at least seven passes on 10 targets both times in the process. Samuel has scored in 3-of-4 games even as he’s cleared 70 yards just once. The air yards aren’t helping him reach his theoretical ceiling, but they are making for a safe baseline. The Falcons are a juicy Week 11 matchup ahead of a daunting Week 12 date with the Saints. Moore is back to every-week WR2 status with Samuel checking in as a low-risk, high-reward WR3.
1. The Falcons have to give Dan Quinn an extension now, right?
3. Remember when a team traded up two separate times for Josh Allen instead of just drafting Lamar Jackson?
Early Waiver Look (Players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
QB: Nick Foles (@IND), Derek Carr (vs. CIN), Jacoby Brissett (vs. JAX), Sam Darnold (@WAS), Kyle Allen (vs. ATL)
RB: Brian Hill, Derrius Guice, J.D. McKissic, Paul Perkins
WR: Darius Slayton, Auden Tate, Cole Beasley, A.J. Brown, James Washington, Allen Lazard, Josh Reynolds, Russell Gage, Andy Isabella
TE: O.J. Howard, Mike Gesicki, Noah Fant, Dallas Goedert, Darren Fells, Jonnu Smith, Irv Smith
DEF: Jets (@WAS), Raiders (vs. CIN), Chiefs (@LAC), Eagles (vs. NE)
Stats of the Week
16. J.D. McKissic’s career high number of touches after Ty Johnson departed with a concussion. Primarily a third-down back, McKissic is not a good player, but 12 will be his touches over/under vs. the Cowboys.
11-6. Devin Singletary’s touch advantage on Frank Gore. Singletary did win the snap battle 46-22, but Gore’s involvement remains stubborn and costly. It might not matter for Week 11 vs. the Dolphins, where even 12-14 touches would make Singletary a clear RB2.
12 and 31. Eric Ebron’s targets and target share, respectively, vs. the Dolphins. Wide receiver injuries had a part to play in it, but so did Ebron’s griping to coach Frank Reich. Ebron will be on the TE1 borderline for Week 11 vs. the Jags.
26. Andy Isabella’s season-high snap total to go along with 3-of-3 for 78 yards. Isabella’s deep speed the Cardinals have badly been missing. He should continue to get more involved.
Six. The Falcons’ number of sacks after entering the game with seven. Sure.
Tweet of the Week, From Joe Dolan: This Rams team is a mess. They should consider hiring someone who knows Sean McVay to fix it.
Patrick Claybon Tweet of the Week: A.J. Green should get a restraining order against the Bengals.
The Only One To Get The Memo Award: Kalen Ballage. This is supposed to be a tank, guys!
The When You Are Anchoring The Final Leg of Team USA’s 4x200 Award: Mecole Hardman.
Jay Leno Question of the Week: “Jared Goff, anybody else see this in the news? You been following this?”
Observation of the Week, From Pearl Campbell: Mike Vrabel lookin’ a little more like Jim Tomsula every day.