Shuffle Up: Amari Cooper's almost-touchdown problem

Will Amari Cooper see a touchdown spike in year 3? (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Will Amari Cooper see a touchdown spike in year 3? (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Want to make a bunch of strangers upset at you? Rank something.

This time, we’re at the wide receiver position. It’s a deep position, a fun position. And it’s also a damn important one, because more and more leagues are moving towards formats that require 3-4 wideouts, if not more.

The prices you see are not suggested auction prices — those numbers are so room-contextual, it would be a fool’s errand to suggest any one size fits all. The dollar values below are merely used as a way to compare the players and give you a sense of where the tiers lay (in my opinion, anyway); where talent clusters and where it falls off. I also construct each positional Shuffle Up on its own, so don’t bother trying to compare Kelvin Benjamin, say, with Mike Gillislee. That’s not the exercise.

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Players at the same price are considered even. And honestly, a $1-2 difference isn’t a big deal. I’m not going to pretend some lofty level of certainty with these prices when I know what a snow-globe league the NFL is.

Assume a modified PPR scoring system, a half-point per reception (just don’t tell Behrens).

I’ll add commentary Sunday, and reserve the right to change things as the day goes along. Win the debate, win the rank. Oh, and two other things: I love respectful disagreement, but bring a reason; aimless rants are just a waste of time. And remember the golden rule, no player gains or loses a chunk of value simply because you roster him or don’t roster him.

Want to take a shot at my knees? Head over to Twitter and let me know what you think: @scott_pianowski. And if you want to hear Michael Salfino and I argue about receivers (okay, some agreement too), you can listen here.

Tier 1
$46 Antonio Brown
$44 Odell Beckham

If you’re a little concerned about Ben Roethlisberger and wanted to flip these two guys, I wouldn’t argue with you. My Top 4 for most of the season (all positions) has been DJ, Bell, Brown, Beckham. I’m thrilled to draft any in that group, and view the Top 4 slots an advantage, perhaps an unfair advantage, in a standard league. I remain shocked more people don’t want to auction.

Tier 1A
$41 Mike Evans
$40 Julio Jones
$39 A.J. Green
$36 Jordy Nelson
$35 Michael Thomas

Initially I had Evans and Jones even, but with Evans being younger and Jones being a little TD-allergic for his career, I decided on a slight separation . . . Don’t sweat the historical target trends with the Saints; you don’t need silly volume to go off in the Drew Brees pinball offense. Thomas is a high-floor pick around the 1-2 turn.

Tier 2
$32 Doug Baldwin
$32 Dez Bryant
$31 Amari Cooper
$30 Brandin Cooks
$28 Demaryius Thomas

I’m torn on Cooper’s fantasy value, and it pains me to say that. He just turned 23 in mid-June, and he’s off to a historically great start. Since the merger, only eight wideouts have more receiving yards in their first two seasons than Cooper’s 2,223. It’s a list covered in glory: Beckham, Moss, Rice, Josh Gordon (oh, what could have been), Holt, Green, Evans, Colston. All names you know by heart, fantasy-era gods.

Alas, Cooper has scored just 11 touchdowns in his two seasons, and he’s been a dud close to the goal line. In his rookie year, he didn’t even draw a target inside the 10-yard line. Last year he had seven looks, none of them for completions. Let’s say this again for emphasis — Cooper still doesn’t have a single catch inside the 10-yard line for his career (though he has caught a pair of conversion flips).

The goal-line disconnect is a few things; partly, it’s a desire not to change what’s working. The Raiders have a terrific boundary receiver in Michael Crabtree, and he’s outscored Cooper the last two years. Is there any great incentive to change what’s not broken? Cooper’s TD count has also been dogged by some bad luck, a toe out of bounds here, a long-score overturned there. If you’ve lived and died with him through two years, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Although I’m open-minded to taking Cooper at many portions of the second round, perhaps the strongest reason to pass on him is so you can remain open to perhaps selecting the unheralded value, Crabtree, in the fourth or perhaps even the fifth round.

If you’ve missed my ongoing love letter to Doug Baldwin, it’s right here . . . How you view Demaryius Thomas probably comes down to how you view Trevor Siemian, who is close to locking up the Denver QB job. I think Siemian has a chance to at least be competent — I didn’t want to see Lynch in there — and heck, the worst Thomas has done in five years is last year’s 90-1083-5. He’s just 28. I think there’s a sturdy floor here.

Tier 3
$25 Terrelle Pryor
$24 T.Y. Hilton
$21 Davante Adams
$21 DeAndre Hopkins
$19 Allen Robinson
$19 Michael Crabtree
$19 Tyreek Hill
$19 Golden Tate
$18 Emmanuel Sanders
$18 Keenan Allen

Everyone has to decide for themselves if Allen is more injury prone or injury unlucky (we talked a lot about that on the Breakfast Table Wideout Podcast) . . . This price seems like a steal on Hilton if you’re willing to be optimistic about Andrew Luck’s injury and 2017 upside. I’m not, so I’m basically slotting Hilton at a price where I’ll never get him . . . This price will probably keep Hopkins and Robinson off your teams, which is a great idea if you’ve the Jacksonville QB depth chart or Deshaun Watson’s summer tape. Both of these teams will try to win with defense and a hide-the-quarterback offense. Houston might get away with it; Jacksonville probably isn’t ready yet.

Tier 4
$17 Willie Snead
$17 Jamison Crowder
$16 Jarvis Landry
$16 Larry Fitzgerald
$15 Julian Edelman
$15 Kelvin Benjamin
$15 Alshon Jeffery
$15 Stefon Diggs
$14 Martavis Bryant
$13 Sammy Watkins

There are some interesting beauty/beholder picks here, if you’re willing to be open-minded. Snead probably won’t run as a “starter” but he’ll be on the field enough for me to consider him late-fourth or early-fifth; he’s a steal in the sixth. Pundits are running so fast from Landry, he’s starting to become one of those boring-floor veterans. Not all of your picks need to be screaming with hair-on-fire upside. Benjamin’s weight was a problem in the spring but he looks fine now.

Tier 5
$12 Tyrell Williams
$11 Pierre Garcon
$11 Cameron Meredith
$10 DeSean Jackson
$10 Kenny Britt
$9 Adam Thielen
$9 Rishard Matthews

Here’s the thing with some of the good-player, bad-team receivers like Garcon and Meredith and Britt: I love them if they’re all-upside pieces on my roster, players I don’t necessarily need to count on right away. In other words, if you have at least three wide receivers ahead of them, you should be fine. I am not comfortable selecting them at a position where I need them to be good. All three of these guys have flags to begin with, and then we have to consider the limited upside of their quarterbacks (to be fair on Brian Hoyer, his durability concerns me more than anything; his talent is fine, and I like the Kyle Shanahan pairing) . . . Williams and Matthews are monstrous ADP wins if they produce anything close to last year’s numbers, but that’s a little bit of a cheat. The position looks overly stacked this year because we have a handful of key injury returnees who demanded key ranks, and some other ascending players who have drafters excited. And obviously Williams has to deal with Allen’s return, while Matthews all of a sudden finds himself on a crowded Tennessee depth chart. I still like them as reasonable WR4s, and sometimes you’re lucky to slot them one spot lower than that. We don’t have to dream of the upside, we saw it last year, especially in the second half . . . I like Diggs just fine, but similar to the Cooper-Crabtree issue, I’d like to skip Diggs — unless I love the price — so I can keep myself open to Thielen later. Thielen’s efficiency metrics were out of this world last year, and the Vikings paid him like a key contributor.

Tier 6
$8 Devante Parker
$8 Randall Cobb
$8 Eric Decker
$8 Jeremy Maclin
$7 Donte Moncrief
$7 Brandon Marshall
$6 Marvin Jones
$6 Robby Anderson
$5 Corey Coleman
$5 John Brown

There’s zero downfield component to Cobb’s game, and the team has plenty of options for the things he’s good at. I’ll take him at my price, not at an aggressive price . . . I wasn’t optimistic about Hilton because of Luck; Moncrief’s depressed price is tied to Moncrief’s long-running efficiency problems . . . The Jets will have a mess at quarterback all year, but Anderson has such a high volume upside now that Quincy Enunwa is hurt, he’s worth a dart throw once you have your starters squared away.

Tier 7
$4 Mike Wallace
$4 Devin Funchess
$4 Tyler Lockett
$4 Jordan Matthews
$3 Sterling Shepard
$3 Cole Beasley
$3 Kenny Stills
$3 Ted Ginn
$3 Josh Doctson
$3 Corey Davis
$2 Allen Hurns
$2 Robert Woods
$2 J.J. Nelson
$2 Cooper Kupp
$2 Paul Richardson
$2 Taylor Gabriel
$2 Travis Benjamin

I see the case for Funchess but I’m uncomfortable chasing it; the Panthers have three pass-catchers clearly ahead of him on the food chain, plus Cam Newton will still run in a few . . . Ginn would get a tier bump if you’re thinking about best-ball leagues, but he’s tricky to trust in standard formats because there’s generally no rhyme or reason to when his breakouts come. To some extent, the entire position is boom-or-bust, but he’s on the extreme side. We don’t mind in best ball, but this is a problem in seasonal.

Everyone Else
$1 Malcolm Mitchell
$1 Jaron Brown
$1 Kenny Golladay
$1 Anquan Boldin
$1 Zay Jones
$1 Chris Hogan
$1 John Ross
$1 Chris Conley
$1 Tavon Austin
$1 Torrey Smith
$1 Marqise Lee
$1 Kevin White
$1 Nelson Agholor
$0 Tyler Boyd
$0 Eli Rogers
$0 Will Fuller
$0 Mike Williams
$0 Breshad Perriman
$0 Josh Gordon
$0 Mohamed Sanu
$0 Terrance Williams
$0 Marquise Goodwin
$0 Kamar Aiken

I wanted to have Mitchell in the higher group, but he’s been dinged this summer and there’s so much gridlock ahead of him . . . I’ll believe the sunshine when I see it with Agholor. The only Eagle I’m drafting proactively is Zach Ertz . . . Lee would be $4-5 if healthy . . . White’s on his third rookie season and he still doesn’t have any of the nuances of the position down. Terrific athlete, but doesn’t look like a football player. I’ll throw my dart elsewhere.