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2016 Player vs. Player - Amari Cooper vs. Brandon Marshall

In this series, two RotoBaller experts will discuss the merits of two players with similar value and average draft position (ADP). Remember that situations will change for all players over the course of the summer and it may impact where they are selected in drafts.

This next article comes from staff writers Harris Yudin (@hayudi18) and Ben Ruppert (@ben_ruppert_21). Harris defends second-year wideout Amari Cooper, while Ben shows his support for the veteran Brandon Marshall.

Editor's Note: Purchase a full season NFL Premium Pass (including Draft Kit + DFS Premium), and also get MLB Premium + DFS for free through the playoffs. Premium DFS lineup picks, expert lineups, tools and more - seven days a week. You can see screenshots of our NFL Premium and MLB Premium and DFS tools. What are you waiting for?

 

Amari Cooper (WR, OAK) - Harris Yudin

Amari Cooper finished the 2015 season with 72 receptions, 1,070 yards and six touchdowns, constructing a rookie season eerily similar to that of Mike Evans.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 10.33.31 PM

Last year, while Evans incomprehensibly caught just three touchdown passes in 15 games, he also racked up 1,206 yards and 16.3 yards per reception, 11th and 14th in the league, respectively.

Cooper was the fourth overall pick in the 2015 draft after posting 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior at Alabama in 2014. H3e totaled five 100-yard games as a rookie, and could’ve had more if it weren’t for the plantar fasciitis that supposedly affected him for much of the season.

Cooper, 22, is a polished wideout with solid size and speed— although he’s not off the charts in either aspect. He is a strong route runner with the ability to make plays down the field and in traffic. Despite what his 7.7% drop rate may indicate, he has good hands. In fact, his NFL.com draft profile mentions that he “caught absolutely everything during NFL Scouting combine workout.”

Cooper should continue to build chemistry with quarterback Derek Carr in year two. He finished the 2015 season with 130 targets, leading Oakland on seven different occasions. Michael Crabtree, Cooper’s biggest competition for targets, collected 85 catches on 146 targets, but posted just 922 yards. Additionally, despite having nine touchdown, his longest reception came out to just 38 yards— Cooper had seven catches of at least 38 yards, including a 68-yard score in Week 2. As Carr begins to trust his deep ball more, Cooper should see an uptick in deep looks.

Heading into his second year, Cooper is being drafted as the 13th wide receiver in standard leagues — according to Fantasy Pros — behind Evans, Keenan Allen and Alshon Jeffery. He could very well enjoy a season similar to that of Evans in 2015, except with more touchdowns. That gives him the chance to finish in the top seven or eight among all wideouts.

Brandon Marshall is 32 years old with his own history of dropped passes. Last year, he set a career high in touchdowns with 14 and came just six yards shy of matching his career high in yards. Those numbers are likely unsustainable for a player his age. Marshall is a workhorse who should continue to thrive with Ryan Fitzpatrick back in town.

However, missing just eight games over his 10-year career could certainly take its toll on his body, and it is not unthinkable for Marshall to begin his gradual decline this year. If that means 90 receptions, 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns, Cooper absolutely has the potential to outperform the Jets’ No. 1 receiver.

 

Brandon Marshall (WR, NYJ) - Ben Ruppert

After a down year in 2014 and a trade to the New York Jets for Brandon Marshall, no one really knew what to expect from the aging wideout. Drafted in the fifth round in fantasy leagues, he was able to prove all of us and the Bears wrong by having one of if not his best year as a pro, catching 109 passes (Jets single season record) for 1502 yards and a career-best 14 TDs. While it will be difficult to match those lofty totals, Marshall, at age-32, will still be a dominant force this season.

“Brandon Marshall is too old. He’s bound to fall off at 32.” This common narrative about Marshall is false. Marshall isn’t a player that relies on speed, a trait which can decline very quickly around age-30. What Marshall relies on is his competitiveness, route running, and knowledge of the game. You can take strength and knowledge with you much, much longer than raw speed. As long as Marshall is healthy, he is going to be one of the most productive receivers in the league. Considering he has only missed eight games in his illustrious 10-year career, it shouldn’t be too much of a worry for fantasy owners.

Speaking of his career, let’s take a quick look back at the quarterbacks he’s had throwing to him over the years. Jay Cutler, Chad Henne, Kyle Orton, and Ryan Fitzpatrick are some of the examples. Point being, he has never had a stud QB throwing him the ball, and he’s put up over 1,000 in all but his rookie year and in 2014 when he missed three games, the most in a single season in his career. You may not think Fitzpatrick throws for 30 TDs again after never doing that in his career, but Marshall doesn’t need a perfect QB.

He doesn’t even need a good QB to be successful (looking at you Matt Moore). Fitzpatrick and the Jets threw the ball 604 times last season, which was above the league average. He was one of only 10 receivers with more than 20 red zone targets last season (including teammate Eric Decker). Amari Cooper had only seven all of last season. Marshall is a big, sure-handed receiver that Fitz loves to look for in the end zone. While Marshall won’t likely put up 14 TDs again, double-digit scores is not out of the question.

Marshall did have 10 recorded drops last season, which placed him tied for second in the league with Ted Ginn Jr. and Amari Cooper. However, what sets Marshall apart is the volume of targets he saw. Marshall saw 173 targets last season (fifth overall) and caught 109 passes. Those 10 drops divided by the 173 targets gives you a 5.8% drop rate. Players with higher drop rates: Amari Cooper- 7.7%, Mike Evans- 7.4%, Julian Edelman- 9.1%. Looking at Marshall’s number of drops doesn’t tell the whole story, so don’t let that number fool you on draft day.

Brandon Marshall finished as a top-five receiver last season, and is being drafted as the ninth WR off the board this year. With Marshall you know exactly what you’re getting, even at this stage in his career. He will put well over 1,000 yards in this offense, and has a great chance at double-digit touchdowns once again. He is worth every cent you will spend on him this season, as one of the safest second-round picks there is.




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