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ADP Showdown: Amari Cooper vs. Adam Thielen

You’re in the middle of the third round of your draft and you need another wide receiver. Maybe you need to get your first wideout that will be your team’s WR1 throughout the season. The bottom line is that you can’t afford to miss with this pick. Championships aren’t won on draft day, but they can absolutely be lost on draft day. Missing with your third-round pick could leave you fighting an uphill battle all year. Picking between these guys isn't going to cost you your year, but it's going to make things a lot more difficult if you pick the wrong one. That's what we're here to help you avoid.

We’re looking at Adam Thielen and Amari Cooper. Thielen finished as WR7 in the 2018 season. He started the season with eight straight 100-yard games, and he was quarterback Kirk Cousins’ favorite target on the Minnesota Vikings. After a down year in 2019, he’s reasonably slipped a bit. Although, if you look closer, he should be on the upswing. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs is now in Buffalo and while the Vikes brought in Justin Jefferson, he’s a rookie that doesn’t have the rapport with Cousins that Thielen does. Thielen’s only issue last year was health, and we haven’t seen him function as the team’s major offensive weapon thus far, but that doesn’t mean he can’t handle the work.

On the other side of this, you have Amari Cooper on the Dallas Cowboys. When he’s feeling it, he’s one of the best receivers in the NFL for fantasy. Last year, against the Green Bay Packers in Week 5, he ran up 11 receptions, over 200 yards, and a touchdown. The problem with him is that, when he’s not on, he can absolutely disappear. Boom-or-bust players don’t typically get drafted super high, but Cooper could be the exception to that rule. You're getting a guy with WR1 upside for cheaper than most guys, and he's a consensus top-10 dynasty asset because he's locked up in a long-term deal with the Cowboys. Why not get him while his price is still down?

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


The Case for Thielen

After being drafted as WR10 last year, he’s now being drafted as WR9, but he’s fallen backward nearly a full round in overall ADP. From 2.11, he’s gone down to 3.07. Most of that comes as a result of the increased importance of running backs in drafts. He’s also a year older and coming off a season that saw him catch just 30 passes for 418 yards. With Diggs out the door, his stock should be pointing upward rather than the downward trend that we’re seeing now. This is where you can find that additional value that others may overlook.

He dealt with injuries a lot last season, but that doesn’t capture the full story. In the five games before the injury really hampered him, Thielen was on a rather decent pace. He was averaging 16.2 PPR points per game, which would have allowed him to finish as WR9 on a PPG basis at the end of the season. Those numbers were with Diggs still on the field with him. Diggs is now gone and while they brought in Jefferson, the rookie will need some time to get his feet under him. That just means more targets will be going Thielen’s way.

Factoring in his ADP, if Thielen is your first wideout, he should give you a player with a high floor on a weekly basis in the third round. He was averaging six targets per game on an offense that leaned heavily on RB Dalvin Cook in the backfield. The only issue you have with Thielen is his health. He was a WR1 in 2017 & 2018 when he was fully healthy. As long as he’s healthy again this year, you’re going to get 15 to 20 points out of him on a weekly basis.


The Case for Cooper

Cooper has yet to be a WR1 in his career. He’s gotten to WR14, but he hasn’t quite cleared the WR12 threshold. While he hasn’t hit that threshold as Thielen has, he brings a different level of play to the field. One major feature that he has working in his favor is the amount of passing game work he will get. QB Dak Prescott had 596 passing attempts last season, which was sixth in the NFL. For comparison, Kirk Cousins had just 444. There were 152 more opportunities for Cooper to score points.

Cooper didn’t have the same injury issues that we saw with Thielen last year, although he has dealt with them in the past. He did see a noticeable decrease in scoring in the back half of the season. His scoring total went down by 33 percent, and a major reason for that was his touchdown and yardage averages decreasing. After being on pace for 12 touchdowns and 1402 yards, those numbers both regressed severely.

Cooper’s ADP has him being taken in the middle of the fourth round, which could allow you to make him your WR2 after taking a more consistent one in the second or third round. Having Cooper as your WR2 is great considering his upside. When Mike McCarthy was running the Green Bay Packers, they were consistently one of the most pass-heavy teams in the league. Even with running back Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, I expect Dallas to ride Dak’s arm. With Cooper still as the WR1, getting him in the fourth round seems like really good value to me.


The Verdict

Both of these guys could finish as WR1s at the end of the year, and none of us would bat an eye. They’re both going to be the top receiving options on their teams, but they are going to do it in different ways. Cooper is a big-play waiting to happen, and he also runs some of the cleanest routes in the league. Thielen relies on his efficiency, as he’s caught at least 62 percent of his passes in the last five seasons. I’m going to take Cooper as the cheaper option with a higher ceiling. If you’re looking for a safer option, Thielen is your guy, but Cooper gives you a much higher ceiling. 

Final Verdict: Cooper over Thielen

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