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Fantasy Football Disaster Recovery: Cooper Kupp

Welcome to Disaster Recovery, where each week I'll examine why your studs played like duds. This isn't a place to find out why you should have sat a player for somebody else on your bench. Disaster Recovery is here to examine the guys who you didn't think twice about starting and to help you decide if you should be panicking at all about their value moving forward.

This season we'll be focusing on one dud a week. There will be two major qualifiers for this player: the player must have performed well below expectations without an injury, and the player needs to be considered a must-start in most formats.

Cooper Kupp has 220 receiving yards in his last two games. None of them came in his most recent game. Are darker times on the horizon for one of 2019's best value fantasy picks?

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Is the Kupp half-full or half-empty?

Cooper Kupp's Week 10 stat line: zero catches on four targets. 

Cooper Kupp failed to catch a single pass for the second time in his career in Sunday's loss to the Steelers. The previous time he left with an injury. He played the entire game on Sunday.

Kupp suffered from blanket coverage courtesy of Joe Haden and Minkah Fitzpatrick as well as the overall ineptitude of the Rams offense. The Rams' dreadful offensive line continued to be over-whelmed, and Goff struggled heavily as a result. This wasn't the first time the Rams offense looked completely lifeless this season. Goff threw for just 78 yards against the 49ers a few weeks back. Still, even in that game, Kupp was able to snag four catches for 17 yards.

Things are not looking up for Goff and company. The Rams lost two starters on the offensive line against Pittsburgh. Center Brian Allen has been ruled out for the year, and right tackle Rob Havenstein has been ruled out for this week's tough matchup against the Bears. The Rams have a tough task ahead of them when it comes to handling Khalil Mack and company. Goff is going to be pressured early and often in that game.

The good news for Kupp is that he's been Goff's favorite target all season long, and that doesn't seem to be changing anytime soon. He's also not going to be going against Pittsburgh's dominant secondary every week. There will be tough matchups down the stretch, but the only one that will be on this level for Kupp is San Francisco.

All signs point towards this being a fluke game and that Kupp will continue to put up numbers for the remainder of the season. They might not be as strong as the first half of the season due to tougher opponents and an injury-riddled offensive line, but they shouldn't be bad enough to consider benching him.

So why are we even talking about Kupp then?

Last week's game has one key difference compared to the previous games this year: it was Kupp's first game this season where he didn't start the game next to Brandin Cooks. This was the first time a defense truly got to gameplan on stopping Kupp without having to worry about Cooks, who is arguably the most talented receiver on the team. Cooks drew plenty of coverage from top opposing cornerbacks, and Kupp drew all of that coverage on Sunday.

It's worth noting that Cooks didn't play for the majority of Kupp's 220-yard performance against Cincinnati. You can either view that as a sign that Kupp can perform at an elite level without Cooks in the lineup, or you can chalk it up to the defense being blindsided by Cooks leaving the game so early and not having a backup plan on how to guard the Rams receiving core. I'd bank on the former, but the latter is certainly a possibility.

The Rams are also not going to be playing the Bengals again. They won't be facing a defense even remotely as bad. The worst secondary they'll face down the stretch is Arizona. Kupp has the privilege of facing off against Seattle, Dallas, and San Francisco during the fantasy playoffs. On top of that, this offense is getting worse by the week.

It's an uphill battle for Kupp to retain his elite WR1 status. But it's hard to imagine Kupp being anything worse than a WR2 ROS. He's too important to an offense that will continue to pass the ball. Don't expect first-half Kupp down the stretch, but still expect good things.

Panic Meter: 2.5/5

 

Other Players to Monitor

Let's take a look at some other notable busts from Week 10:

Proceed with caution: RB Saquon Barkley

Barkley has clearly not been 100% since returning from injury a few weeks back. Barkley has been insistent that he will not be shut down for the rest of the season despite this. His Week 11 bye could not have come at a better time for his fantasy owners, as it will hopefully mean he is back healthy for the stretch run. His usage will continue to be unfathomably high, and if he's on the field he needs to be in your lineup. He might not be the RB1 like you drafted him to be down the stretch, but he still figures to be an RB1.

Benched until further notice: RB David Johnson

How can you play David Johnson with any confidence at this point? Johnson ran the ball five times for two yards on Sunday and finished with negative points in standard and half-point PPR leagues. He doesn't look right and is splitting carries with Kenyan Drake. The Cardinals aren't going to make the playoffs and have no incentive to feed an unproductive player hampered by injuries. Unless you truly have no other real options, playing Johnson is a bad move until we see signs of life from the former fantasy stallion.

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