Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, or Cooper Kupp
As of this writing (July 2019) there is a funky thing happening in the 3rd round of fantasy football drafts. Brandin Cooks (ADP 33, WR15), Robert Woods (ADP 36, WR17), and Cooper Kupp (ADP 41, WR19) are all clustered together like the fantasy community doesn’t know how to stack these wideouts. Especially of interest is Kupp who had his 2018 season ended short, but being ranked high likely means we’re all expecting him back week 1 in 2019. This article is going to compare 2018 in slices to compare how the Rams play these players with and without Kupp in the lineup, and subsequently which players you should be targeting in 2019.
The Rams played with a healthy team through week 6 in 2018. Kupp was initially injured in week 6, out weeks 7 and 8, played in weeks 9 and 10 where we eventually tore his ACL. Weeks 11 through 16 saw Josh Reynolds added to the trio. We’re going to look at the first 5 weeks and the last 6 weeks as “normal” usage (with and without Kupp). Consider weeks 6 through 10 in flux for line up purposes.
Weeks 1 to 5
While a 5 week period is a small sample of time, it is 31% of the fantasy season and considering it’s the start of the regular season it’s safe to assume the style of play is how the Rams would prefer to distribute the ball.
During this time period the Rams played Oakland, Arizona, L.A. Chargers, Minnesota, and Seattle. A decent array of defenses.
Over this time period Brandin Cooks was the WR20 in total fantasy points (65.80, played 4 games) and WR8 in points per game (16.45), Robert Woods was WR8 (81.20) and WR12 (16.24), with Cooper Kupp WR3 (90.1) and WR2 (18.02), respectively. The target distribution was similar across the trio with Cooks at 8.25 targets per game, Woods at 8.2, and Kupp at 8.0. Receptions per game was similar as well with Cooks at 6.5, Woods at 5.8, and Kupp at 6.0. Cooks by far led the trio in yards per game with 113.0, with Woods at 83.0 and Kupp at 87.6. Where Kupp differentiates himself from the three and what propelled him into the top tier of wideouts overall is his touchdowns per game. Kupp averaged 1 touchdown per game, recording a 1/0/1/2/1 stat line during this time period. Cooks and Woods averaged 0.25 and 0.6 respectively.
Weeks 11 to 16
Over this 6 week period the Rams knew Kupp was out for the remainder of the season. His replacement, Josh Reynolds, played a similar role on the field as Kupp but with vastly different results. Let’s look at how Cooks and Woods performed and then compare that to the first 5 weeks of the season.
During this time period the Rams played Kansas City, had a bye week, Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Arizona.
Brandin Cooks finished the fantasy season as the WR39 in total points (43.2) and the WR49 in points per game (8.64). Cooks’ targets dropped to 7.2 per game (-1.05 from the first 5 weeks), his receptions per game dropped to 4.8 (-1.7), and his yards per game dropped to 57.0 (-56.0). During this time Cooks scored 0 touchdowns.
Robert Woods on the other hand stayed consistent during this time period. His targets per game increased to 9.6 (+1.4 from the first 5 weeks), receptions per game stayed the same at 5.8, yards per game dropped slightly to 72.6 (-10.4), and he stayed even with 0.6 touchdowns per game. Woods was the WR12 in total points (79.3) and the WR9 in points per game (15.86) during this time span.
For a risk free draft the data shows Robert Woods is the wide receiver to own on the Rams. Maybe Kupp plays a full season, maybe not. In 2018 Woods stays consistent in either scenario (Kupp in or out).
Brandin Cooks may be a better athlete, may have better stats historically in New England and New Orleans, but in L.A. you’re really, really hoping for 100+ yards per game every single game. He doesn’t score many touchdowns and even in PPR scoring he’s WR19 over the 2018 season at 5.36 receptions per game. Perhaps in PPR if Cooks can average 80+ yards per game with 5+ receptions you’re ok with a floor of 13 points per game.
For a higher upside Cooper Kupp is the wideout to own. Some will argue that a touchdown regression is inline for him in 2019. If we hold true to the theory that these first 5 weeks was the Rams preferred style of play, if we believe that Kupp is Jared Goff's “safety blanket”, and if Todd Gurley is on the field to keep the defenses honest then we must believe that over a full season Kupp will outperform Cooks and Woods in all things fantasy related.
We’re drafting Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and then Brandin Cooks.
Disclaimer: All fantasy stats using Half PPR scoring. All stats pulled from the Fanatiq app.