If you were to guess, who were the top five fantasy receivers in the first half of the 2019 season? Let me enlighten you:
Yes, you read that correctly. The Los Angeles Rams slot receiver and a former third-round pick from Eastern Washington scored 109 points in standard-scoring from weeks 1-9, but from weeks 10-17, Kupp scored only 69 points, according to fantasypros.com. Kupp’s 2019 season was a tale of two halves, but can he rebound and climb the rankings to become a top fantasy receiver for the 2020 season?
Cooper Kupp: 2019 season review
2019 was very much a distinct split for Cooper Kupp. Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff began to target Kupp a lot less as the season wore on. Goff targeted Kupp 91 times in weeks 1-9, but that decreased to 33 targets from weeks 10-17. The emergence of tight end Tyler Higbee and the increased usage of Robert Woods led to Kupp’s lack of targets.
Offseason for the Rams
The offseason for the Rams lacked any big signings but it was a necessary one to rebuild the team after a disappointing year. The Rams had to decide on workhorse running back Todd Gurley, who they released due to his large contract. They also decided to trade talented but oft-injured wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Texans just before the draft. Integral parts of the offense, Coach Sean McVay and GM Les Snead saw that these two were expendable due to their lack of production.
How does this affect Kupp? At a very basic level, Kupp will have more chances to become the focal point of the offense because of recent departures. But looking in detail, we see that there are 718 snaps from the departed Brandin Cooks that need to be filled. It’s possible we see rookie Van Jefferson or Josh Reynolds take a percentage of these targets. However, overall it can only bode well for the target share of Kupp in the long run.
The run game
Like any successful team, you must have a run game to complement the passing game. Former starting running back Todd Gurley was a stalwart in the run game. He led the Rams to a top three rushing ranking in the league for the 2018-2019 season, according to ESPN. Gurley had his worst season in 2019, producing a career-low 857 rushing yards. Even with this decreased production, the name brand of Gurley kept defenses honest in the passing game.
With the exit of Gurley, presumed starter Darrell Henderson has a chance to shine in his second year and rookie Cam Akers is there to challenge for time. Fresh legs with less mileage can help restart the run game and allow the Rams to produce a more balanced offense. This can be good or bad news for Kupp, because the offense may rely on the passing game while the running game finds new life in Sean McVay’s play action heavy offense. However, opposing defenses may smother the passing game and dare the Rams to run the ball.
2020: back to the start?
Since 2017 Cooper Kupp has accumulated 196 receptions, 2,596 yards, and 21 touchdowns as a favorite target of Jared Goff. As we have discussed, Kupp saw a sharp decrease it targets as the 2019 season progressed due to several factors. These included the emergence of Higbee, the increased usage of Woods, and an impotent rushing attack.
Sean McVay has proven that he isn’t one to sit and watch while the rest of the league progresses. This means the Rams offense is likely to look a little different in 2020. This change could be even more prominent as LA looks forward to a life without Gurley and how the backfield operates without him.
According to CBS Sports, Kupp is currently ranked as the 21st player for the upcoming 2020 season, which is around the third round in most formats. He will be the #1 receiver for an offense that will hopefully force defenses to respect the run game.
The receivers that are generally going later than Kupp who are notable are Adam Thielen, Tyler Lockett, and JuJu Smith Schuster. All good players and good fantasy picks, but all have established run games that their respective teams will rely on. While all are the default #1 receivers on their team, none are the #1 option in the offense itself.
With the Rams, Higbee could conceivably cut into the touchdown share and Woods will cut into the passing yards total. Despite this, Kupp can easily finish second in both categories while being the safety valve and favorite target of Goff.
The general consensus is that Kupp will break the 1000 yard mark once again, but his fantasy outlook is very much dependent on his TD share in the offense. Any regression in that area and his owners may be disappointed come the end of 2020 fantasy.
|Cooper Kupp comparison||Receptions||Yards||TD’s|
|2020 (my projection)||99||1210||11|
|2020 (TimeSkew consensus projection)||76||1075||7|
If you can grab Kupp late in the third round or he drops into the fourth, his floor as a WR2 in your team is fairly safe. Be confident plugging him in to your lineup on a weekly basis, but expect a shaky start from a new look Rams offense.
In the end, the thing that let Kupp down in 2019 was consistency. He had a great first half and dismal second half. It’s fair to say that if his stats were more consistent throughout the year and not front-loaded, fantasy owners would be happier. According to Fantasy Pros, Kupp finished fourth overall in standard scoring for the 2019 season. Kupp can build on that fantasy output with incremental improvements, but the biggest factor will be how he manages to spread out the scoring to be effective all year.
For more wide receiver talk please take a look at our initial 2020 wide receiver rankings here.