Should You Start Amari Cooper Vs. Pittsburgh?


While the draft and waiver impact a fantasy football team, nothing else matters if you make the wrong lineup decisions. As managers make the final roster decisions for Week 3, should you start Cleveland Browns WR Amari Cooper against the Pittsburgh Steelers in your fantasy football lineup?

Amari Cooper heads into Week 3 after his best game of the season

When Cleveland brought in Cooper in the offseason, they did so with the intent of him being their top receiver. While it might have taken an extra week to see happen, Cooper had a game we are accustomed to witnessing.

Facing the Jets in a shockingly high-scoring 31-30 loss, Cooper led the team with 37% of the targets and 64% of the air yards, hauling in nine of 10 targets for 101 yards and a touchdown as the WR9 on the week (25.1).

This is what we’ve wanted to see from Cooper in 2022. He is one of the best route runners in the NFL. While Jacoby Brissett is nowhere near the talent of Dak Prescott, Cooper can generate separation against anyone and presents a stable and reliable target for Brissett.

Working in Cooper’s favor is the lack of any competition for targets on his own team. Without Jarvis Landry on the roster, they placed a ton of responsibility on Donovan Peoples-Jones, Anthony Schwartz, and David Bell. The problem is they aren’t getting anything from them.

In fact, Cooper had more yards on Sunday (101) than Peoples-Jones, Schwartz, and Bell have combined through two weeks (85). That’s not to say there haven’t been chances. In Week 1, Peoples-Jones saw a 37% target share (11). But when you walk away with only 60 receiving yards, it’s no wonder he dropped to 4% in Week 2. If anything, Kareem Hunt has been the most reliable pass catcher for the Browns outside of Cooper.

Cleveland knows who they are. Their strength is running the ball with Nick Chubb and Hunt until Deshaun Watson arrives. They’re No. 2 in rushes per game (34.5) and 23rd in dropbacks (35). When on offense, Kevin Stefanski is back to utilizing 12 and 21 personnel as his go-to, sitting eighth-most in the NFL at 35%. Because of this, it’s hard to find bright spots in the passing game on a weekly basis outside of Cooper.

Cooper needed last week. But odds are, he went off on several benches. His Week 1 outing (WR80 – 4.7 PPR) left many fantasy managers feeling he needed to prove he could be a starting fantasy asset again (or at least rethink how we view Cooper in his new situation).

As far as Week 3 is concerned, Cooper is a mid-range WR3 in PFN’s redraft fantasy football rankings against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Oddsmakers expect points to be at a premium on Thursday night, setting the over/under at an almost laughable 38.5 points.

It’s a team who can’t hold on to the ball or maintain drives in the Steelers (30th in time of possession at 41%) against the team who takes the air out of the ball (22nd in pace of play) and keeps it out of the other team’s hands via the run (third in TOP – 59%) in Cleveland.

Defensively, Pittsburgh is getting dog walked in the trenches. They’re 22nd in rush EPA, 18th in rushing DVOA, and are dead last in RB yards per carry allowed (4.97). Expect to see a lot of Chubb and Hunt this week. However, if they want to throw the ball, you have to give the edge to Cooper in Week 3.

Pittsburgh has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers this year (48.8 PPR) and has allowed four double-digit receivers in just two weeks. The Steelers typically don’t rotate corners to shadow players.

With Cooper playing outside on 84% of his snaps, if he is on the left, he’ll face Ahkello Witherspoon (95% left alignment), who is allowing 79% of targets to be completed and has already surrendered two touchdowns despite seeing 14 balls come his way. On the other side, it’ll be Levi Wallace, who is also allowing a 79% completion rate and 1.3 yards per route.

You have to love either matchup knowing Cooper will have a minimum 25% target share. If Cooper is on your fantasy roster, plug him into one of your WR spots on Thursday, as you could have a sizable lead coming into the weekend. Just be sure to keep him and all TNF players out of your flex to give yourself flexibility on Sunday.



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