1 V 1 WR Edition: Amari Cooper Vs Michael Thomas
In this series I'm going to compare two similarly ranked and drafted wide recievers putting them up against each other, and comparing them in a variety of categories such as quality of quarterback, draft pedigree, age, combine results, measurables, team passing attempts, snaps played, PFF grades, target percentage, and depth chart competition. In an attempt to determine which of the two players will be the superior dynasty asset. In this edition I'm going to compare two incredibly talented wide receivers in Amari Cooper and Michael Thomas, who happen to play for playoff caliber teams with excellent quarterbacks.
Both wide receivers had similarly productive 2016 seasons, Cooper caught 83 passes for 1153 yards and 5 touchdowns on 131 targets, for a 13.9 yard per reception average. While Thomas hauled in 92 passes for 1137 yards and 9 touchdowns, averaging 12.4 yards per reception, in what was a stellar rookie season, and helped dismiss the notion that rookie wide receivers can't be impactful fantasy starters. PFF graded Thomas as there 5th overall wide receiver with an impressive grade of 89.0, Cooper was given an 82.2 grade which was 23rd among wide receivers. I currently have Cooper ranked as my 5th wide receiver and Thomas as my 8th wide receiver. As far as the quarterbacks who throw these two wide receivers the ball, the long term outlook definitely favours Cooper as Brees is twelve years older than Carr. That being said Carr had the better grade last season according to PFF as he was give an 87.3 which was 6th overall among quarterbacks, Brees was right behind Carr as the 7th highest graded quarterback with an 86.6 grade. I have Brees as my 14th ranked dynasty quarterback and Carr as my 5th ranked quarterback. Advantage: Cooper
When it comes to age, measurables, combine results, and draft pedigree, these two wide receivers have a lot in common. Despite being drafted a year later Thomas is over a year older than Cooper, while Thomas will be playing his sophomore season as a 24 year old, Cooper will be entering his third season and is only 23. Thomas is the bigger of the two wide receivers at 6'3, 212 pounds compared to Cooper as 6'1, 210 pounds. Both had themselves respectable combines, Cooper ran a 4.42 40, had a 120” broad jump, and a 33” vertical. Thomas ran a 4.57 40 yard dash, put up 126” broad jump, and added an impressive 35” vertical. Cooper has the edge in draft capital, being the 4th overall pick of the 2015 NFL draft, Thomas was drafted a year later with the 16th pick of the 2nd round, 47th overall in the 2016 draft. Advantage: Tie
Now lets take a look at these two from more of a team perspective, looking at each teams passing attempts, completion percentage, successful play rate, and teams passing play percentage. In 2016 New Orleans threw the ball an incredible 674 times, completing 70.0% of those passes, with a 54% successful play rate, passing on 63.7% of offensive plays. Oakland passed 596 times, with a completion rate of 63.6%, they had a successful play rate of 45%, while throwing the ball on 58.4% of offensive plays last season. In the short term I would say there is a slight advantage to Brees and the New Orleans offense, in part due to the below average defense which frequently caused the Saints to play from behind in a negative game script. It's pretty much the opposite when it comes to Oakland, thanks to a stellar defense led by stud defensive end Kalil Mack, the Raiders should regularly be playing the second halves of football games in a positive game script and running the ball more often than passing it. Advantage: Thomas
Cooper had a significant advantage in snaps played last year playing nearly 200 more snaps than Thomas. Cooper played 1060 snaps to Thomas's 868, part of the reason for the large gap between the two was that Thomas wasn't playing near as many snaps as Cooper early on in the season due to the simple fact of being a rookie and still getting accustomed to the New Orleans offense. Despite the 200 extra snaps Cooper only had ten more targets than Thomas did, with a 131 target to 121 target advantage. Cooper also had the advantage it his teams target share accounting for 21.9% of all targets last season, Thomas had an impressive 17.9% target share as a rookie. While Thomas is now atop the depth chart in New Orleans, with the departure of Brandin Cooks via trade to New England, he will be sharing targets with under appreciated Willie Snead, deep threat Ted Ginn, as well as the Saints runningbacks who are always involved in the pass game. Third round draft pick runningback Alvin Kamara who the Saints traded up to draft is likely going to assume a Darren Sproles type role commanding the majority of the backfield targets. Cooper is essentially the 1A in Oakland, with Crabtree being Carr's favorite target outperforming Cooper the past two seasons. Behind Crabtree, Cooper has very little target competition, with the only other threats to eat into his volume being pass catching backs Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington and perennial disappointment tightend Jared Cook. Advantage: Tie
These two wide receivers are similar in many ways and both offer a ton of upside, when it comes to choosing a winner between the two I have to lean towards Amari Cooper. I feel Cooper's production will increase significantly when Crabtree either departs or his production drops off which may not be too far off considering he turns 30 in September and is owed over 15 million dollars in the remaining two years of his contract following the 2017 season. I really like Thomas and don't buy the argument that he may be a one season wonder, especially after re-watching his impressive 2014 and 2015 Ohio State tape. I look for Thomas to build on his highly successful rookie campaign, but just don't know who's going to be throwing him the ball in the future, with Brees approaching 40 years old and set to make nearly 30 million dollars per season after the 2017 season, it's easy to imagine a scenario where Brees isn't in New Orleans in 2018. Whereas the Carr to Cooper connection could prove to be one of the best quarterback wide receiver duos for the foreseeable future. Winner: Amari Cooper