Amari Cooper’s end days with the Raiders were one of the great failures of imagination in recent NFL history. Despite 1,000-yard seasons his first two years in Oakland, Cooper’s Silver and Black career was going backwards, declining amidst a wave of drops and poor play from an injury- and confidence-hobbled Derek Carr. Cooper’s confidence, as well, seemed to be in the gutter, bottoming out as he managed just 22 catches for 280 yards in six games in Jon Gruden’s offense.
To think that Cooper cleared 20 yards only two times with Gruden at the helm is almost inconceivable, as he’s been steady instead of slow on his rare off days for the Cowboys. Held below four catches one time all season, Cooper has reached 80 yards in 6-of-9 appearances. That includes Sunday evening’s demolition of the Vikings, where Cooper seemed to catch 2-3 passes every drive. His 11 grabs matched the second highest total of his career, while his 147 yards were sixth most.
Both a short-to-intermediate range tactician and genuine deep threat, Cooper has unlocked the Cowboys’ passing game, as well as Dak Prescott’s career. He has become one of the most complete receivers in the NFL this season even as he plays through a variety of injuries. A softer schedule has helped, but it will remain so for Week 11 against the Lions. The gauntlet is then thrown down in the form of @NE, vs. BUF, @CHI and vs. LAR. Cooper then passes go again with a season-ending slate of the Eagles and Washington.
18 games in Dallas have made Cooper the player we thought he was coming out of Alabama. That includes high-floor, high-ceiling WR1 status in fantasy.
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Five Week 10 Storylines
David Johnson looks dead legged in Tampa. Slowed by back and ankle issues so far this season, Johnson didn’t look like he belonged on the Cardinals’ game day roster against the Bucs, taking the rock just five times for two yards while managing all of 1/8 through the air. The one time Johnson popped at all was when he let Lavonte David Hulk strength a fumble. Not the same in any of his three campaigns since his epic 2016, Johnson appears in desperate need of extended rest. Barring an official aggravation or new ailment, that’s not going to happen. With Chase Edmonds (hamstring) week to week, the Cardinals could have a three-man backfield on their hands as early as Sunday’s rematch with the 49ers. Even if Edmonds doesn’t play, Kenyan Drake, who scorched the Niners for 162 yards from scrimmage in Week 9, will be the preferred RB2.
Christian Kirk welcomes himself to the season. One of 2019’s biggest disappointments coming into Week 10, Kirk made up for lost time vs. the Bucs, exploding for 6/138/3. For his 33-yard touchdown, Kirk got a step on Sean Murphy-Bunting and caught a laser from Kyler Murray. On his 69-yarder, Kirk smoked Ryan Smith and caught another Murray dime in stride. For No. 3, Kirk made his own luck, catching a pass tipped by Devin White for a 15-yarder. Consider the mean regressed to. To get a hot streak going, Kirk will have to get the better of a 49ers defense that limited him to 2/8 just 11 days ago.
Darius Slayton welcomes himself to the NFL. The No. 171 overall pick of the draft, Slayton earned some dynasty league love as a deep threat. It was certainly understandable as Slayton entered the big leagues with 4.39 speed and a 20.3 YPC earned the hard way in the SEC. His ball skills were considered too raw for him to make an immediate impact with Eli Manning or fellow rookie Daniel Jones, but he was worth having around for potential 2020 contributions. A rash of skill player injuries forced Slayton into the lineup earlier than expected and he’s responded with two-score games in two of his past three appearances. That includes Sunday’s 10/121/2 explosion on a team-leading 14 targets. With Sterling Shepard’s (concussion) season in doubt and Evan Engram (foot) without a firm timeline, Slayton will be worth the add in the 90 percent of leagues in which he’s still available … if you can make it through the Giants’ Week 11 bye. Slayton will then be welcomed back to a tough matchup with the Bears.
Kareem Hunt catches seven passes in Browns debut. Both Hunt’s seven grabs and nine targets tied his previous career highs. It was a bold-faced announcement that this is now a two-man backfield, and that Hunt will be a desperately-needed third weapon in the passing game behind Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. It gives Hunt immediate PPR FLEX value, and spells trouble for Nick Chubb’s RB1 consistency. Chubb cleared 100 yards rushing for the third time in four games and fourth in six against the Bills’ shaky run defense but will find the sledding much tougher for Thursday’s short-week date with the Steelers. A volume monster in a bad offense, Chubb can’t afford any reduction in workload. Hunt made that look like a given on Sunday.
Devonta Freeman’s rare run of good health comes to an end. Sleepwalking through another unimpressive performance, Freeman departed against the Saints with a third quarter ankle injury. It’s most unwelcome news for a player who battled through foot, groin and knee issues in 2018. Third-year pro Brian Hill assumed a three-down role in Freeman’s absence, something he figures to keep for Week 11 against the Panthers if Freeman can’t go, as Ito Smith (neck) is already on injured reserve. Hill is a priority add in free agency ahead of a matchup with a Panthers Defense that can’t stop getting gutted by the run.