2021 NFL Draft Guide Player Profiles: Cooper Kupp
Published: Aug 13, 2021, 8:55 AM EDT
The Jared Goff era in Los Angeles is over, and that stands to benefit slot receiver Cooper Kupp. It’s not that Kupp was bad with Goff, but an ill-timed injury in 2018 and less than stellar play from Goff kept Kupp out of the WR2 range the past couple years, minus in 2019 when Kupp was a top-five fantasy receiver. In 2020, the volume was there, like it has been, as Kupp caught 92 of 124 targets for 974 yards, but he found the end zone just three times. He was a top 12 player at his position just three times and was inside the top 24 at his position in just four of 15 games in the 2020 season.
While he was consistent, the numbers weren’t as high as fantasy owners would like, and the explosive games were just non-existent in 2020. Kupp had just five games with more than 70 receiving yards. FIVE! Matthew Stafford is now under center for the Rams and I like the outlook for the Rams passing attack in 2021 because of this move. Thanks to the volume last year, he ended the year as the WR26 in PPR formats, but will the transition to Stafford bring back the explosive plays from Kupp and push him up into low-end WR1/high-end WR2 range? Let’s discuss.
Kupp garnered 24 percent of the target share, but he was in rare company, and it isn’t exactly positive. Of wide receivers with at least a 24 percent target share in 2020, Kupp was one of just four receivers to have three or fewer receiving touchdowns, per RotoViz. Furthermore, of the receivers with a 24 percent target share, only Jarvis Landry, Michael Thomas and Marquise Brown averaged fewer fantasy points per game than Kupp. Scoring only three touchdowns certainly hurt, but Goff wasn’t able to get Kupp the ball downfield. His yards per reception and yards per target marks of 10.6 and 7.9 were far cries from the 13.2 and 9.2 he posted from 2017-2019.
On top of that, his air yards per target have dropped each year, and the 2020 season was the first time that his yards per route run metric was below 2.00, per Pro Football Focus (PFF). Kupp is excellent after the catch, but that’s no excuse for his average depth of target being a measly 6.3 yards in 2020. Goff and Kupp struggled to connect on deep passes last year, which is a likely reason as to why he wasn’t getting downfield as much. Take a look at the numbers below, per PFF.
|% of Targets 20+ Yards||Receptions/Targets||# of TDs|
Could the lack of targets downfield in 2019 be a result of returning from a torn ACL in 2018? Maybe, but if they were confident enough to throw his way 8.4 times per game, we can scrap that theory.
Stafford will be able to hit Kupp in the short-to-intermediate game, but Stafford is an excellent deep ball thrower, and it is his right arm that can unlock elite potential for Kupp. Stafford routinely looks downfield and Kupp is more than adequate in terms of being a deep ball receiver. Take a look at Stafford’s numbers compared to Goff over the years and we’ll reconvene.
|% of Attempts 20+ yards||Cmp%||Passing Yards||Passing TDs|
Courtesy of PFF
*Stafford played in just eight games
Stafford has remained relatively stable and outside of 2018, has blown Goff out of the water on deep passing. Kupp and Robert Woods stand to benefit from this. Kupp and Woods will also help Stafford out, because they are the only two receivers over the past two years to have over 1,000 yards after the catch. Woods has the most with 1,072 and Kupp is second with 1,048. Kupp is tough to bring down, and Sean McVay does an exceptional job in scheming him into advantageous situations. In 2019 and 2020, Kupp has ranked fourth and third in yards after the catch respectively, per RotoViz.
The unfortunate and ill-timed injury to Cam Akers could lend itself to a few extra attempts for the Rams’ passing game. McVay has always utilized a short and quick passing game as an extension of the run game, and that should be no different. Robert Woods had the most receptions on screen passes in 2020, per PFF, and Kupp was just inside the top 25. Remember talking about yards after the catch? Well, this is where Kupp thrives, because on his ten screens in 2020, he forced six missed tackles, per PFF.
Will the switch from Goff to Stafford send Kupp to the top of the wide receiver rankings at the end of the year? No, but Stafford will present a great opportunity for Kupp to remain the consistent, high-floor option he’s been in recent years, but add in the potential for more frequent splash plays.
Since May 1st, Kupp is the 21st wide receiver coming off the board, per NFFC data, and he’s my pick of current back-end WR2’s to make the jump into low-end WR1 territory in 2021. He’ll remain a guy with a high floor, but the potential upside with Stafford in this offense is tantalizing.
Don’t be surprised by year’s end if Kupp has over 1,100 yards with double-digit touchdowns. Yeah, he could be that good.