Amari Cooper is a good receiver. He’s not as good as Odell Beckham Jr. was when he left New York for Cleveland though. Sure, there are some arguments you could make against the latter statement. For example, perhaps Cooper hasn’t been a true No. 1 in Dallas since CeeDee Lamb got there. Doubtful, but I can see the argument. Perhaps Cooper is a better fit in Cleveland than OBJ? Maybe, but they’re pretty similar receivers in terms of what they bring to the table, so once again, it’s doubtful.
Cooper may claim he’s the best receiver in the league, but he’s struggled to garner that reputation on his own team, let alone across the NFL. Now, he moves to an offense that runs the ball incredibly frequently. In fact, the Browns were the only team in the NFL that ran the ball on more than 47 percent of their plays last season to finish the regular season with a losing record. They ran the ball over 6 percent more frequently than the Dallas Cowboys, and the Cowboys were consistently ahead in games — 48.3 percent run-pass ratio in CLE to 42.2 percent in DAL. They had incentive to run the ball. Cleveland, not as much. Yeah, I don’t think Cooper is going to break out next season, especially if the Browns keep trotting Baker Mayfield onto the field.
Since 2018, Cooper has always thrived around the deep intermediate part of the field. His average depth of target has never dipped below 8.8 since then and never risen higher than 12.5. For comparison, Deebo Samuel, a notorious YAC/short yardage receiver, has recorded marks of 7.5, 2.2, and 8.4 in his three year career. On the other end, Mike Williams, well-regarded as a deep threat for the Chargers up until last season, recorded ADoT’s of 12.7, 16.6, and 12.4 between 2018 and 2020. Cooper works in between the two, maybe a little more toward the latter, but still intermediate nonetheless.
Mayfield has always struggled in that intermediate-to-deep range. In 2020, arguably the best season of his career, Mayfield ranked 23rd in intermediate throw IQR, a measure of a quarterback’s efficiency, similar to passer rating that supposedly eliminates factors out of the quarterback’s control such as dropped passes and throwaways. Yes, Prescott ranked lower than Mayfield that season, but Prescott also only played in five games that year. Basically, even in his best season, Mayfield isn’t really all that great when throwing where Cooper thrives.
Keep in mind that Browns’ WR Jarvis Landry was given permission to seek a trade today as well.
The Browns don’t have a reliable target outside of Cooper and Landry currently. Without Landry, teams are going to focus more attention on Cooper in coverage. With Mike Williams re-signing with the Chargers, and Chris Godwin being franchise tagged and working on an extension with the Bucs, there aren’t too many great wide receivers left available. Both JuJu Smith-Schuster and Allen Robinson are still free agents. Maybe the Browns could focus on signing one of them, but their time would likely be better spent trying to trade for an upgrade at quarterback.
All this being said, I still think this is a solid deal for Cleveland. A fifth and a sixth? That’s all for a guy who’s fresh off an 865 yard, eight touchdown season that was one of the worst of his career and a sixth-rounder? Yeah, I’ll take that any day of the week. Although Cooper may not be used as effectively as he, or any fans, would like, he’s definitely worth what the Browns gave up. They took advantage of Dallas’s awful cap situation and got their replacement for OBJ.
Beckham showed that he still had lots left in his tank after being traded away from the Browns. He had merely been the victim of an offense that didn’t use him. Many people considered him washed by the time he started complaining about his target share. I fear the same fate may befall Cooper in 2022. While Cooper is still a tremendously talented receiver and well-respected across the league, his talent will more or less go to waste in Cleveland’s run-heavy offense.