The 2013 season started off on the wrong foot for Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper, when video of him uttering a racial slur surfaced during training camp and had his future with the team up in the air for a time. But the Eagles kept him around, Cooper put the distraction behind him during a breakout season (47 receptions for 835 yards and eight touchdowns) and he was rewarded with a five-year, $25 million contract extension this week.
Cooper emerged as an option for fantasy football owners last season, but could better things be coming in 2014?
Cooper had just eight catches for 93 yards in the first five games of 2013, but a hamstring injury for Michael Vick led to Nick Foles starting his first game of the season in Week 6 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and that started a nice run for Cooper. Starting with a four-catch, 120-yard effort in that game, Cooper had 39 receptions for 742 yards (19 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns over the final 11 games of the season. The one obvious dud over that stretch came in Week 8 against the New York Giants (two catches for 13 yards), and not coincidentally Foles missed that game with a concussion, Vick was re-injured and rookie Matt Barkley saw significant action.
Cooper had three 100-yard games over the final 11 games of 2013, but he also had seven games with three or fewer catches and five of his seven touchdowns in that span came against the Oakland Raiders in Week 9 (three) and the Green Bay Packers in Week 10 (two). During a particularly crucial stretch for fantasy owners, Week 11-Week 16, Cooper had less than 50 receiving yards in three of five games and just one touchdown in that time.
Cooper should maintain a prominent role for the Eagles next season, considering what they’ve now committed to him financially, but if Jeremy Maclin is re-signed after missing all of last season with a torn right ACL that would alter the wide receiver pecking order. 2013 looks like a best-case scenario for Cooper, but he still didn’t have 50 catches and though his percentage of Philadelphia’s red zone targets was high (20.4 percent) he only had 11 total targets in that area of the field.
Cooper should be draftable in 12 and 14-team leagues this summer, but his touchdown total will drive his week-to-week production and based on the prospect his catch total drops next season his value in PPR leagues will remain dismal. The Eagles’ offseason moves will dictate things some, but regardless of league format I don’t see Cooper as anything more than a risk/reward WR3 for 2014.
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.