After a stellar performance for the Los Angeles Rams throughout their 2021 title run, Cooper Kupp was a fantasy darling. Heading into the following season with Offensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl MVP awards under his belt, Kupp was a no-brainer lock to be the first wide receiver taken in most drafts in 2022.
Through the Rams’ first nine games, a repeat performance was looking inevitable for the Eastern Washington product. However, Kupp missed the final eight games due to an ankle injury and he had to settle for great production in a limited sample size instead of simply “great production.”
With analysts and fantasy experts seemingly underrating or undervaluing Kupp after last season, can he recapture his All-Pro highlights and dominating Triple Crown performance with a healthier Matthew Stafford and new offensive coordinator in 2023?
2022 fantasy performance
Early in ‘22, Kupp was doing his best to retain his triple crown from 2021, when he led the NFL in yards, catches, and touchdowns.
Cooper Kupp through 4 weeks:— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) October 4, 2022
- 30 catches
- 431 yards
- 5 TDs
- 102.6 PPR Points
- 42 catches
- 402 yards
- 3 TDs
- 106.2 PPR Points pic.twitter.com/Ahs5yznJYF
Within the first eight games, Kupp had picked up right where he left off by averaging 24.8 fantasy points, ending with an overall average of 14 points per game. For the season, Coop had amassed 126.4 total points, well off his torrid 2021 pace and good enough to finish as fantasy’s WR23. However, excluding his final appearance against Arizona, Kupp reached double-digit fantasy points in seven of eight games played. His high target share was a major contributor to his brief fantasy success.
Cooper Kupp, in his 9 games of 2022, led the NFL in target share at 29.9%— Brian Drake (@DrakeFantasy) June 23, 2023
He was second in the league at .31 Targets Per Route Run.
Through Week 9, Kupp was the top WR in fantasy with 24.8 PPR points per game.
His target competition includes:
The last time Kupp suffered a season-ending injury, he bounced back with a career year.
Back in 2018, Kupp had missed the Rams’ first Super Bowl trip under Sean McVay because of a torn ACL that forced him to miss half the campaign, After coming off such a tough injury, Coop responded by having the first 1,000-yard season of his young career in 2019.
That’s just on the injury side of things.
During Jared Goff’s final year in Hollywood, Kupp caught only three touchdowns the entire year. Fast-forward to Goff being swapped out for Stafford and the chemistry between the two was undeniable. LA’s WR1 had three touchdown receptions in the opening two games alone en route to one of the most dominant receiving seasons in NFL history. The only receiver to ever post more yards in a season than Kupp in 2021 was Calvin Johnson, also a teammate of Stafford’s that year.
That should also bode well for Kupp’s future if he can team up with Stafford for the entire 2023 campaign.
In his professional career, Kupp has proven time and time again that he’s been able to rebound from adversity. Whether that adversity has been related to injury or a lackluster performance, Coop always shows up when the lights shine brightest. The main thing going for him is that his injury this time around isn’t nearly as serious as the one he suffered back in ‘18.
The strain of playing 21 total games the year prior must’ve weighed too heavily on his body to where playing a full campaign would’ve be a challenge. Early reports out of practice have been positive so far as Kupp has been seeing an increased workload and will likely be a full participant once training camp begins in late July. Best-case is that if LA’s WR1 can respond positively to yet another setback, he’ll easily finish back in the top 5 of fantasy performers at his position.
Now for the glass-half-empty approach, let’s assume that Kupp’s ankle hasn’t recovered as much as we thought and he’s set to miss extensive time once again. Kupp had just turned 30 last month. Expecting better health and durability is a risky strategy already. Did anyone remember what happened when injury-prone Christian McCaffrey was at the top of everyone’s draft boards from 2020-21? Nothing is ever guaranteed, especially with a player’s health on the line.
Say Kupp stays healthy the whole year; will Stafford do the same? LA played three different signal callers with Stafford out and the offense suffered mightily. Matt is on the wrong side of 30 with a concerning rash of injuries behind him. Worst-case is that if he’s forced to sit out, the Rams and Kupp aren’t going anywhere so be careful where you draft him.
I’ve already mentioned Kupp’s ankle injury which he appears to be getting over just in time for training camp. Injury shouldn’t scare away any drafters based on his resume on the field and in fantasy.
Cooper Kupp has put up INSANE numbers in his last 30 games pic.twitter.com/dUMDxVxkZG— PFF (@PFF) July 12, 2023
Since 2021, Cooper Kupp has:— Dave Kluge (@DaveKluge) July 5, 2023
- Double-digit fantasy points in every outing
- 20+ points in 80% of games
- 30+ points in 32% of games
- 25.3 ppg
I have Jefferson and Chase slightly ahead of him in my fantasy football rankings, but I wouldn't judge anyone for taking Kupp 1.01.
Analysts punishing Kupp for his injury clearly have no idea what they’re talking about. Every defense knows who the ball is going to and they still can’t stop it. It’ll be even easier for Kupp to shred defenses with no proven pass catchers on the roster. The second-most proven one in Allen Robinson was traded to the Steelers this offseason. Robinson never put a dent in Coop’s targets in ‘22 and wasn’t able to find his footing in LA’s offense.
According to Fantasy Football Today, they project this stat line for Kupp in 2023:
12.8 yards per reception
I predict that a healthy Kupp will surpass 1,000 yards with ease. Remember, he still led the Rams in most receiving categories last season despite missing eight games. My own projections for Kupp this year are as followed:
Handcuff player recommendation
This is a tough choice as there’s not an established option behind Kupp. A player I believe will step it up to try and fit that mold is Van Jefferson. Everyone seems to forget that back in ‘21, Jefferson put together a strong sophomore campaign that flew under the radar thanks obviously to Kupp’s historic season. VJ strung together some quality fantasy outputs as he played every game for LA that year.
The Rams were a (much) better team in 2021 than they are in 2023— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) July 5, 2023
But during the period of time where Robert Woods was injured and Odell was getting acclimated to the offense, Van Jefferson left a mark
12.3, 10.3, 16.8, 13.1, 13.8 fantasy points 5 of 7 straight games
Jefferson set a career high in receptions (50), yards (802) and touchdown receptions (6). He fell back to earth the following year thanks to a stint on IR and lingering injuries that caused his production to fall across the board. The opportunities are present for Van to put a lackluster season behind him and he isn’t far removed from a productive campaign.
Van Jefferson:— SMcCormick (@SMcCormick_FF) July 12, 2023
one year removed from being WR35 in half-PPR leagues
6 Top-25 games in 2021 with a deeper WR room
will be on the field during two wide receiver sets
No legitimate, proven #2 WR option on the team
Healthy Stafford is back at QB
Other Rams to consider
With such a young offense and no proven WR2, every Rams’ pass catcher should be considered but I would caution not to overdraft them. Given the number of breakout candidates, I’m unsure as to how McVay will use them within the offense. The last two offseasons we’ve heard about Tutu Atwell breaking out but he has had yet to carve out a sizable role on offense.
He had flashes when given the opportunities last season when practically everyone was out. There’s no doubt that Atwell’s speed and athleticism is intriguing.
Then there’s rookie Puka Nacua who’s unofficially been deemed, “the second coming of Bobby Trees”. Nacua has been highly regarded by Rams coaches and players throughout the offseason. Nacua is currently listed as questionable for Week 1 vs. the Seahawks with a lower-body injury, but once he’s fully healthy, it’s looking very likely that LA got a steal in this year’s draft.
The #Rams have spoken very highly of rookie Wr Puka Nacua at OTAs and now I c why… he reminds me some of Deebo Samuel - he’s great after the catch, great hands, good at getting separation, he’s good n the backfield, and has good speed— JLay (@PatsJLay) July 5, 2023
I think the #Rams got a 5th round steal pic.twitter.com/Ei15A13Qi4
Even with their respective breakout potential, I wouldn’t overdraft Atwell or Nacua. We’ve heard so many positives about each, particularly Tutu the last two camps which makes me think they’re being way overhyped. I’m solely basing that on Atwell not living up to his massive hype. I’m not saying to avoid them in a draft but just know what you’re working with and not set yourselves up for disappointment later. Draft low if possible.