Cooper, 29, caught a career-high nine touchdowns last season for the Browns, despite the struggles of Cleveland's passing game as a whole. The Browns ranked 22nd in total passing yards last season, leaning heavily on Nick Chubb and the running game with Jacoby Brissett behind center for the first 11 games of the season.
When Deshaun Watson returned from suspension after Week 12, the offense didn't exactly hit the ground running. Watson showed a lot of rust, throwing for less than 200 total yards in four of his six starts. It's reasonable to assume that Watson was playing much closer to his floor as a QB than anything else, which is a positive sign for Cooper moving forward.
Amari Cooper's stats from Watson's six starts with Browns extrapolated over a full 17-game season would look like this:
60 receptions, 1,043 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns.
That kind of stat line would put Cooper on the WR2/WR3 spectrum and would have been good for the WR24 ranking last year in PPR leagues.
Amari Cooper's current ADP
Cooper is currently the 17th wide receiver coming off the board, according to FantasyPros. Fantasy football drafters aren't currently factoring in Watson being a prime positive regression candidate, and are drafting Cooper more towards his floor than his ceiling.
In three of his last four seasons, Cooper has eclipsed 78 receptions and 1,115 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. Cooper has finished as the 9th (2019), 15th (2020) and 8th (2022) among receivers in PPR leagues during that time.
Even if Watson can only provide league-average play at QB, Cooper is looking like a steal in the early-to-middle portion of the 4th round in PPR leagues with an average draft position of 43.0.
It's not often you can get a clear top receiver attached to a potential top-5 quarterback for that draft capital. We've seen Watson do it before: in three consecutive seasons from 2018 to 2020, he finished as a Top-6 quarterback in fantasy. If Watson regains that form, Cooper will be the primary beneficiary. Watson helped DeAndre Hopkins finish as the WR4 and WR6 during those seasons, then elevated Brandin Cooks to an 81-1150-6 campaign when Hopkins was traded away.
Cleveland hasn't added much in the way of target competition for Cooper this offseason. Elijah Moore flashed potential in his rookie year with the New York Jets, but his sophomore campaign wasn't nearly as productive. Moore is more likely to eat into the work of Donovan Peoples-Jones in 2-WR looks than impact Cooper's targets. With David Njoku coming off a career-best season, the Browns' offense has enough weapons to keep teams from loading up coverage against Cooper in pass situations.
Amari Cooper's fantasy football outlook for the 2023 season will be tied heavily to Watson, but finishing as the WR8 last season with Brissett at quarterback bodes well for the future.
Cooper's fantasy football perception
Amari Cooper's WR17 ADP seems to be more grounded in a negative perception of Cleveland's run-first offense. Yes, the Browns want to run and give Nick Chubb the ball, as Cleveland was -7.6% in Pass Rate Over Expectation (PROE). PROE indicates how much over (or under) expectation each offense calls a passing play, meaning the Browns ran a lot when they were expected to throw.
But at least part of that should be attributed to the Browns being more conservative with Brissett under center, and Watson getting his legs back underneath him after a lengthy absence. You could reasonably expect Cleveland to throw more frequently this year, which should be another boost to Cooper's stock. Cooper was 12th in red zone and deep targets last season, so any uptick in passing could lead to even bigger production if he keeps a similar target share.
Amari Cooper's fantasy outlook for the 2023 NFL season is similar to past years, but with some serious baked-in upside if Watson returns to superstar status again. Cooper has finished as a top-25 receiver in 7-of-8 seasons, making him a rock-solid WR2 option in fantasy football drafts once again, with the potential for even more.