Fantasy Court: The Case Against Tarik Cohen in 2019
I don’t dislike Tarik Cohen and I certainly don’t think he lacks talent. At some point, a player’s opportunity is great enough and the risk is low enough to form a cost in the form of a draft position. I don’t dislike any players… I dislike where opportunity costs exceed the value a player offers. This is the problem I have with Cohen. If you want to draft Cohen, you’re going to have to spend a fifth or sixth-round pick on him. That draft position carries with it a lot of opportunity cost especially if used on someone who could easily disappoint this year. Let me lay out what made Cohen a star last year, what his outlook is for this year, and talk about the opportunity cost of using a valuable draft slot on him.
Tarik Cohen’s 2018 Season
2018 was an amazing year for Cohen. He earned the highest production premium of any RB last year according to playerprofiler.com. Despite rushing the ball for less than 100 times, he was able to rack up over 1,100 yards from scrimmage aided by 71 receptions on the year. He had a few weeks with week-winning fantasy points and finished as the RB13 in .5 PPR scoring. The downside? His 12.5 fantasy points per game put him on a RB17 per-game basis and he was wildly inconsistent.
His fantasy production was directly tied to the targets he received. Of the eight games where he had five or fewer targets during Weeks 1-16, he got you 12 or more fantasy points only once. In those eight games, he got you less than 10 fantasy points six times including a 2.4 fantasy stinker in Week 16 otherwise known as Championship Week. How did someone with so many targets on the year have so many weeks with five or fewer targets?
A full 27 of his 91 total targets(29.7%) came in two games where he scored 18.3 and 28.6 fantasy points, which accounted for 24.9% of his total fantasy production. Those sort of spike weeks are great in DFS, but not the sort of production profile that you want when plugging him into a weekly lineup.
This was still a great fantasy season especially since he was drafted in the eighth round or later last year. Sharing backfield snaps with Jordan Howard, who set a three-year target low, helped along with injuries to Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller helped boost Cohen’s targets. The situation is unlikely to repeat in 2019.
Chicago’s 2019 Offseason
Chicago traded Jordan Howard to Philadelphia, but they went out and signed Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency. In limited work, Davis rushed for 514 yards and four rushing TDs on 112 carries for Seattle. He also added 214 yards and a TD on 34 receptions. Patterson isn’t fantasy viable, but he’ll be used in a hybrid RB/WR role.
Chicago also picked up a couple of RBs in the draft despite having only five draft picks and none higher than the third Round. They moved up to select David Montgomery with their first pick in the third Round (73rd overall). They also used one of their seventh Round picks on FAU RB Kerrith Whyte. Montgomery, in particular, has been impressive throughout training camp and his ADP is trending towards the Third Round. He was recently drafted in the Second Round of our Fantasy Football Writers League although it was by Jay Griz (Griz does have a bias to draft current and former Bears players).
Tarik Cohen’s Opportunity Cost
We know Cohen had a great 2018 season because of a perfect storm of situation and unexpected opportunity. We also know Chicago added at least two RBs that are solid runners and very capable pass catchers. What we don’t know is the opportunity cost.
Cohen is going in a tricky spot. His ADP is 6.01 which means he’s an option for the players drafting in the last three spots of the draft. Those draft spots are ripe with stud WRs and Travis Kelce. More than likely, your first two picks are going to be a RB(Le’Veon Bell, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, James Conner) and a WR(Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., Michael Thomas, JuJu Smith-Schuster) or Travis Kelce. Something similar happens between the Third- and Fourth-Rounds. The player pool is split between RBs(Marlon Mack, Chris Carson, Josh Jacobs, David Montgomery) and WRs (Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods). All of this to say, most of the teams that are in-line to draft Tarik Cohen will probably have a balanced roster with two RBs and two WRs or two RBs, a TE(Travis Kelce), and a WR. Why, if you already have two RBs, would you chase someone whose targets may regress and offers little outside of pass-catching?
You have a few options especially since you have two picks to work with. You could use both of your picks on WRs. This would be especially useful if you start three WRs and have a flex (Jarvis Landry, Allen Robinson, Christian Kirk, Robby Anderson).
You could look for an RB that offers enough of a floor to plug into the flex each week plus some upside if an opportunity opens in front of them. The poster child for this is Latavius Murray. Murray isn’t the sexiest name out there, but he’s proven to be a capable RB on two separate teams before heading to New Orleans. New Orleans and New England are by far the two RB friendliest teams in the league. Even if Kamara is the primary back, Murray can still be plugged in your flex. Imagine what happens to Murray’s value if Kamara misses any time. A couple of other RBs that you could consider that offer a good floor and high ceiling are Duke Johnson and Kenyan Drake. Johnson being a three-down back in Houston’s prolific offense would be especially exciting. The best you can hope for with Cohen is an injury to Montgomery or Davis that allows him to get more touches. Even then you’re as likely to see a stinker game as you are a boom game.
The last option is to chase pure upside. RBs like Miles Sanders, Rashaad Penny, Austin Ekeler, and Royce Freeman are riskier picks. Something needs to happen(or not happen in the case of contract negotiations between Melvin Gordon and the Chargers) for them to be given the primary-back role on their respective teams. If they do get more opportunity than expected, they would be well-positioned to be fantasy studs with RB1 potential.
I know I would be in love with any player that I drafted so late that they started the year on my bench only to go and post an overall RB13 season especially if I avoided starting them on their bust weeks. Don’t let sentiment and fluke circumstances that created exceptional opportunity in the past get in the way of good judgment and rationale expectations for this season.
Cohen is a fantastic player and he’ll be a key part of the Chicago offense, but his competition for touches has gotten a lot stiffer and he’s not coming at any discount. There are players being drafted significantly after him that offer better floors and similar if not greater ceilings. Boom-and-bust players are fine to draft but only after you have your starting RBs and WRs corps locked up.
If you’re not too excited about drafting Cohen this year, you’re in good company: