Robert Woods or Cooper Kupp: Who To Target in 2020 (Fantasy Football)

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After the worst season under head coach Sean McVay, the Rams made some key changes in the offseason. WR Brandin Cooks was traded to the Houston Texans after a disappointing year and elite RB Todd Gurley was released in free agency.  Despite the poor record, Kupp finished the year as the WR4 in half PPR scoring and Woods finished as the WR17 despite having nearly identical stats on paper.

As we know in fantasy football, end of season rankings can be misleading.  Both Woods and Kupp were practically identical except for three metrics: snap percentage, red-zone looks, and touchdowns.  If we look at the season as a single entity without breaking down what actually happened, we are overlooking some key changes to the Rams offense.

So, which WR should you be targeting in your 2020 drafts? Let’s look at the offseason changes and the evolution of the Rams offense to see if we can pinpoint who gets the looks in 2020.

Vacated Targets

As I mentioned before, Cooks and Gurley are both gone with no elite talent to replace them. Cooks saw 72 targets in 14 games while Gurley saw 49, totaling 121 vacated targets up for grabs.

Cooks lined up primarily in the left wide and left slot positions 271 and 374 times respectively.  To compare, Woods went right wide 168 times and right slot 372 times while Kupp dominated the left and right slot 360 and 230 times respectively.  It’s possible we see Woods lining up out wide more often, assuming the Cooks-Esque role and usurping those targets while Kupp remains in the slot.

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Aside from available targets, another important metric to factor in is the opportunity to see those targets.  Despite playing one fewer game than Kupp, Woods out-snapped his teammate 986 to 884, which amounts to over 100 more targets while missing an entire game.  Woods also saw 23.5% of the Rams’ air yards to Kupp’s 20%, and 0.5% more than Kupp in the team’s total targets at 22.5%.

Again, if we look at these numbers as a true reflection of the whole year, we are missing a tale of two seasons for both players.  Let’s break down what really happened at the end of the 2019 season and how this affects the offense in 2020.

11 Versus 12-Personnel Grouping

The Rams began to phase out Todd Gurley due to his arthritic knee and the offense started converting to a 12-personnel grouping as opposed to McVay’s high-flying 11-personnel offense.

So, what exactly is the 12-personnel grouping?  In general, it means there are one RB and two TEs on the field, which infers there are only two WRs. In an 11-personnel offense, there are usually three WRs.  This was McVay’s bread and butter since becoming head coach, but defenses have started to catch on, prompting the switch to utilize only two WRs.

This is where the story of Woods and Kupp begin to flip-flop.  As the Rams’ integrated two TEs, Kupp saw less and less playing time.  During Weeks 1 through 8, Kupp had 91 targets with 58 receptions for 792 yards and five touchdowns, dominating the WR1 tier four times.  Compare that to Weeks 10 through 17 (the 12-personnel transition) and Kupp’s snap counts dropped to 72%, 28%, and two games of 61%.  He saw only 43 targets with 36 receptions for 369 yards during that time while still hauling in another five touchdowns. However, aside from Week 17, a touchdown wasn’t enough to get Kupp back into WR1 territory.

On the other hand, through Weeks 1 to 8, Woods saw only 60 targets with 38 receptions for 471 yards and zero receiving touchdowns.  Weeks 10 through 17 his targets increased to 79 with 52 receptions for 663 yards and two receiving touchdowns.  Unlike Kupp, his snap counts remained steady between 95% and 100% except for one game at 65% against the Baltimore Ravens.

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To give you an idea of the swing this change in grouping caused, below is a snapshot of their consistency over the 2019 season.

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Conclusion

If McVay continues to mix the 12-personnel grouping into the entire 2020 season, I think Woods (and Tyler Higbee) benefit from the offensive changes, even without Brandin Cooks as the second WR on the field.  Woods proved in the back half of the season that he doesn’t need the touchdowns to finish well in this system as long as he is on the field and getting targets.  With Gurley and Cooks both gone, his opportunity in the red zone should increase along with his target share.  2019 was Woods 2nd to worst year in terms of touchdowns in his entire career.

Likewise, Kupp’s ten touchdowns are likely to regress.  It’s very difficult to predict touchdowns and that is the main reason he finished as a WR1 in 2019.  By targeting Kupp because of his TD totals, you are relying on an incredibly volatile metric. Less time on the field limits his opportunity to make that happen again, especially in a 12-personnel grouping as the second half of the season proved.

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While I do expect Woods to finish better than a WR17 in 2020, I do not expect Kupp to fall into obscurity.  He is far too talented, has too many red-zone looks, and has an excellent rapport with QB Jared Goff.  Your roster construction will determine who to target for 2020.  Woods is the choice for consistent production, while Kupp can give you upside but may become touchdown-dependent in order to do so.  At Kupp’s current ADP around the end of the 3rd Round in half PPR scoring, it is too pricey for me to take on the risk he brings on a weekly basis if he isn’t seeing the snap counts.  For this reason, I am giving the nod to Woods who you can get in the middle to late 4th Round and offers a more consistent weekly opportunity for production.

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