Fantasy football drafts have opened up recently and the NFL Network is wasting no time putting together mock drafts and ranking players. The Raiders will, unlike in previous seasons, be well represented in fantasy drafts this year. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are both worthy of a starting spot, as is Derek Carr. Latavius Murray is a genuine RB2 along with a defense that is flirting with the top ten.
NFL Network's main fantasy-analysis show is NFL Fantasy Live, and they have put together a list of the Top 50 fantasy players. Cooper came in at #29, sandwiched between Denver running back CJ Anderson and Saints WR Brandin Cooks. Keep in mind that this is not a list of who are the best players in the NFL, but who is best for fantasy purposes. Take a look at numbers 30-21.
30. C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver Broncos
29. Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders
28. Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints
27. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
26. LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills
25. Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints
24. Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
23. Thomas Rawls, RB, Seattle Seahawks
22. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
21. Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Jets
Here's what NFL.com writer Alex Gelhar had to say about Cooper in his article analyzing this section of the list:
Amari Cooper led all rookie wide receivers in every statistical category, with only Tyler Lockett tying his touchdown total (six). Word out of Oakland is he's taken the next step and built an improved rapport with quarterback Derek Carr. Cooper possesses immense talent and his ceiling is huge if everything goes right this fall (which is why he's being drafted as a high-end WR2). However, his floor is pretty low too. He only saw seven targets in the red zone last year (compared to 13 for Michael Crabtree), and with the Raiders defense improved this offseason, the team might not need to rely on Carr's arm so much to win games. That could lead to an increase in rush attempts instead of passes late in games, reducing Cooper's opportunities. I'm not saying don't draft him, I'm just expressing a few words of caution.
Those are all valid points, but the fantasy game doesn't care if a player scores a touchdown in the first quarter or the fourth and we know Bill Musgrave likes to throw the ball early, late, and often. Cooper is clearly amongst the upper echelon of wide receivers this year and should be a solid WR2 or WR1 if you don't pick one in the first two rounds.
I personally did a fantasy draft this evening and was lucky enough to draft Cooper at Pick #28 in the third round. I doubt he would have lasted until my next pick, so I absolutely had to pull the trigger. He won't be going much later than that this season.