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Cooper Kupp will be unseated as top receiver

In the fifth of a six-part fantasy draft preview series leading up to the NFL season, Fantasy Insanity discusses which wide receivers to draft when. Next week: recap.

Cooper Kupp led wide receivers in fantasy scoring last year, averaging more than 3.5 points more than the player with the next highest average per week — Davante Adams.

That’s a huge gap, right? It sure feels like it. And history tends to reflect that. Between 2014 and 2018, the highest gap in average scoring per week was 2.5, with two seasons coming in with less than a 1-point difference.

But then came 2019. When Michael Thomas scored 3.7 more than the No. 2. Then there was 2020, when Adams led all receivers by a 3.7-point margin per game as well. And Kupp last season.

Maybe we’re seeing a trend, in which a particular QB-WR combo clicks and blows away the competition. Or maybe it is just like getting three tails in a row on a coin flip — pure chance.

But here’s the other thing: The only WR to repeat as the top scorer in that span was Antonio Brown — who did it four straight years (2014-17). In every season since, there has been a new stud WR.

Cooper Kupp
Cooper Kupp

Can Kupp repeat? Well, he has the same QB, Matthew Stafford — that’s good. But Stafford has a mysterious thumb injury — that’s not good. Yet the Rams no longer have Odell Beckham Jr. on the roster — good for Kupp. But they did add Allen Robinson — not as good.

The point is, for every reason to think Kupp, the reigning Super Bowl MVP, can repeat, there is also a red flag as to why he won’t. If he is to be unseated, the consensus seems to be, and the Madman agrees, that will be by Justin Jefferson.

As a rookie, the young Vikings wideout ranked fourth at WR in fantasy PPR production last season. With a year under his belt, he should be better. The Vikings have a new coach, Kevin O’Connell. That is meaningful because O’Connell was the offensive coordinator who oversaw Kupp’s historic season last year.

So which of these two studs you take early in your draft is like splitting hairs. Both should be great. The tougher choices come later. Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs and Ja’Marr Chase are a step behind the top two, then there is a sharp dropoff in the Madman’s projections.

We think Deebo Samuel is ranked a tad too high, we don’t share the fantasy community’s faith in CeeDee Lamb, and the Steelers’ QB situation and potential rise of George Pickens makes us hesitant to pull the trigger on Diontae Johnson. But most WRs in Rounds 2-4 do not summon any fantasy fears, even if we’re not in love with them.

Some of those we actively target include Michael Pittman, A.J. Brown, and Terry McLaurin. A bit later, we have eyes on Allen Robinson, Rashod Bateman, Mike Williams, Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Gabriel Davis and Amon-Ra St. Brown.

During this stretch, we avoid DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Amari Cooper and DeAndre Hopkins.

We like Robert Woods’ value and potential to become the Titans’ top WR more than we do that of Treylon Burks. Darnell Mooney gets a similar default liking, since someone has to catch a few passes for the Bears.

We’re not going to draft anyone relying on Marcus Mariota to get them the ball, so apologies, Drake London. But we’ll forgive Michael Thomas for a terrible 2020, and put faith in him turning it around with a healthy Jameis Winston at QB.

There are so many names to choose from, you shouldn’t have a problem making a great catch.

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