Here’s the simple truth about both real and fantasy football: The game is all about touchdowns and who can score them.
Sure, targets have become a very sexy stat to keep track of in the fantasy community but the difference between big fantasy performances and average ones doesn’t have to do with targets and yards. It has everything to do with touchdowns. Plus, a touchdown is the only thing that can turn a “OMG WHY DID I START THIS PLAYER” performance to a “oh few, at least he scored some points”.
The issue with relying on touchdowns for your fantasy production is that, much like the future or Cam Newton’s post-game wardrobe, they’re not easy to predict. Don’t give up hope just yet though (otherwise this would be a really short post). Looking at team’s red zone targets can at least give you a sense of which players teams are turning to once they get near the goal-line.
Many names on this list shouldn’t surprise you—Dez Bryant, DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald, Jimmy Graham, Antonio Brown—as they tend to be the number one guy in the offense. Bryant leads the NFL in red zone targets (14) and Hopkins has the best target percentage in the league (he gets 40.7% of the Texans’ targets in the red zone). That all checks out.
However, there’s a name just below both of Bryant and Hopkins, that maybe you wouldn’t expect to be there. A player that goes by the name of Cooper Kupp.
Queue Emergency Kupp Cup Status:
The rookie receiver has quickly become vital member of the Rams’ high-flying passing attack. Kupp’s second on the team in targets (48), third in receptions (26), second in yards (370) and tied for first in touchdowns (three). Only Robert Woods is averaging more targets per game and the difference is miniscule (Woods is averaging 6.1 TPG while Kupp is averaging 6). Despite this level of production, he’s only owned in 55% of Yahoo! leagues and only 48.5% of ESPN leagues. Don’t ask me why.
If Kupp is available in your league, stop reading this article and go add him right now.
It’s not just that he’s integral in the Rams offense or clearly has chemistry with quarterback Jared Goff. Remember way back at the beginning of this article when I was talking about how important touchdowns are? Kupp is second in the NFL in red zone targets (13), third in red zone catches (7) and second in team target percentage (35.1%). Basically, when the Rams get into the red zone, they are looking to get the ball into Kupp’s hands.
And there’s a reason for this. Head coach Sean McVay has constructed an offense to take advantage of Kupp’s quick feet and shiftiness around the goal-line. McVay been able to get Kupp into space, get the ball in his hands, and allow him to make people miss in the condensed space. Perfect example is Week 7 against the Cardinals, Goff gets the ball to Kupp on a screen and Kupp is able to make people miss and sneak his way into the endzone for the touchdown.
Against the Cowboys in Week 4, McVay calls a quick out route for Kupp who’s able to almost immediately get separation from the cornerback and give Goff a window to throw. He then is able to make the defender miss, turn the ball up field and get in for the score.
Kupp is far from perfect. There’s a reason he only has three touchdowns despite receiving his fair share of targets. While he’s shown the ability to get open, he’s had a few drops and lapses of focus. Against the Seahawks in Week 5, he had the game winning touchdown bounce off his hands in agonizing fashion. While the throw wasn’t perfect, that’s a catch you’re expected to make in the NFL.
However this room for improvement is what make Kupp so intriguing heading into the second half of the year. If he’s able to continue to adjust to the NFL game and limit his mistakes, he’s being given as much opportunity to score and, in turn become a fantasy star, as the best receivers in the game.
At this point in the fantasy season, it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg to get someone like Bryant or Hopkins or Brown on your team. There’s a 50 percent chance it’ll cost you nothing to get Kupp.