By: S.K. Patrick
The annual circus that is the Dallas Cowboys has given the NFL world another show. One week prior to the NFL trade deadline, the Cowboys acquired Oakland Raiders two-time Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper for a first-round draft pick.
The 2019 first-rounder now gives Jon Gruden’s team three selections in the opening round of next year’s draft after defensive end Khalil Mack was also traded. Clearly, the Raiders are looking to 2019 and beyond as this is a lost season, yet it’s also a sign the Cowboys believe they can compete now.
Cooper was an absolute beast coming out of Alabama. Since the Raiders selected him fourth overall in the 2015, he’s showed flashes as one of the league’s best young wide-outs. He made the Pro Bowl in his first two seasons, posting more than 1,000 yards and 11 total touchdowns. Cooper was the biggest offensive threat in helping Oakland end a 13-year playoff drought in 2016.
At 6’1″, the 210-pound receiver had a down season in 2017 as did Oakland. He posted 48 catches for 680 yards. He also missed two games due to a concussion and ankle injury. Cooper again was on track for a down year, notching only 22 catches for 280 yards and a touchdown through the Raiders’ first six games. Even so, this seems like more to do with bad QB play than anything else.
The Cowboys have lacked talent at the wide receiver slot since their controversial decision to release veteran Dez Bryant while future Hall-of-Famer tight end Jason Witten retired. They replaced him with wide receivers by committee containing free agents (Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson), underwhelming first-round pick (Tavon Austin) and project (Michael Gallup). Austin and Gallup have combined for 17 catches; Hurns has caught less than half the ball targeted his way; and Thompson is averaging just 8.6 yards per reception with no touchdowns.
It’s safe to say the Cowboys have already lost faith in that quartet. Slot stud Cole Beasley is carrying too much of the load. Beasley should continue to get plenty of action inside. Cooper’s arrival likely means fewer opportunities for every other active receiver on the roster.
Even so, the 24-year-old Cooper could still become a special player after a down year. He’s also cheap for now and is the most talented wide receiver the Cowboys have. They’re currently slated to land a top-10 pick in April’s draft.
But, did the Cowboys give up too much for one player? Sitting at 3-4 and 2 games out of first place, will Cooper put the team over the top in 2017? They suddenly don’t have a reasonable shot at beating the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints or Minnesota Vikings come January.
And, if that doesn’t happen, this trade will start to look worse in the 2019 off-season.