By: Jerry Sinclair (Twitter: @TheSinDynasty)
AJ Green vs Amari Cooper
Every off-season, we see a great deal of topics and debates arouse within the Fantasy Football community. One of the most recent debates that has occurred this off-season, is one that we just can’t seem to get away from. AJ Green vs Amari Cooper. The epitome of the Dynasty Fantasy Football argument of a young player with tremendous upside against that of a seasoned vet with years of excellent production.
With the recent conundrum of Green vs Cooper going on throughout the Twitter-sphere, it was only natural to bring the Tweets into some articles. FFDynasty260 will be breaking this debate up in several pieces, each covering a particular aspect of the issue. Our first portion comes from one of our writers, Jerry Sinclair.
AJ Green vs Amari Cooper: Part 1, The Logical Approach
All dynasty football players are gamblers at our core. We aren’t content in redraft leagues. Going after the same players year after year is dull. We needed dynasty to let us draft 40+ new rookies every year, before they’ve even stepped foot on a NFL practice field. The true degenerates amongst us, take it a step further with ‘Devy’ leagues. In Devy leagues, you not only draft players still in college, but possibly even high school. It’s the thrill of the gamble. Knowing the glory, and praise, that would ensue if your prospect were to turn into an all-pro. It adds a curve ball to any trade talks, or player evaluation. That of course, is understanding the potential of a young player. Specifically, before your league mates see the potential. There it is, the deadliest word in the dynasty community, potential.
Potential in Dynasty football is like Schrodinger’s Theory. It is both the great equalizer, yet also, the great separator of player values. Potential is what makes Corey Coleman more valuable than Hall of Famer, Larry Fitzgerald. It’s what makes Joe Mixon a better asset to a fantasy roster, than even the starter on his own team, Giovani Bernard. Interpreting player potential is not universally accepted for each individual player. This gives us the leading platform for debate amongst the community. Of which, can become so heated it couldn’t even be topped by Stephen A. Smith himself. It’s these evaluations of potential that separate the strong players from the average.
Bet On Some Long Shots
I’m a big gambler. I used to play 4 to 8 tables of poker online for 8 hour a day, every day until the sites got shut down in the U.S. In fantasy though? The unknown is too scary. I avoid it any chance I can. The key to minimizing the unknown in fantasy, is separating the different types of potential and valuing those players accordingly. Unknown player potential is like calling with a straight draw and hoping to get lucky and hit your card on the turn. You’re not going to want to put a lot of money in the pot hoping to hit your straight. You only want to put in a little bit of money, in case you lose, it won’t cost you, but if it does hit, it’ll pay dividends. In other words, you don’t want a lot of players on your roster that are high risk players. Have a few in case they fail, it won’t hurt you to bad, but enough in case they blow up into fantasy superstardom. The type of players that come to mind most are young receivers. Either rookies that have a lot of hype or young guys that have been hurt or struggled a bit. Think Corey Coleman, Laquan Treadwell, and Donte Moncrief.
In the event your gamble pays off and your hypothetical straight card hits on the turn and you get a late bloomer like T.Y. Hilton or Doug Baldwin, you get a great boost towards a championship at a cheaper price tag. Just like when playing poker you have to understand the odds associated with each probability. For each T.Y Hilton you hit on, you’re going to miss your straight and have a handful of Tavon Austin, Cordarelle Patterson, and Justin Blackmon’s. This is why you need to not risk too many roster spots on guys like this. Only a few are going to hit. If you commit to many roster spots to similar players, which most will inevitably miss in the long run, than the juice will not be worth the squeeze when they do hit.
Trying to solve a player’s value with no stats is futile, it’s essentially a guess. Now when you have stats and game film to help you evaluate, that’s when you can paint a much clearer picture of a players potential. This also leads into the ultimate dynasty predicament. How much added value should be put on youth? You have a player that’s productive at a young age but not as productive as a player that’s much older. Do you keep the elite option for 2-3 more years? Do you take the good young player, who might not be elite for a few years, but could be for the next 8, 9, or 10 years?
The World Series of Poker is going on in Las Vegas right now so let’s paint a similar scenario to compare it to the felt. You get dealt pocket kings and you’re living the life ready to take everybody’s money. You get to the flop and three hearts come up. You double check your hand and you don’t have the King of hearts. Damn it. You look over and your 22 year old opponent is staring back at you with his sunglasses on and his hood over his head. You know he has a heart in his hand, so you’re probably going to be in trouble. Just like with the elite fantasy option, you definitely have the best of it now. Down the road you still might end up with the upper hand, but the future isn’t looking like to promising of a situation. In poker, your opponent could hit an Ace, which would give them a better pair then you, or hit a heart to give them a flush. In fantasy, your veteran could start to decline, get hurt, or the young gun could hit their prime and turn into just as valuable of a short term asset. Do you shoot for the moon in the short term, and potentially cost yourself for many years to come?
The Great Debate
I’ve been involved in a twitter battle that has continued on for the better part of six weeks. In a Dynasty league, would you prefer A.J. Green or Amari Cooper? The presidential debates last fall were more civil than the gauntlet that has ensued regarding this innocent twitter poll. The case for each is simple. Determining who’s more valuable? Not so much. One has been an elite fantasy receiver his entire career but will be 29 years old this season. The other has been a good and consistent WR2, but has elite upside and will only be 23 when the season kicks off. “Well I’ll keep A.J. Green for a few years to win now and then trade for Amari.” Not so fast my friend…Why would an Amari Cooper owner trade a 26 year old wide receiver in the midst of his prime for a 32 year old at the end of the road? You would have missed your opportunity. I have been on record numerous times about this and I will be once more, I’m on the side of Amari Cooper.
The argument for A.J. Green is a good one, and I understand it. I can’t fault a person for picking Green. I just can’t conjure up a scenario where the difference between the two, production wise, is big enough to make up for the fact that Cooper will be a legitimate fantasy starter for 5-7 years longer than A.J. Green. Amari is still several years from even hitting his prime, and when he does, so will Derek Carr. It’s also very likely Michael Crabtree will not be in the offense when that does happen, so Amari will be force fed from what should be the best young QB in the game. Derek Carr was in the conversation for NFL MVP until he got hurt last year. Only his 3rd season in the NFL. Is he really going to miraculously turn into Robert Griffin 5 years from now when both he and Amari Cooper are at the apex of their careers? Doesn’t seem likely.
Maybe this is who Amari Cooper is, an 1,100 yard receiver with 6 or 7 TDs a year type of guy. If that’s the case, I can understand more so, where the Green siders come from. Even if that’s Cooper’s ceiling though, I still prefer him as a foundation for a dynasty team. Once AJ Green is out of the league, and I’m wishfully implying that he’ll remain elite and assume he doesn’t decline to a WR2 or worse with age, you’ll need to replace your WR1 anyway. Wouldn’t replacing an elite WR1 be much less of a tedious rebuild with the likes of Amari Cooper on your roster instead? He’s productive enough to start on your team for as long as you’d need him, or if you’re not a fan, you’ll at least have a tradable asset that won’t depreciate in value for the next, what? Seven years? How much longer will AJ Green be a valuable trading commodity? At his age, every offseason drops his trade value exponentially.
This time next year the debate could be AJ Green vs Stefon Diggs or Devante Parker. What about Green’s value the next year, in 2019, when Amari is turning 24 and just entering into his prime? AJ Green should be more productive than Amari Cooper in the 2017-18 season, assuming his injury doesn’t have any lingering issues. Does that make him the better choice for your Dynasty roster?
Look in the Mirror
What are you playing for? Depending how your roster plays into that question, determines who should be on your team. That’s what makes fantasy debates so entertaining. Everybody is right! It’s just dependent on your personal situation. All that ranting and raving I just did tooting the horn of Amari Cooper, there’s still situations I’d advise players to go with AJ Green. “Well Jerry, I need to win soon before my veteran team gets to old.” If this is your case and you haven’t won a title yet? Hell yeah, get yourself some AJ Green to get you over the top to get a championship.
Now maybe you’re defending champion or won the year before, I’d probably take Cooper to start building my roster towards my next run of championships, or if you think you have a shot at it again, keep Green and see if you can get it done a second time. That’ll make your rebuild harder but if you can get an extra championship out of it then who cares. Now if someone comes up to me and says “Jerry, I’ve got a young team that should threaten for the playoffs this year but I’ll be a championship contender soon.” Cooper. Easy. Maybe you’ve got Mike Evans, Derek Henry and you just drafted Fournette. AJ Green isn’t going to get you over the top anyway, so get Amari and set yourself up with a filthy nasty future. Same thing with a total rebuild. AJ Green isn’t going to be relevant by the time your blown up roster is relevant anyway, so get someone who will be.
Cooper could score more points than AJ Green this year. It is that famous third year breakout season coming up, but to play the odds and reduce risk, let’s presume their current trajectories hold and live by the following mantra…The closer you are to winning a championship in the next two years, the more you’ll want AJ Green.
Use All Variables to Make Your Own Decision
Dynasty fantasy football is such a great game and it’s because every strategy can work with great success. Don’t let a twitter poll get you down because you ‘lost’ a trade or because someone is arguing against your stance. That poll, or that debate, doesn’t explain your roster construction. I’ve won championships with Aaron Rodgers. I also won one with Nick Foles in his one majestic year of fantasy relevance. If that doesn’t explain the extreme amount of outcomes that can lead to a championship, than I don’t know what possibly could. Take a few chances on high risk-high reward players. Don’t over commit to those types of players or they’ll spread like a cancerous tumor through the bottom of your now useless bench. Think of them as if they’re scratch off tickets, mostly you lose, but every once in a while you can make some money.
Use your current roster construction to determine how much value you should put on youth. You don’t want to finish in the middle of the pack at all costs. It will get you in a cycle of mediocrity that is hard to get out of. You don’t win championships, and you don’t end up with good draft picks. Always play to win, whether it’s now or in the future. The endgame always needs to be about winning your championship. Even if it’s not immediate, if that’s your goal and you work harder than your league mates, then the wait during the rebuild is worth it. Just like Paul Newman said in The Color of Money “Money won is twice as sweet as money earned.” Understanding and using potential to your advantage will win you that sweet, sweet, glorious money every time.