Throughout the 2018 offseason, whenever Raiders coach Jon Gruden was asked about Amari Cooper, he usually repeated some form of the same phrase. At the time, Cooper was expected to be the No. 1 receiver in Oakland.
Gruden said, multiple times, that Cooper was going to be "the main vein of our pass offense." Only that never happened.
Cooper played six games for Gruden in 2018, and only twice did he have more than five targets. In those two games (Week 2 at Denver and Week 4 against Cleveland), Cooper averaged 10.5 targets and scored at least 21 PPR points, so it might have made sense for Gruden to feature Cooper more often.
Thankfully, that happened in Dallas after the Raiders traded Cooper to the Cowboys in October for a first-round NFL Draft pick. In 11 games in Dallas, including the playoffs, Cooper had at least seven targets nine times. He averaged 10.4 targets a game with the Cowboys, and he scored at 13 PPR points seven times.
So why didn't Gruden make Cooper the main vein of his passing attack like he promised?
"I don't know," Cooper said in an interview with CBS Sports at the Pro Bowl. "I don't know his state of mind. I can't really call it."
Fantasy players benefited in a big way once Cooper went to Dallas. And now, heading into the start of the 2019 campaign, Cooper is a borderline No. 1 Fantasy receiver worth drafting toward the end of Round 2 or beginning of Round 3 in all formats.
While Cooper is dealing with contract talks this offseason -- he's a free agent after this year -- he's expected to report to training camp and be ready to go. He's looking forward to building on what he started once he put the star on his helmet.
Cooper is ready to be a star for Fantasy players.
"Thank God I was able to go in and make a contribution," Cooper said. "I would say it was a pretty good start."
Cooper had to learn the Cowboys offense on the fly last season, and he had to develop a rapport with quarterback Dak Prescott right away. Now, the two have a full offseason to get to know each other, and that should help Cooper in a big way.
Prescott said in an interview with CBS Sports that he has high expectations for Cooper this season, especially after how quickly the two bonded last year following the trade.
"It was a lot of mental work," Prescott said at the Pro Bowl. "It wasn't as much as you think getting on the field as it was sitting next to each other and talking. When you have a guy like Amari who studies the game as much as he does and wants to learn and runs routes like he does, he makes that chemistry easy."
Added Cooper about Prescott: "We were able to learn each other really fast. We had to. Now, we're going to be able to spend the offseason with each other to pick each other's brain and further our game even more."
Prescott's Fantasy value also improved dramatically once the Cowboys acquired Cooper. In the 11 games together, including the playoffs, Prescott scored at least 21 Fantasy points six times. He averaged 21.5 Fantasy points with Cooper on his side. In seven games without Cooper, Prescott averaged 17.4 Fantasy points.
Prescott is an excellent Fantasy quarterback to wait for on Draft Day with a late-round pick, and he's a low-end starting option in all formats. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said at the NFL's annual league meetings that he's looking forward to seeing Prescott's progress this season.
"One of the great things about him is he's always working so hard at getting better," Garrett said. "He's focused on understanding the game better, becoming better physically, technically -- all of those things. He's a driven guy. He works as hard as anybody in our building. We're lucky to have him, and he'll continue to grow in all areas in the course of his career."
The Cowboys gave Prescott additional weapons this offseason with Randall Cobb signing as a free agent to replace Cole Beasley, who went to Buffalo, and Jason Witten came out of retirement. Cobb and Witten aren't worth drafting in most Fantasy leagues, but they should help Prescott improve.
You already know Ezekiel Elliott is a star -- he's the potential No. 1 overall pick in all Fantasy leagues -- and Michael Gallup is worth a late-round flier in his sophomore campaign. Gallup is worth drafting as a sleeper in deeper formats, and he had either a touchdown or at least 100 receiving yards in three of his final four games last year, including the playoffs.
But Cooper is the main vein of the Dallas passing attack. He's a standout Fantasy receiver, and he should earn a big payday with a strong season in 2019.
The Cowboys are thrilled to have him, and they will feature him prominently. That's something Fantasy owners will enjoy.