Cooper Douglas Kupp will be playing in his age-27 season in 2020. He was born in Yakima, Washington, and graduated from a local high school where he was a two-sport athlete, football and basketball. Kupp played wide receiver and defensive back in high school. His senior year, he finished with 60 receptions for 1,059 yards and 18 touchdowns, 17.7 yards per catch. He added another four scores by other means to set a school record.
Kupp attended Eastern Washington University, where he set numerous single-season records in his freshman year, including 93 receptions, 1,691 receiving yards, 21 total touchdown catches, and 14 consecutive games with a touchdown catch. He won the 2013 Jerry Rice Award, given to the top freshman player in the FCS.
The following year Kupp finished with 104 catches for 1,431 yards and 16 touchdowns. In his junior season, he caught 114 passes for 1,642 yards and 19 touchdowns. Capping off a fantastic college career, Kupp caught 117 passes for 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2016. He caught 428 passes for 6,464 yards, which are the most in FCS history.
Kupp attended the 2017 Senior Bowl, which helped to elevate his draft stock. Kupp measured in at 6’ 1 ?” and 204 pounds, running a 4.62-second 40-yard dash. He was projected to be a second or third-round pick and ranked as the 8th best wide receiver in the draft class. He was selected in the third round by the Los Angeles Rams as the seventh ride receiver off the board.
Kupp played in 15 games his rookie season catching 62 passes for 869 yards and 5 touchdowns, which helped land him on the 2017 All-Rookie team. His 2018 season, he was part of a three-wide receiver set along with Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks.
Entering the 2018 season, Kupp suffered a knee injury in Week 5 and missed a couple of games. After returning a few weeks later, Kupp, unfortunately, tore his ACL, effectively ending his season.
Last season Kupp managed to play in all 16 games, catching 94 passes for 1,161 yards and 10 touchdowns. Despite these impressive numbers, especially coming back from an ACL tear, the breakdown of his season is quite interesting. His 2019 season was for lack of a better word, bi-polar.
In the first eight-games, Kupp played on 87% of snaps and handled a 25% target share. Then Tyler Higbee took on a more significant role between Weeks 13-17, and those rates dropped to 63% and 15%. However, Kupp was able to score a touchdown in each of his last five games.
Digging deeper, from weeks one through eight, Kupp had five games with over ten targets or 87 over the span. In the second half of the season, he only had two contests of more than ten targets or a total of 50 during the time. In the first half of the season, he had weekly yardage totals of 120, 101, 121, 117, and 220. His highest yardage total for the second half of the season was 99 in week 16.
What changed? Was his knee bothering him? Lose his ‘burst?’ Was the offense going in a different direction to protect the quarterback more and use two tight end sets? Why the two different half seasons from Kupp is a definite mystery.
He went from being a top-five wide receiver in the first half of the year to a WR3/flex in the second half of the year. Overall he still finished as the WR4 in PPR leagues, but unfortunately his monster early-season performances didn’t help when you were in the playoffs, and he was putting up 6 or 8 points a game for you.
Let’s review Kupp’s injuries. It is unlikely that he missed many games in college as he played at least 13 games in three of his four seasons and 11 in 2015. In the NFL, he has only played in all 16 games one of his three years, and that was in 2019.In 2017, his rookie season, he suffered a groin injury in the preseason, but this did not affect any regular-season games. The majority of his injuries came in 2018. A concussion in week five but cleared the protocol for the following week. Then a sprained left MCL injury in week six, which caused him to miss two weeks.
Despite probably thinking that he was ready to return, his body was not. As his knee was surely not back to full strength only two weeks after returning from this left MCL sprain. This increased the amount of stress on the other ligaments and structures of his knee, leading him to tear his left ACL. At times professional athletes think that they are superhuman and heal faster than regular people. Sometimes this is true, but usually, this is not the case. The timelines that we give are for professional athletes. Even a mild MCL sprain will take at least two to three weeks at a minimum to heal.
While we don’t know the severity of his MCL sprain, even if it was only a grade one, there’s a chance he probably would not have missed a game. That makes me think it was a grade two. A grade three he would’ve been done for the season and required surgery. Moderate MCL sprains are partial tears (grade 2) and usually take at least three, up to six weeks, to fully heal.
The MCL ligament runs north to south on the inside of the knee. It helps prevent the need for buckling inwards. If an athlete returns too quickly from an MCL injury, then the knee struggles to protect itself because the ligament has not healed enough to do so. As a result of this, the ACL takes on a lot more of a load/stress, and in Kupp’s situation, his ACL couldn’t handle the additional stress and tore as a result.
Whenever I do a stress test on an MCL by ultrasound, I always relay the risk to the patient that if they return to the field too quickly, before the ligament is completely healthy, then they are putting their ACL at much higher risk. Whether or not they decide to listen to me is up to them. Rehabbing an MCL injury is much easier than an ACL tear.
The good news is that Kupp was able to play all 16 games after returning from his ACL reconstruction surgery. In his strong start, Kupp ended up fourth in fantasy points due to a strong start and an insane amount of touchdowns (10). Kupp’s 134 targets were right behind Robert Woods’ 139, but Kupp was more productive in receptions (94-90), yards (1161-1134), and touchdowns (10-2).
When looking at the catch rate, Kupp catches more than 70% of his passes thrown to him. He was a feature in the red zone alongside Higbee. Kupp was 6th among all receivers inside the 10-yard line, converting six for touchdowns. The most by any wideout.
In 2020, Kupp will have more volume go his way with Brandin Cooks in Houston. Josh Reynolds remains, and rookie second-round selection Van Jefferson is a great route runner with soft hands but isn’t a burner.
Many fantasy owners saw the floor of Kupp. His last eight weeks saw him catch 36 passes for 134 yards and 5 scores. Those touchdowns are not reliable. It is more of a ceiling than a floor. Therefore, at worst, 36-369-0 translated into 16 games is 72-738-0.
Sports Injury Predictor calculates that Kupp has a 52.9% chance of injury in 2020, and projects him to miss about one game. The score is around the middle of all wide receivers. I (Dr. Morse) agree with this assessment due to Kupp’s medical history.
My risk score for Kupp in 2020 is 5 out of 10.
I (Dr. Morse) am confident in Kupp’s ability to return in 2020, and he should be even better than in 2019 in terms of his knee health. He is not out of the woods yet in terms of risk to his knees.
The studies show that up to two years after reconstructive surgery on an ACL, the patient has a 21% chance of ACL tear on the opposite knee (think DeShaun Watson’s second ACL tear), and a 9% chance of repair of the surgically reconstructed ligament. The good news is that he was able to play through an entire grueling NFL season without any setbacks or games missed.
Despite posting an impressive 2019 season, most people were disappointed with the way his season ended. Heading into 2020, Kupp is going around a WR15 in PPR leagues. His ranking reflects his erratic play in his short playing career.
This place is him in the same range as Allen Robinson, Adam Thielen, and A.J. Brown. A good range for him, and he has proven that he can be a WR1 and a top-five wide receiver in PPR. Without Brandin Cooks, Kupp should see a significant amount of targets along with Robert Woods.
Kupp can be a top-five wide receiver if he can stay consistent. Goff is going to trust him. The question is the role of Higbee and how much volume he will take from Kupp, and don’t forget about Everett. WR15 is more of a safe projection than performance. Start shopping for him around WR13 and watch him finish in the top-12 when the season is over.
Injury Risk: Moderate. 5/10.
|Projected Missed||Probability of injury per game ?||Probablity of injury in the season ?|
|Nov 11, 2018||Knee ACL Tear Grade 3||Kupp tore his left ACL and missed the final 6 games of the season.|
|Oct 14, 2018||Knee MCL Sprain Grade 2||Kupp missed 2 games with a sprained left MCL.|
|Oct 7, 2018||Head Cranial Concussion Grade 1||Kupp sustained a concussion in Week 5 but was cleared by the following weekend.|
|Aug 22, 2017||Inguinal Groin Pull Grade 1||Kupp missed the final 2 preseason games with a groin injury but was ready for Week 1.|