League Winner Series: Tarik Cohen

Updated: Aug 21, 2020

Tarik Cohen, out of North Carolina A&T, was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 2017 as a 4th round pick (119th overall). He played his rookie season under John Fox before the team switched to current head coach Matt Nagy in 2018. This is where Cohen’s NFL career really took off as a sophomore in the league. The Bears lined Cohen up more as a runner then as a wide receiver in 2018, as he received 99 rush attempts. The thing that made Cohen a fantasy monster in 2018 was his big play ability, thanks in part to his run after catch. Let’s look at the air yards compared to yards after catch from 2018. Most of Cohens passes were caught very shallow, as the air yards for balls passed to Cohen traveled a total of 205 yards all season. That is an average of 12.8 air yards a game, so when we break that down further by taking his average of 4.4 receptions a game in 2018, that means passes only traveled 2.9 yards. Now when we look at yards after catch we should see a big difference. Cohen ended 2018 with a total of 520 yards after catch, which is an average of 32.5 yards a game. Again we take that number and apply his 4.4 receptions a game average and we are left with 7.3 yards after catch. So it is clear Cohen created a lot of yardage on his own without the help of his quarterback. Cohen was able to use his receiving ability and good run after catch to finish 2018 as a top 11 running back in PPR formats with a total of 233.9 fantasy points. Cohen finished with RB1 like numbers in 31.3% of his games that season.

Then in 2019 the coaching staff seemed to transition Cohen more into a receiver, as he was lined up more at that position then he was in the backfield. This was likely due to the fact that the team drafted David Montgomery and utilized him more than Cohen as a runner. The switching of Cohen to more of a slot receiver type isn’t a bad idea, but how they used him as a receiver was a problem. Even though the team lined Cohen up in the slot and other receiver positions they still only gave him the typical running back passing routes. By doing this Cohen was being bottled up, and wasn’t able to use his game breaking upside. It is clear the coaching staff dropped the ball when looking at his average numbers a game as a receiver, as Cohen averaged 6 targets, 4.9 receptions, and only 28.5 receiving yards a game. Which in terms of fantasy meant the lack of big plays led to less RB1 type weeks, as we saw the 31.3% of games as an RB1 drop to just 6.3% in 2019. Cohen would finish last season as the RB27 in PPR leagues with 163.9 total fantasy points scored. He was able to still finish as a borderline RB2 because his floor stayed in tack.

Entering 2020 Cohen self admittedly knows he has to get better in areas. Cohen recently stated on twitter that he will be more conscious about moving forward instead of laterally, which he typically did in 2019. Cohen is also excited with the switch at offensive coordinator, as Mark Helfrich is out and Bill Lazor is in. Cohen has stated the offense will be very deceptive in the fact that it’ll be hard to see who is getting the ball and when they get it and how they get it. Cohen also admitted that he wore down as the season went on, so has spent much of the offseason getting stronger so he can prevent this wear in 2020. We also need Cohen to work on his drops, as the nine he had last season were 8 more than he had in 2018. Cohen is entering the final year of his rookie deal and must perform. The coaching staff knows they have to get back to that 2018 creative play calling for Cohen, as Nagy has admitted recently in an interview. Will Cohen be that workhorse back? No he won’t but he can be that dangerous pass catcher who makes defenders pay in open space.

Currently Cohen is being taken in the late 8th round as the 33rd running back in 12 team PPR leagues. This presents an opportunity for savvy owners to take advantage, as we have Cohen as a mid-7th rounder, ranked as our RB30. We look at our projections and we find ourselves having Cohen finishing as a RB2 in 2020 with 76 rushes for 304 yards and 1 touchdown on the ground. Then as a pass catcher we have Cohen catching 75 balls for 600 yards and 4 rec. touchdowns. This equates to 195.4 fantasy points in PPR leagues. This Projection has Cohen beating his current ADP position by ten. So the value in ADP, the likely better play calling, the change in running philosophy, and the safe floor all add up to Cohen being a league winner in 2020.