Back during the midway point of the 2018 season, the Dallas Cowboys appeared to be destined for a top-10 selection in the following year's NFL Draft. The offense was good, but the defense couldn't stop anything. So, owner Jerry Jones opted to solve his defensive issues by...trading for wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Jones has never shied away from adding a wideout to his team's arsenal, and he was so confident in Cooper's abilities that the team sent a 2019 first-round pick to the Oakland Raiders. Many gave the move grief at the time because we know how everybody overvalues draft picks and unproven college players, but Cowboys fans can officially shove the trade in all the haters' faces.
Out of all the receivers selected in the first round of the draft since 2015, Cooper is the only one to haul in 1,000 yards through the air his rookie year. Nobody else was even close. Think the Raiders missed this important stat?
Yup, especially since the Raiders immediately soured on him after injury issues in 2017 and a slow start to 2018.
Cooper made an immediate impact once he was sent to Dallas. Through his nine games with the Cowboys in 2018, Cooper caught 53-of-76 targets for 725 yards and six touchdowns. In his seven games with Oakland, Cooper recorded 22 receptions for 280 yards and one score. As you can see, then-head coach Jason Garrett and quarterback Dak Prescott were instant upgrades for Cooper over Jon Gruden and Derek Carr.
And the success continued this past season, as Cooper posted 1,189 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.
Meanwhile the Raiders desperately missed Cooper in their offense. They overpaid for Tyrell Williams in free agency last year, and he didn't live up to his end of the deal. Additionally, they used their first-round selection this year on Alabama wideout Henry Ruggs III. Imagine if Gruden had just kept Cooper. Maybe they wouldn't have had to use their cap space and draft capital to replace his production.
As for the 2019 first-round pick they received from Dallas, Gruden used it to select Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram. While he has the potential to be one of the most talented safeties in the league, he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in his first career game. Not the greatest return value for the Raiders.
No matter how you look at it, Jerry Jones outsmarted Jon Gruden, media personalities, and every single football fan on the planet with the Cooper deal.