Amari Cooper is making the Dallas Cowboys look brilliant for giving up a first-round pick for the veteran wideout in a trade with the Oakland Raiders, and his recent success can be attributed to that midseason deal, as the change of scenery re-energized him.
Cooper told Yahoo Sports' Kimberly A. Martin:
"I wasn't really happy in Oakland or anything like that.
"Just reflecting on my last four games here and my personality here, I feel like it did change me, as far as having that chip on my shoulder. Not that I wasn't passionate before, but playing with more passion, trying to intentionally have fun out there. It definitely has changed me, in terms of me going out there and just having fun with it."
It's been a tale of two seasons for the fourth-year receiver. Cooper had just 22 receptions for 280 yards and one touchdown in six games playing for first-year Raiders coach Jon Gruden; since the Oct. 22 trade, he has 22 catches for 349 yards and three scores.
His strong start in Dallas was highlighted by a 180-yard, two-touchdown performance against Washington on Thanksgiving Day.
Cooper, the No. 4 overall pick back in 2015, played a big part in helping Oakland snap a 13-season playoff drought in 2016. However, as his numbers steadily declined the past two years, the receiver became expendable.
"I've never been in a situation where I've been traded before. Growing up, every team that I've played on, I was a pretty important piece to the team," Cooper told Martin. "... Because when you get traded, you start to think, 'Wow, that can happen. Just like that.'"
Cooper is under contract through the 2019 season. Gruden and Co. decided that the 24-year-old wideout wasn't going to be a part of the team's future, so they opted to move on and acquire a future asset. And that's something that stuck out to the two-time Pro Bowler, according to Martin:
"I looked at it totally different than most people looked at it. [The Raiders] basically said, 'We could get a guy, who's going to contribute better than he will, in the first round.' And I didn’t know how to feel about that.
"I just always felt like I wasn't really being used how I felt like I would have used me if I was the coach. So I looked at it from that perspective, not from the perspective that, 'Oh, they don’t think I'm good enough' or I’m not good enough.
"I never had those questions in my mind. At all."
Dallas received no shortage of scrutiny for paying such a hefty price for a player who appeared to be in decline. Instead, though, Cooper has provided a much-needed boost to the offense. The Cowboys are 3-1 since the trade, putting up 23.5 points per game (compared to 20 points per game pre-Cooper). Not only that, but quarterback Dak Prescott is completing 70 percent of his passes while throwing for five touchdowns to just one interception in four games with Cooper.
Thanks to its current three-game winning streak, Dallas (6-5) is currently tied atop the NFC East.