Amari Cooper is already flashing elite traits
Coming into the season I thought Amari Cooper was the best receiver in the draft class by some margin, and we are beginning to see him produce in a big way as a rookie for Oakland. Kevin White (Bears) and DeVante Parker (Dolphins) have seen their rookie campaigns derailed through injuries, so the jury remains very much still out on them, but Cooper is going from strength to strength, and making plays in a variety of ways.
What jumped out the most from Cooper’s college tape is that he just does everything well. There is no flaw in his game. Against San Diego we saw the full repertoire of what he brings.
In this game we saw him go up and win the ball deep down the field, high-pointing the football and taking it away from defenders. This was a skill many people thought others were better at in the draft, but Cooper showed he has it, too, it’s just one of many traits he brings to the table.
We also saw him execute a perfect back-shoulder stop route against Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett, beating tight coverage and showing an innate sense of where the sideline was to get both feet in before falling out of bounds. This was deft route running and receiver skill against a tough cornerback who was in excellent coverage on the play.
Then we saw the crowning achievement and biggest highlight of his game, taking a screen pass and busting it for a 52-yard touchdown featuring a cut that left San Diego safety Jimmy Wilson in particular skidding along the ground as Cooper danced the last few yards into the end zone.
About the only minor flaw in Cooper’s game in college was dropped passes. His drop rate was never too high, given the massive number of targets he saw at Alabama (his 8 drops a year ago was a drop rate of 6.1 percent of catchable targets, which was No. 26 in the nation), but this year he has already dropped four passes and his drop rate has been higher (10.8 percent). That’s the only thing at the moment keeping him from an excellent grade, and his stock appears to only be heading in one direction.
Cooper has actually seen fewer targets than Michael Crabtree within Oakland’s offense, but has done more with the balls sent his way. They have each caught 33 passes (61.1 percent reception rate for Crabtree to Cooper’s 70.2 percent), but Cooper has 138 more yards, one more touchdown and has broken seven more tackles than his veteran teammate.
Right now Cooper leads all rookie wide outs in yards, touchdown catches and broken tackles, and it wouldn’t be any surprise to see that remain the case at the season’s end.