CFF Player Profile: Amari Cooper, WR
The wide receiver class of 2014 was unusually strong and productive, but the class of 2015 might be just as good, if not even better, and the best prospect of the entire group is Alabama’s Amari Cooper.
Cooper was the focal point of the Alabama offense, receiving a staggering amount of targets on an offense that has traditionally run the ball far more than many in college, and yet he still dominated even on a per-snap basis. He is by far the most pro-ready and polished receiver in the group and while some have Kevin White in the same echelon or even ahead of Cooper, to us at CFF/PFF there really is only one player that heads this class.
Overview and Stats
It’s not too often you find a guy who is at the top of the per-snap metrics and the overall cumulative stats, but that’s how good Cooper was in last season. He led the FBS with 178 targets in 2014. He also led with 124 receptions. He led all draft eligible players with 1,727 yards, 16 touchdowns and 26 missed tackles by defenders forced. As impressive as all that is, those are cumulative numbers that can be skewed by a relentless targeting of a receiver. He also led all draft eligible players in yards per route run with 3.97, well clear of the next best player.
To put that into some perspective, here’s how it compares to the best players in the NFL in that category in 2014:
Obviously NFL receivers are working against a higher caliber of defensive back, but you can see how impressive those numbers from Cooper are. Even a player like Odell Beckham Jr, who missed time to start the season and then put up incredible numbers in his shortened playing time, can’t come close to the level of production Cooper had on a per-snap basis in the passing game.
Cooper led all draft eligible players in this regard while Kevin White, suggested by some as a better player overall, was 10th.
About the only area where Cooper wasn’t statistically elite was when it came to drops. Cooper dropped eight passes in 2014, which sounds like quite a lot, but bearing in mind his monstrous workload was actually a relatively good drop rate. He dropped 6.1% of all the catchable passes sent his way which was pretty good, but some way short of the best figures even just amongst this draft class, let alone the whole of the FBS.
The tape shows that Cooper certainly has good hands, and it’s far from a concern, but he’s unlikely to have the kind of perfect drop-seasons that the very best hands in the NFL have had. The fact that we need to get into “his hands are just very good, not awesome” should tell its own story about how complete a prospect Cooper is.
So we know Cooper is productive, that much is almost self evident, but what are you getting if you take him in the draft, and why do we view him as a step above any other receiver in this draft?
You expect to be wowed by athleticism and physical traits when you turn on the tape of college receivers. If you watch Kevin White, or Dorial Green-Beckham, or Breshad Perriman those are the things that jump out. You’re watching superior athletes beating up on defensive backs that just can’t match their measurables. When you watch Cooper though that isn’t what stands out. That’s not to say he doesn’t have those measurables, but the things that stand out about his game are different.
He looks like a polished, veteran NFL receiver already. He can use his hands at the line to defeat the jam and contact from defensive backs like it’s already instinct. This is something most college receivers struggle with and it takes them a while to learn it in the NFL. Cooper is already a master. Teams practically gave up trying to jam him at all because he would just swat the corner’s arms away and then destroy him for quickness off the line while he was still reeling from the hand-duel.
He understands how to vary the tempo and pace of his routes and set up defensive backs to break open as and when he wants to. He also shows a fantastic understanding of defenses and zone coverage, knowing exactly what he’s looking at and when to throttle down to sit in an open space.
The word that keeps coming to mind when you watch Cooper play is ‘smart’. He just has a complete understanding of the position in a way most college wide outs don’t have. Cooper should be able to hit the ground running in the NFL and do it without relying on his athleticism. The fact that he also has seriously impressive physical tools just makes him an even more tantalizing prospect and a player that should be taken within the first five picks in the draft.
This wide receiver class is going to provide value all the way down the draft, and as many as eight players could be taken in the first round, but Cooper is far and away the best of the bunch, and shouldn’t drop any lower than No. 6.
The other talented receivers at the position and the depth at wide out in this draft class should mean that teams shouldn’t get too disheartened if they don’t have a chance at drafting Cooper, but it would be a mistake to sleep on just how good Cooper is because there are other good players available. Kevin White and DeVante Parker among others will make teams very happy, but there is a significant difference in quality between those two and Cooper in our eyes, based both on the tape and the CFF grading that tape produced.
Hear more from Sam about Cooper here:
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