Monday, 08 February 2016 00:00

Dynasty Wide Receiver Rankings 1.0: Amari Cooper

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Amari Cooper Pregame Amari Cooper Pregame Phillip Hendon Flickr Page

 Player: Amari Cooper

School: University of Alabama

Position: WR

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 202 lbs.

Position Rank: 3

Class: Junior

 

You will be hard pressed to find a more well-rounded receiver in this year's draft than University of Alabama junior Amari Cooper. The Heisman finalist finished his junior season with over 1,700 receiving yards, establishing himself as one of the elite talents at the wide receiver position for the 2015 NFL Draft. 

Strengths:

  •      Physical receiver, ability to make plays after the catch
  •      Light feet, quick in and out of breaks
  •      Polished overall game
  •      Speed to be able to stretch defenses vertically
  •      Experience in pro-style system
  •      Attacks the top of his stem with aggression
  •      Gets great separation 
  •      Able to produce despite double/triple-coverage
  •      Well built frame

Weaknesses:

  •      Body catches
    •    Awareness of surroundings? Lack confidence in hands?
  •      Does not play above the ground
  •      “Undersized”
  •    Case of drops
  •    Struggles with contested catches

Collegiate Career

Like I said earlier, you will be hard pressed to find a more “pro-ready” receiver than Alabama’s Amari Cooper. Cooper’s combination of size, speed, and quickness terrorized the SEC’s best on a weekly basis.

Although Cooper does not possess the massive frame that some people look for in a number one receiving option, he makes up for his lack of size with great route-running ability, and the speed hurt defenses vertically.

Cooper finished his junior season leading the FBS-division of college football with 124 receptions, and second in receiving yards (1727) only behind Colorado State’s Rashad Higgins. These numbers were good enough to earn cooper an invite to New York for the Heisman trophy ceremony, finishing third behind Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon. 

During Cooper's time at Alabama he totaled 228 catches for 3,468 yards, averaging an impressive 15.2 yards-per-catch over the last three seasons.

I will say that with Cooper’s experience in Alabama’s pro-style offensive system, the transition to the professional game should not be as difficult as it would be for players in a spread/air-raid system. Cooper was able to flourish in offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin's up-tempo offenses, utilizing Coopers speed efficiently on screen's and crossing routes. 

It may be hard to believe this next statement I am about to make but I believe that quarterback Blake Simms held back Cooper in his development this season. Simms was uh, mediocre to put it nicely when trying to drive the ball, struggling with accuracy and ball placement down the field.

Fantasy Perspective

If the rumors that I have been hearing are true, it looks like West Virginia's Kevin White could be moving ahead of Parker on some NFL draft boards. If that is the case it could be a blessing in disguise for Cooper's professional and fantasy outlooks.

If Cooper does start to slide there is the possibility that he reunites with his former high school teammate Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota. Bridgewater has established himself as one of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL and is in need of some extra firepower at the WR position. According to Pro Football Focus, Bridgewater posted a 77.3 accuracy percentage (takes in account drops, spikes, and throw aways), ranking third in the NFL only behind the Saints Drew Brees (80.2%), and Chiefs Alex Smith (79.8%). If Cooper were to land in Minnesota it could be the makings of one of the top young QB/WR combo in the NFL. 

Right now I have DeVante Parker as the no.1 receiver in this year's draft class due to his ability to make an impact as a possession receiver (PPR) and in the red zone (Standard). I believe that Cooper is going to make his greatest impact in PPR leagues this year due to his ability to run precise routes to get free from man-coverage. Cooper should still have some impact in standard leagues, but I would rank him more of a WR3 in standard formats, and more of a low-WR2 in PPR formats.

Going into next year's fantasy drafts there are three receivers that I feel have the ability to make an immediate impact, Louisville's DeVante Parker, Alabama's Amari Cooper and West Virginia's Kevin White. As far as Coopers fantasy projection it is hard to gauge exactly how valuable he will be since he has not been draft yet. Right now I would currently feel comfortable drafting Cooper as a WR3/flex option, with potential to grow if he lands in a positive fantasy situation. 

Player Comparison: Reggie Wayne

One of the biggest deficiencies of the NFL draft is that the infatuation with the workout warrior's who may be impressive in non-contact drills, but cannot transfer it to the field on Sunday's. This is not the case for Cooper as he possesses the most pro-ready game in this year's NFL draft class. 

Amari Cooper/Reggie Wayne Physical Comparison

 

Amari Cooper Player Reggie Wayne
6'1" Height 6'0"
202 lbs Weight 200 lbs

The comparison goes past just a simple height and weight comparison. Both Wayne and Cooper will make their greatest impact between the 20's as a team's possession receiver.  

Many college receivers struggle with the transition to the pro game due to the high volume of generated touches they got in college. What I mean by this is that instead of refining a players game to use his physical traits more efficiently, they take the easy way out by throwing a lot of screens, and utilizing jet sweeps to get the player in space. This is concern that Cooper will not have to worry about. During his senior season in Tuscaloosa, Cooper had more than 8 receptions in 12 of 14 games this season, and was able to reach double-digits in five of those games.

I feel like speed is one of the most underrated aspects of Cooper's game. Cooper reportedly ran a sub 4.4-forty last offseason at the Alabama pro day, even reaching times as low as 4.31. When the combine rolls around I would expect Cooper to run in the range of 4.38-45, showing that he has more than enough speed to beat defenses vertically. 

There are not many negatives that you find when evaluating Cooper’s game, but there is one that came to my attention. Cooper has a tendency to use his body when catching the ball too often. According to Matt Harmon's Reception Perception he broke down some of the struggles Cooper had as well. One of the most startling stats that Harmon posted was that in the five games that he had charted for Cooper he had a drop rate of 11.4%. For comparison's sake, Carolina wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin had the highest drop rate of wide receivers last season. 

Like Harmon, I noticed that a lot of Cooper's drop's came on relatively routine plays, i.e. slants, digs, screens, showing that he may have some concentration issues. Cooper also struggled while trying to make contested cathches. In the five games that Harmon charted Cooper only caught 50% of the targets when it was considered "contested". 

The final thing that gives me cause for concern about Cooper's transition to the pro game is his lack of playmaking above the ground in college. There were a couple of instances where Cooper as able to show off high-pointing ability, but with the deficiencies Blake Simms had throwing the football, he was unable to show off those skills on a consistent basis. 

Above is an example of Cooper doing a great job fighting off a defensive back on a jump ball situation, and going up to get the ball at its highest point. Cooper is never going to make the impact in the red zone like Kelvin Benjamin and Dez Bryant, but does offer some value that area of the field.  

Amari Cooper/Reggie Wayne Statistical Comparison

Amari Cooper Player Reggie Wayne
228 Receptions 173
3,463 Receiving Yards 2,510
15.2 Yards Per Reception 14.5
31 Touchdowns 20

As you can see by the table above, the statistical comparison between Wayne and Cooper is very similar. Both players seem to make a living in the intermediate area of the field, evidence by their yards-per-reception number. While Wayne never matched the production that Cooper did in college that could be in large part due to the fact that the game has transitioned to a pass-happy game, where it was more focused around the running game when Wayne was still at Miami.

While I still feel that Wayne is the more complete player at this point in career I feel that Cooper has the potential to be as good, if not better than the Colts receiver. Both players have made their living developing the nuances it takes to be a successful receiver

Going into next season I would bunch Cooper right with Louisville's DeVante Parker and West Virginia's Kevin White together in a category of players that I feel can step in and make an immediate impact. While Cooper does not possess the measurable that White and Parker do, he does come equip with a very refined game, and the ability to hurt you in a variety of ways. Currently I would draft Cooper somewhere in middle-rounds of most fantasy drafts. Obviously his ranking is subject to change if he is able to land in a place with a stable quarterback situation, but it would be hard to depend on any rookie as more than a WR3/flex option at this point in the season. 

Draft Projection:

Cooper is my number three wide receiver prospect, and it seems like NFL teams are already starting to move Cooper down their board. Bleacher Reports Matt Miller recently tweeted:

Looking at the draft board you could make the case for Cooper being the pick as early as the number four overall pick to the Raiders, with his floor being number 11 overall to the Minnesota Vikings.

When the Minnesota Vikings traded up in 2013 to draft Cordarrelle Patterson they hoped their search for a bon-a-fide no. 1 receiver was over. However, Patterson has failed to live up to expectations to this point, failing to pick up the intricacies of what it takes to be an NFL wide receiver. 

There is also the possibility that veteran Greg Jennings could be asked to restructure his contract. Jennings signed a 5 year/$47.5 million deal just two years ago and is clearly not worth the cap number he is due next season. 

It has been speculated the Vikings will look to improve the wide receiver position this offseason whether it be through free agency or the draft. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater looks like a franchise quarterback, but needs more weapons at the wide receiver position.

One more interesting fact for you guys and gals, Cooper and Bridgewater played high school football together in Florida, so who knows maybe they will reunite to give the Vikings the true no. 1 wide receiver they have been looking for. 

The Raiders have holes all over their football team and need to add premier talent regardless of the position. Quarterback Derek Carr looks like a nice piece, and if the Raiders organization has any hope of Carr being a franchise quarterback they need to add talented playmakers around him. The addition of Cooper to the Raiders offense could be the playmaker that the Raiders have been looking for since the days of Tim Brown. 

Regardless of what team or system Cooper goes to I fully expect him to make a major impact during his rookie season. To maximize success it would be beneficial for Cooper to go to an offense that relies on timing, and the ability to make plays after the catch (West Coast Offense). 

 

Grade: Top 15

 

Phillip Hendon Flickr Page 

 

 

Last modified on Monday, 09 February 2015 03:47

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