As we begin the countdown to the NFL Draft starting on April 30,
I will spend anywhere from 4-8 hours to break down the strengths
and weaknesses of at least the top 15 offensive skill-position prospects
available in this draft.
Amari Cooper's football maturity is unique
and could make him the first WR taken in the NFL Draft.
Important NFL Combine Numbers 40-Yard Dash: 4.42* (teams were informed after Combine that
Cooper’s official time was between 4.35 and 4.38)
Vertical Jump: 33”
Broad Jump: 10’
20-Yard Shuttle: 3.98
Cooper has been on the draft radar (and seemingly eliciting comparison
to former Crimson Tide standout Julio Jones) since he was the
leading receiver as a freshman for Alabama’s national championship
team in 2012. The Miami native, who caught passes from Teddy Bridgewater
in high school, broke Jones’ freshman program records in
catches (59) and receiving yards (1,000) while also surpassing
a 62-year-old school record for a freshman with 11 receiving touchdowns.
Much like Jones, Cooper saw his overall numbers dip as a sophomore
in part due to injury. The “sophomore slump” proved
to be little more than a bump in the road, however, as Cooper
became only the second player in SEC history to eclipse the 100-catch
plateau in a season – setting school records with 124 receptions,
1,727 yards and 16 scores – en route to winning the Biletnikoff
Award and finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Best Scheme Fit: Universal. Fundamentally
sound and big enough to flourish in a West Coast-style offense
and dynamic enough to thrive in a more vertical-based attack.
Consistently beats jam and is an easy route runner;
fluid in and out of cuts.
Can stop on a dime and really sells the double move
with an assortment of head and body motions; exceptional second
gear to pull away from defender after final fake.
Tracks the deep ball effortlessly over his shoulder
and wins the majority of 50-50 balls.
Shows good field awareness –always seems to give
himself plenty of room to get both feet down inbounds –
and has little trouble finding the weakness in zone coverage.
Plenty of experience working all over the formation
and running every kind of route under (former NFL coach) OC
Lane Kiffin in 2014; should excel outside or in the slot right
Makes the spectacular reception look easy, but committed
a few too many focus drops on catchable balls throughout his
Will occasionally stop or freelance on a route, leaving
his quarterback out to dry.
Could do a better job of shielding off defender on high-point
Lacks consistent motivation as a blocker; will lay defenders
out with a cut-back block on one play and offer little more
than a shoulder on the next play.
Truth be told, I see a bit of Marvin Harrison in Cooper’s
route-running, quickness comparable to Odell Beckham Jr. and a
field presence similar to Cris Carter. Still, I come away from
watching him wanting more in the “non-traditional”
areas of being a receiver – such as being more physical
and consistent as a blocker or showing the discipline to finish
all of his routes. Nevertheless, Cooper is as sure of a bet to
be a steady – if not great – NFL wideout for the next
decade or so as any receiver in this draft because he is wise
beyond his years in the art of playing his position. He already
excels in the areas veteran players rely on as their physical
gifts erode, yet is only 20 years old (21 in June). His “football
maturity” is such that one has to wonder if he is already
near his ceiling in terms of his potential. Ultimately, Cooper
already excels in two critical areas for an NFL receiver –
getting open and catching the football – and that will obviously
serve him (and his fantasy owners) well for the foreseeable future.
The debate between Cooper’s NFL readiness and Kevin White’s
higher upside figures to continue well into the summer and beyond,
but the fact of the matter is that both should see their fair
share of Pro Bowls.
Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and appeared in
USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine in 2010 and
2011. He is also the host of USA Today’s hour-long, pre-kickoff
fantasy football internet chat every Sunday. Doug regularly appears
as a fantasy football analyst on Sirius XM’s “Fantasy
Drive” and for 106.7 The Fan (WJFK – Washington, D.C).
He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.
E-mail Doug or follow
him on Twitter.