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Scouting The Draft: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

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I was trying to think of the prospect I'd like to cover to start the series this year, the 6th year we've been doing the scouting the draft series, and I opted for Amari Cooper. Earlier this year I wasn't that fond of Cooper; I thought he was riding the Alabama hype train. After studying him extensively, I've changed my opinion considerably.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Introduction

Amari Cooper is probably the best receiver in this draft, and if you believe the early hype, he'll be a top 5 pick for sure. The Jets select at #6, so it's very possible they will have a real shot of landing Cooper in April if they so desire. With Eric Decker signed and not much else, the Jets will require a lot of help at the receiver position. They need someone opposite Decker to draw some attention, and Cooper could well be that prospect.

If Alabama's loss to Ohio State in the semi-finals of the college play-offs was Cooper's last game as a member of the Tide, he certainly left an impression. Cooper caught 9 passes for 71 yards and 2 touchdowns but was unable to pull Alabama to victory.

Coming into college, Cooper was seen as a big-play threat with room to grow in the receiving game. He was a consensus 4 star recruit who impressed at the Under Armour All America game. Cooper played in all 14 games as a true freshman, including starting the final 9. His 11 touchdowns as a freshman broke a 62 year old record at Alabama and he was voted a consensus freshman All American.

In his second season he again led Alabama's run heavy offense with 45 catches, 28 of which resulted in a first down. Cooper left his best season until last, utilising the emerging talent of quarterback Blake Sims. Amari recorded 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Measurables

Height: 6'1

Weight: 202lbs

Class: Junior

Projected 40: 4.5

Statistics

Year Receptions Yards Average Touchdowns Long Average Yards Per Game
2012 59 1,000 16.9 11 54 71.4
2013 45 736 16.4 4 99 61.3
2014 124 1,727 13.9 16 80 123.4

Positives

  • Character: Everyone speaks very highly of Cooper and his work ethic. He doesn't require pushing. He has an attitude of wanting to be the best. Apparently, he works as hard on the training field as he does in the film room, and that really shows. There are no red flags on his record. He seems like a good athlete, student and person.
  • Route Running: One of the finest I've seen in a long time. He has quick bursts off the line. He's very crisp in and out of his breaks. Cuts sharply to force separation. Runs a number of routes in college. He's not just a post guy; runs slants, posts, hitches and corner routes effectively. Uses his body and head to deceive corners and create extra space.
  • Acceleration: Is exceptionally fast off the line and uses his quick first step and suddenness to create instant separation and avoid the jam. Doesn't take him very long to get up to full speed.
  • Speed: Has deceptive speed that will enable him to get behind most defences in the NFL. Looks a lot quicker on film than he'll likely time in Indianapolis. There are no concerns about his straight line speed.
  • Recognition: He can play against man or zone coverages and excels in both. He draws penalties when playing man because of his quick twitch ability to get off the line quickly and spots the soft areas to sit down in zone coverages. He's a very intelligent route runner, and he's only had 3 years experience.
  • Hands: He does have his routine drops, but I'm still putting hands in the positive section for three main reasons. First, he always high points the ball and times his jumps to perfection. Secondly, he makes some circus catches that you just don't believe, and thirdly, he catches a lot of passes in traffic. I can forgive him the odd drop if he does the other three on a consistent basis.
  • Open-Field Ability: He's not an exceptional open field runner, but he is very very good. He will often make the first defender miss with either juke moves or just straight line speed. He makes quick cuts and gains the extra 2-3 yards that can be the difference between getting a first down and not getting one.
  • Blocking: Let me be clear. You don't draft a receiver in the top 10 to be a blocker. However, a receiver who's willing to put his body on the line blocking for a teammate says a lot about that person and his competitive nature. Cooper does that on a consistent basis.
  • Competitive: Cooper wins the majority of contested balls because he wants it more. He has good height, but his vertical should test among the elite in Indy. He high points the ball and snatches the ball away from any defenders. He runs hard and doesn't take plays off.

Negatives

  • Concentration: I like Cooper, but it looks as though at points in the game he loses his focus. His technique becomes a little sloppy and he drops the easy pass. It's usually when Alabama are up big, but he needs to clean that up at the next level.
  • Shallow routes: He is in my opinion an exceptional route runner, but on shallow routes, especially crossing routes, he doesn't seem to cut into them. He drifts across, and that has caused some timing issues this year. See West Virginia game.

Conclusion

There is a reason why Cooper is being touted as a top 5 selection in this draft and I think I highlighted that with the negative section being bare. After the 2013 season where he admitted to being frustrated with Alabama's game plan, I wasn't a massive fan. At the start of this season, I considered him a first round talent but not a top 10 guy. However, I've now seen 6 games this year and now I appreciate just how good this kid is. If you saw the Florida and Auburn games this year, you'll appreciate just how good he is, too.

When you combine good speed with good hands and above average route running, you have a player who can be as good as he wants to be. When that player wants to be the best, you have something truly special. I thoroughly believe that Cooper will come into the NFL in 2015 and instantly make an impact to the tune of 1,000+ yards, and his touchdowns will be dependent on the QB throwing to him and the offense he lands in. Cooper is an exceptional talent that I'm sure a number of teams will be looking to add.

I expect Cooper to interview well in Indianapolis, and while I don't expect him to blow up the combine, I imagine he'll test physically well, too. He's a first round talent for sure, a top 10 talent for sure and when all is said and done, he'll likely go in the top 5.

Would I Draft Him For The Jets?

If Cooper is still there when we draft at #6, I take him, no questions asked. We need a receiver. He is an extremely polished receiver with a very low floor and a very high ceiling. He would offer the Jets an excellent 1-2 punch with Decker, and he would bring excitement and big play potential to New York. If you hear a lot this year about the Jets being very interested in Cooper, don't be surprised.

Highlights

Draft Grade: 89

90-100 = Exceptional Talent

80-90 = Impact Player

70-80 = NFL Starter

60-70 = Solid NFL Potential

50-60 = Draftable - Lot of work needed

>50 = Undraftable - Long Shot To Stick