To say that much is expected of rookie Amari Cooper in Oakland would probably be the understatement of the entire NFL offseason. The former Alabama wide receiver was taken by the Raiders with the fourth overall pick in the NFL Draft and he is seen as the great hope to pull Oakland out of obscurity and back into contention in the AFC West.
Before last year Cooper may have been given some leeway and time to adapt upon entering the NFL. Wide receiver has long been considered one of the more difficult positions to immediately transfer from the college to the pro game due to the higher levels of complexity in schemes and the more physical nature of NFL defensive backs. Last year though a number of rookie wide outs, such as Kelvin Benjamin and especially Odell Beckham Jr., blew the roof of off what is to be expected from a first year pass catcher.
Cooper comes to the Raiders as a more polished specimen than any of the receivers from the banner class of 2014. The 6’1”, 210-pounder is one of the most precise route runners to leave the college game in decades. As a junior last fall he set numerous single season and career records for the Crimson Tide, including the most yards receiving in a single game (224 vs Tennessee), their all-time reception leader (229) and Alabama’s all-time leader in receiving touchdowns (31). Cooper was a unanimous All-American after the season, as well as finishing third in the Heisman Trophy (best college player) and winning the Biletnikoff Award (best college receiver).
Cooper declared for the 2015 NFL Draft after his junior season and was considered the best wide receiver prospect as soon as he put his name in the hat. At the combine he ran a 4.42 second forty-yard dash, which was faster than expected as despite his pedigree he was never considered a true burner at Alabama. While none of Coopers other combine performances jump out at you they were all good enough to cement his place at the top end of the Draft.
Cooper’s biggest asset in the NFL is going to be his route running, He has a almost a Marvin Harrison like style where he is able to disguise the intent of his route until the last minute, making all his breaks look the same and therefore giving the defensive back no clue where he is going on the pattern until it is too late. Cooper is also a coach’s dream as unlike some of the diva wide receivers of the past, he is all business and will work hard to achieve his personal and team goals.
Graphic via panicbutton
Oakland has been crying out for a true number one receiver ever since Tim Brown hung up his cleats and in Cooper they have a guy who can be just that. Gone are the days of Al Davis drafting the faster receiver on the board regardless of skill level (we see you Darrius Heyward-Bey) and instead the Raiders took a player in Cooper who can help turn the offense around. The revolution in Silver and Black country began last year with the drafting of athletically limited, but super smart, quarterback Derek Carr. Now, with Carr and Cooper leading the way this offense has two pieces to build around over the next five years.
Graphic via al