AnalysisCooper was brilliant in Tuscaloosa, leaving Alabama with 228 receptions for 3,463 yards and 31 touchdowns in three seasons with the Crimson Tide. He may not be the biggest wide receiver in this draft class but he does everything exceptionally well. Cooper runs terrific routes, has soft hands, and very good speed, strength and quickness. His work ethic became that of legend at Alabama. There are no sure things in this business but this former four-star recruit from South Florida is as safe as they come from this draft class.
Dave-Te' Thomas Player Evaluation
Amari Cooper was brilliant in Tuscaloosa, leaving Alabama with 228 receptions for 3,463 yards and 31 touchdowns in three seasons with the Crimson Tide. He may not be the biggest wide receiver in this draft class but he does everything exceptionally well. Cooper runs terrific routes, has soft hands, and very good speed, strength and quickness. He can play the slot or the outside position. His work ethic became that of legend at Alabama. There are no sure things in this business but this former four-star recruit from South Florida is as safe as they come from this draft class. Cooper should make a huge impact in Oakland and pair nicely with the Raiders young quarterback Derek Carr.
Amari Cooper, the Biletnikoff Award recipient and Heisman Trophy finalist, put together one of the finest seasons by a receiver in college history. The junior is the only player in school history to catch 200 passes (228), gain 3,000 receiving yards (3,463) and grab 20 touchdowns (31). His 124 catches in 2014 set the Southeastern Conference season-record, ranking second on that list with 1,727 yards, adding 16 scoring grabs. One of five players in SEC history to gain 3,000 receiving yards, the only player to top him is Jordan Matthews of Vanderbilt (3,759 yards, 2010-13).
Expected to be the first receiver selected in the draft, his availability will make the Oakland Raiders an inviting place to call home, as he could form a dream team tandem with Derek Carr. He broke a 62-year school record with 11 touchdown grabs in 2012, but toe and foot injuries hampered him the first part of the 2013 schedule, finishing with 45 catches.
Cooper executes tight angles down the field and displays a good feel vs. zone/off concepts, consistently finding soft spots underneath. He is fearless extending and making plays over the middle and is very creative after the catch. He accelerates well with the ball in his hands, displaying the fluidity to side step defenders even at full speed. He has nice acceleration off the snap to build to top speed in attempts to get down field and has superb body control to adjust to the ball in flight.
While he won’t explode off the line, Cooper gets a clean release, using his size and long reach to keep the defensive backs from trying to jam him at the line of scrimmage. He runs with a steady stride, showing easy-of-movement in his route progression. The thing you see on film is that his balance and body control lets him get back on the stem. He is very precise in his first move and you will never see him take any false steps getting into his route.
Cooper has an outstanding reach and arm length to get to off-target throws and shows excellent body control keeping his feet along the boundaries. He can rise off the ground and get to the ball at its highest point, demonstrating great elevation and timing. He is a tough cookie taking on defenders to get to the ball in tight areas and uses his large hands and body control to adjust to the ball underneath.
Cooper shows very good elevation to go over the crowd and reach and extend for the pass at its highest point. His high-point receiving skills are superior to most receivers in the college ranks. When going up for the high pass, his superb elevation will generally see him win most jump ball battles. He is a natural leaper who has a superb reach and large paws for hands to securely grasp the ball.
Cooper shows great concentration, natural hands and ball security, doing a good job of shielding the ball from the defender. He maintains tremendous focus going for the ball in a crowd and is known for making acrobatic catches look routine. He is alert to boundaries and sticks, showing a good feel for the soft spots working underneath. He excels at making proper body adjustments on the move and is very capable of tracking the ball in flight.
Cooper demonstrates good fakes and twisting moves to force the defensive backs to come out of backpedal too early and does a nice job of redirecting coming out of his breaks to take the opponent off-balance. He relies on using his slippery moves to separate, as he sinks his weight and lowers his pads to settle in underneath. He has an array of moves to fool a lethargic defender in attempts to beat the press and is very alert to pocket pressure, doing a nice job of working back to the ball.
Cooper is a perfect role model for the team’s younger players with his work ethic and takes well to hard coaching. He is called the team’s hardest worker by the coaching staff and a great program type that will do anything to get the job done. He pushes himself hard in games and practices and plays until the whistle.
From the way he glides to the ball in the open field, you can easily see that Cooper is a smooth, athletic pass catcher with a lot of natural ability at the position. He flashes big-play ability as a pass catcher and possesses some immediate impact qualities when projecting for the professional level, as he has a lot of “Michael Irvin” game-breaking ability that will soon see him rank with the elite in the NFL.
Cooper has a well-built frame - possessing the height, long arms and length to create big mismatches vs. smaller cornerbacks. He has done a good job of developing upper body tone, as he was quite lean-looking when he first arrived on campus as a freshman. His best asset is his terrific hands, and he extends well away from his body to snatch the ball out of the air with tremendous ease.
Cooper is a player who performs with great focus. He has above average field awareness and demonstrates the body control needed to make his adjustments elevating for the ball to get to it at its highest point. With his size and improved upper body strength, he should continue to be a top-notch red zone target with his athletic jump-ball skills and ability to contort his body to get to the off-target tosses.
Cooper is an excellent route runner, as he runs with exceptional balance and has the sharp footwork needed to not take wasted steps in his route progression. He’s best surge off the line of any receiver in this draft. Others might have better timed speed, but he’s a master at eating up a cushion and definitely knows how to work a defensive back's leverage.
The Tide receiver shows good urgency coming back to the ball underneath and always maintains good eyes on the pocket, knowing when he needs to break off his route to come back when the quarterback is flushed. In the open field, he has above average speed, but it is his explosive burst and ability to suddenly get in and out of his breaks that helps him create separation as a short-to-intermediate route runner.
The big reason for Cooper’s success in 2014 was that under the guidance of assistant coach Lane Kiffin, the Tide receiver showed a much better willingness to work across the middle than he did before, as Kiffin showed him how to have confidence in his raw power, allowing him better production when attempting to shield defenders at the next level and absorb a hit.
As a route runner, Cooper is smooth at the top of his stem as a deep route runner, as he knows how to vary his speed, doing a nice job of gearing down to temporarily get the defensive back covering him off balanced, as this allows him to have success creating separation. After the catch, he has a decent stiff-arm, but knows he gets more real estate utilizing his elusiveness to move the chains, rather than trying to simply overpower the opponent.
Cooper gets outstanding elevation going for the ball in a crowd. He has a good wing span and large, natural hands (10-inch width), along with outstanding elevation to get to the ball at its high point. He has impressive speed and shows great field vision and boundary awareness, as his change of direction agility and array of moves surprise the defense in attempts to separate.
Amari Cooper Scouting Combine measurables
6-1/211 (4.42 forty)
31 1/2-inch arm length
33-inch vertical jump
120-inch broad jump
6.71 3 cone drill
3.98 20 yard shuttle
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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