Dynasty Scouts Player Spotlight: Amari Cooper

Aaron Swinderman

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Amari Cooper was immediately a top prospect after his senior year in high school catching passes from Teddy Bridgewater and was highly sought after before he signed on with Alabama. As a freshman, Cooper received Freshman All-American and All-SEC honors in 2012 when he compiled 59/1000/11, breaking records along the way. As a sophomore, Cooper continued his breakout despite dealing with a minor injury on his way to a 45/736/4 line. This past season, Cooper blew everyone away with 124 catches, 1,727 yards, and 16 touchdowns as he was named All-American, finished as the top wide receiver in the country by winning the Biletnikoff Award, and finished third for the Heisman trophy.

Cooper heads into the 2015 NFL draft being heavily viewed as one of the top two wide receivers in the class and likely a top ten pick.

Size – Cooper measured in at 6’1” and 211 pounds. Cooper’s size is essentially prototypical for a receiver in the NFL. While his height may appear to limit his potential in the red zone, his weight more than makes up for it as research has been done that seems to indicate weight plays a bigger role in touchdown scoring than height alone.

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Hands – Admittedly, I am concerned at times about Cooper’s hands. While he catches the ball in the manner you’d like from your receiver (with his hands), he also seems to have issues with the drops on deeper pass plays down the field. This might really be more of a concentration issue than his hands, but he had more drops than I’d like from someone getting the amount of love that he gets.

Blocking – Blocking is not Cooper’s strong suit. He just seemed to lack passion in this role as any time a defender tried to get past him, they did. Hopefully he can learn the importance of this role in an offense and maintain an interest and even develop it as a strong suit. The more he can stay on the field for run plays, the more likely it is a team will use him in its flexible personnel packages as it can audible run more easily when the receivers are strong blockers.

Speed/Athleticism – Cooper has solid speed and incredibly athleticism and maintains these throughout his routes. He does a great job of using his quick twitch athleticism to get leverage on a defender and blow by the coverage for big plays. Additionally, the quickness he used to enter his routes gave him the immediate advantage against a defender at the line of scrimmage. At Alabama, they did a great job of getting him the ball in space and letting him do work after the catch. He was consistently a big play threat from all parts of the field.

Awareness/Body Control – Cooper always did a good job of knowing where the ball was going to be when he ran his routes and could consistently use his speed to get to the ball. Sometimes this led to him landing out of bounds, but hey, at least he went after the ball and was able to react to it in the air.

Routes – Like most college receivers, Cooper seems to struggle with his routes at time. There were many occasions where it appeared that Cooper got lazy and did not finish running his route. On a couple of these occasions, Cooper let his defender step in front of him and intercept the pass. Plays like this have me worried about the potential impacts at the NFL level. Receivers that pull these shenanigans find themselves on the bench more often than not as they just cost their team a possession.

Beyond this, it seemed Cooper was most often targeted right around or right behind the line of scrimmage on a screen pass. Part of this was because of the consistency with which you could make sure Cooper had the ball and then could use his speed and athleticism to gain the yardage himself.

That said, Cooper did everything he was asked to do at Alabama. When he was asked to become the team’s top weapon, he did so with what would appear to be relative ease. I have confidence that Cooper will continue to work on his routes and do what it takes to stay on the field at the next level.

Player Comparison – The easiest group of comparisons for Cooper, if we’re talking his ceiling, is in the Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt and Reggie Wayne school. He’s a technician that can work with volume and has enough twitch/playmaking ability to make big plays by burning the defense.

Final Say – I’m admittedly a bit skeptical of Cooper, and that is more based on my philosophy as I build my teams. Cooper has solid size, speed/athleticism, strength, and is a good all-around technician. Taking that into account, he also does not excel at any of these things and could very well need volume to be worthwhile in fantasy.

One of my biggest take away when I watched Cooper was how often he did not seem to make the play down the field but was overly reliant on busted coverage or receiving the ball close to the line of scrimmage. Now, this is not necessarily his fault. At times the coverage was busted because of how he set up the defender and used his technique/recognition of the coverage the defense was playing. By all means, Cooper did everything he was asked to do within that Alabama offense, but that team has also consistently been better than its competition most of the time. Do we have the certainty that Cooper will be able to freely run all over secondaries at the next level too? I’m skeptical, as many college players have consistently beaten players in the college ranks only to struggle at the NFL. Once a player gets to the NFL, everyone is fast, everyone is strong, and everyone knows the game.

Cooper is going to need to continue to perfect the technical aspects of his game because he does not have the truly game breaking top end speed in order to beat defenders down the field. He will need to run crisper routes, run block better, and work on his route tree.

While it may sound like I am being overly negative, I do think Cooper will be a very good receiver, I just am not completely sold on how good. Either way, he seems like a player that is very safe in the NFL context and will be safe in fantasy presuming he lands in an offense that schemes him the ball. It is easy to forget that in many scenarios that a player like Cooper with such a high floor provides so much value to coaches and to your fantasy team.