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Amari Cooper, Alabama’s all-time leading receiver, enters the 2015 NFL Draft as one of the highest-profile pass catchers in the class. He has been a consistent and explosive contributor to the Crimson Tide since his freshman season, when he had 1,000 yards receiving and 11TDs. In 2014, Cooper had a downright dominant and record-setting season, recording 124 receptions, 1,727 yards and 16 TDs. Along the way, he set Alabama’s single-game yards record (224), as well as single-season records for receptions, yards and touchdowns (his 124 receptions also set a new SEC mark). For his career, he totaled 228 receptions, 3,463 yards and 31 TDs (all of which are career records for Alabama). He won the Biletnikoff Award and finished third in the Heisman race. Cooper was a consensus All-American selection. Physically, Cooper is in-line with what NFL teams look for but he’s not an elite physical specimen. He’s tall enough and thick enough, but he doesn’t present as a physical mismatch versus NFL corners. Cooper’s athleticism is what sets him apart, as he is a quick-twitch guy with juice. He gets up to full speed in a hurry and can challenge a corner on the long ball even when he’s given a large cushion. He’s coordinated; he has quick upper-body/head and shoulder fakes that freeze the corner at the LOS, while his quick and explosive feet surge into his route. Cooper is a very good route runner who is sharp and effective into and out of his breaks; he sells his route well, keeping the corner guessing until he breaks and cuts. As a pass catcher, Cooper has good, reliable hands that he uses to pluck the ball away from his frame. He tracks the long ball well and consistently holds onto the over-the-shoulder grab. Once he has the ball in his hands, he’s as dangerous as any receiver who has come into the NFL in the last few years. He can run by or around defenders with the kind of loose hips and wiggle needed to flip the field. My only real question with Cooper is his toughness. He offers virtually nothing with his blocking in the run game, and there were moments on tape that he seemed to take the path of least resistance. In order to thrive as an elite star at wide receiver in the NFL, you have to have a fearless approach. I’m not saying Cooper is soft, but I’m not 100% sure he’s fearless.
BOTTOM LINE: Amari Cooper is a supremely talented athlete and playmaker. He has as much juice and quick-twitch ability as the top-tier receivers who are already in the NFL. The only thing that could hold him back is his toughness, as he is going to have to get his hands dirty in the run game if he wants to be elite. He will instantly upgrade a passing attack and continue the trend of rookie receivers that are making the seamless transition into the NFL. He projects as a No. 1 receiver in an NFL offense who will win on all three levels of the passing game.
GRADE: 8.1 (1st Round)
-Submitted by Bryan Perez (@FirstRoundGrade)