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2015-02-04 15:52:301 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Amari Cooper scores touchdown against Texas A&M. (Image Source: Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY Sports)
Of the 74 early entries granted special eligibility for the 2015 NFL Draft, three members of the Alabama Crimson Tide decided to forgo their final season of college eligibility in order to live out their dreams of playing on Sundays. Of the ‘Bama troika, wide receiver Amari Cooper is the most highly touted Crimson Tide heading into the upcoming draft.
"We're very supportive of what these guys decide to do," said head coach Nick Saban, who added his players made a "good business decision."
His Stats: Right from the start, Cooper played the part of NFL Draft prospect. During his true freshman season, the Miami native caught 59 passes for 1,000 yards and 11 scores, averaging 16.9 YPC. Cooper improved as the season went on going over 100 receiving yards in four of the final five games, including the Iron Bowl, the SEC Championship Game and the BCS Championship Game. Fighting nagging injuries to his foot and toe, Cooper never seemed to be 100 percent in his sophomore year until the final two games of the season when he caught 15 passes for 299 yards and a score (45 receptions, 736 yards, 4 TDs on the season). This past season, Cooper established his dominance on the SEC catching 124 passes to lead the nation with 1,727 receiving yards (second) and 16 TDs, the most in the conference since Reidel Anthony caught 18 for the Florida Gators in 1996.
Why He Should Go to the NFL: The list is endless. Cooper has already established himself as the best receiver in college football, winning the Biletnikoff Award and he was the first wide out invited to New York City as a Heisman Trophy Finalist since Larry Fitzgerald back in 2003, where he finished third. In addition to individual awards, Cooper has won two conference titles and a national championship. He’s NFL ready, projects as a sure-fire top-10 pick, a very likely top-five selection and is pretty much the consensus top receiver prospect in this class.
Why He Should Have Come Back to College: There really isn’t a good reason for Cooper to return to Alabama unless he wants another crack at winning the College Football Playoff or simply enjoys the college life. He’s accomplished everything he can both as a college football player and an NFL Draft prospect.
What They’re Saying: "There's nothing Cooper doesn't do really well, and he's probably more explosive than he looks because his movement is so precise," ESPN's Mel Kiper said of Cooper. "He separates with ease, has a good sense of how to find space against a zone and will make contested catches. His work rate is legendary and will be a big selling point." The draft analyst has Cooper as his third-rated player overall, two spots below where he is ranked by ESPN’s Scout’s Inc., while NFLDraftScout.com has the Alabama pass catcher fourth on their big board, as does Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com.
Mogollon’s Take: I’ve been in love with Cooper since I first saw him as a freshman. The kid is an absolute baller, who runs very crisp routes, knows how to get open, has superb hands and is a playmaker. Cooper can stretch the field with his straight-line speed and is difficult to wrangle in the open field, often making would-be tacklers look silly. He’s tough and a competitor, not afraid to go over the middle and more than capable of winning fights for the football in traffic. The only thing he lacks is elite size—Cooper is just 6’1” and 205 pounds, which is rather average for a receiver prospect, and why I’d grade him a notch below A.J. Green and Julio Jones, who came out of the SEC in 2011. Cooper should emerge as a No. 1 receiver in the NFL and is legit top-10 prospect.
NFL Fit: The most obvious spot for Cooper is the Oakland Raiders with the fourth overall pick. Oakland desperately needs a playmaking wide out and it makes sense to follow up their selection of Derek Carr in the 2014 NFL Draft by selecting a weapon that will help their second-year signal caller grow in the years to come. If the Raiders call Cooper’s name it’s hard to argue with the either the value, need or fit. It’s possible the Jacksonville Jaguars, who also drafted their QB a year ago in Blake Bortles, could be tempted to draft Cooper at No. 3 overall. However, they used second-round picks to select Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee last season, and a third rookie Allen Hurns, led them in receiving yards in 2014 so it makes more sense for them to add a veteran and use their pick to address one of their many other needs. If Cooper does get past the Raiders, the New York Jets at No. 6 is another spot you can expect to see Cooper connected to in Mock Drafts in the coming months, in fact that’s exactly where McShay had the Alabama man going in his first mock draft, as does NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks, while Daniel Jeremiah has Cooper dropping to the Atlanta Falcons at No. 8. Mel Kiper doesn’t have Cooper getting past the Raiders at No. 4.
NFL Draft Links:
Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. You can reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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