In the midst of a deep wide receiver class, former South Carolina Gamecocks star Pharoh Cooper can help separate himself from the pack with a strong pro day performance Wednesday.
Draft stock surrounding the 21-year-old varies between analysts. Dane Brugler and Rob Rang of CBSSports.com rank Cooper No. 56 overall, giving him a Round 2 grade and an NFL comparison to Pro Bowl wide receiver Randall Cobb.
South Carolina's pro day will give Cooper the opportunity to prove he compares more to the former receiver than the latter. Of the several drills Cooper will participate in, none matters more than his 40-yard dash time.
At the NFL combine, Cooper decided not to run the 40-yard dash as a result of his quadriceps injury. Though the decision was applauded by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., questions about his speed continued to persist.
ESPN's Todd McShay is among those who believe Cooper's needs to increase his 40 time in order to boost his draft stock, per SECCountry.com's Knox Bardeen. He gave some insight as to where Cooper might land in the draft, but also expressed his doubts that Cooper would amaze scouts with his speed:
To me, right around where we ended up giving him the grade in the preseason in that second, third-round range. We gave him a mid-third round (grade) and I don’t think it’ll be that far off in terms of where he winds up going.
He doesn’t have elite size and speed...He’s got solid size, solid speed but I don’t know that he’s going to run a time that’s going to make NFL evaluators go back and study the tape.
That mid-third-round grade has been echoed among several mock draft analysts. NFL.com's Chad Reuter has the Philadelphia Eagles snatching Cooper with the No. 77 overall pick, while WalterFootball.com's Walter Cherepinsky has him landing with the Buffalo Bills via the No. 80 selection.
Regardless of what 40 time Cooper is clocked at, there will be some doubts as to the official time. Still, if he shows he can run in the high 4.4-second range (even if it's an unofficial time), it could give him a nice boost up some teams' draft boards.
Aside from the 40-yard dash, Cooper will need to be impressive in the route-running drills. Both NFL.com and CBSSports.com note in their scouting reports on Cooper he struggles to catch up to deep throws, and has questionable route running on both deep and intermediate throws.
At the combine, Cooper measured in at 5'11" and 203 pounds. His height isn't great, but if he can show off strong, reliable hands during the receiving drills, it could very well ease some of the concern about his ability to win the 50-50 balls NFL receivers are expected to catch.
Of course, all this analysis means nothing if Cooper isn't at his best Wednesday. Fortunately, that doesn't appear to be the case:
FOX Sports: PROcast @PROcast
You put the work in, now it's time to get busy! Good luck at Pro Day, @KingTutt_chdown! #PROcast https://t.co/mF8EHPcg3v3/29/2016, 8:37:09 PM
The video shows off what we already know about Cooper—he's a hard worker and is determined to bring his A-game to Wednesday's pro day. Even if he can convince just one team to take a chance on him in Round 2, it'll be a major win for both the former Gamecocks captain and his future NFL team.