Top Technique Makes Wide Receiver Amari Cooper a Top-10 Talent in NFL Draft

Matt Bowen @MattBowen41NFL National Lead WriterMarch 25, 2015

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The 2015 wide receiver class is deep. It's loaded with speed, talent and prospects who can make the quick jump to the NFL stage.

West Virginia's Kevin White tore up the combine with 4.35 speed. He's a top-10 prospect. Louisville's DeVante Parker is a legit playmaker. That's another first-round guy. And former Missouri wideout Dorial Green-Beckham is one of those rare players at the position with size, speed and jump-ball ability. He's a freak athlete.

All three of those prospects are going to make some good money in the league, and the list goes on. This group has some serious talent that will fly off the board during the first and second round of the upcoming NFL draft.

Amid all the talk about size, speed, measurables and depth at the position, let's not forget about Amari Cooper in this discussion. He's "the guy" in my opinion, the silky smooth route-runner who glides through cuts at top speed, dominating defensive backs.

The most "pro-ready" wide receiver in this class, according to NFL scouts I talked with, Cooper has the skill set to make an immediate impact as a rookie.

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I love Cooper's film, and it's obvious he puts in the work on routes. And I'm talking about the entire route tree here. Not just bubble screens, hitches, slants and fade routes like we so often see in the college game with spread systems. Instead, this is pro-style football under coordinator Lane Kiffin at Alabama. Cooper can run the three-step routes, break back to the ball in the intermediate passing game and embarrass safeties over the top when he runs the deep double-moves to expose the post.

Go watch Cooper produce versus LSU's Jalen Collins or Florida's Vernon Hargreaves. Take a look at the big plays he ripped off against Auburn's secondary. Kiffin knew what he had with Cooper at 'Bama and fed him the ball. And why not? That led to ridiculous numbers from Cooper in 2014 (124 receptions, 1,727 yards, 16 touchdowns). He won the Biletnikoff Award given to the nation's top receiver.

Cooper (6'1", 211 lbs) doesn't have the size of White (6'3", 215 lbs), but he proved he has the necessary "long speed" as he posted a 4.42 40 time at the combine. And the NFL recently adjusted that official time to a number in the 4.3 range. Plus, his change-of-direction testing meshes with the tape (short shuttle: 3.98 seconds; three-cone: 6.71 seconds).

Those numbers speak to his ability to accelerate out of his cuts without wasted movement or stiffness. This isn't a receiver that has to sink his hips, restart and go find the football. It's all fluid with Cooper, and that allows him to create separation versus man coverage. Plus, he has the lateral quickness to beat press coverage and get up the field (a key to winning at the line versus NFL competition). 

Cooper's route-running was on display during positional drills at the combine. He followed that up with a pro-day performance that an NFL scout simply described as "electric." The hands to snatch the ball, the sweet footwork, the burst in his routes. It was all there. 

But it makes sense why teams could have White higher on the board come opening night of the draft, April 30. The West Virginia product may have "more upside" or a "higher ceiling," according to scouts, because of his length and speed. Add in the size, and you should expect White to make plays on contested throws downfield. That's documented on White's tape, and his leaping ability (36.5 inches) gives him the opportunity to climb the ladder and high-point the ball.

West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Kevin White runs the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.
West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Kevin White runs the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.David J. Phillip/Associated Press/Associated Press

White is going to outmuscle some defensive backs at the point of attack at the next level and take the ball right from them. He's an explosive player. But there is also going to be a learning curve for White once he steps outside of that Mountaineer offense, as the route tree will expand in the NFL, putting a premium on technique White may not master right away.

With Cooper, there are questions regarding his ability to make plays on "50-50" throws down the field, and he can improve in the area of boxing out defensive backs with his frame to create leverage. Plus, his film shows some drops. However, if you are looking for upside on Cooper outside of what you already see on tape, it's his age (only 20 years old), formation flexibility and work ethic. He's only going to get better at his craft as a route-runner, and he can align at Z, X or in the slot.

Given that the Oakland Raiders are in need of talent at wide receiver, it wouldn't be surprising at all if they select White at No. 4. Size and speed sells in this league. That will never change. And his measurables jump off the page. This could also lead to DeVante Parker shooting up the board on Day 1 of the draft.

But if I'm running a team that wants to upgrade the wide receiver position, it would be hard to pass on Cooper. He's a top-10 talent and the best route-runner in this class. Hand him the playbook and let him go to work. He's ready.

Seven-year NFL veteran Matt Bowen is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.

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