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Vintavious Cooper, Justin Hardy, and The Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl: “It’s A Vintavious Festivus For The Rest Of Us!”
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With the NFL regular season winding down and the college football bowl season starting, we at RotoViz are beginning to transition our focus from 2013 to 2014. In particular, we’ll start providing coverage on draft-eligible 2014 prospects, and we’re starting with a series of Bowl Game Previews calling your attention to intriguing players in each contest.

So, without much ado, let’s look at the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl on December 23: “A Festivus for the rest of us.”

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl

Ohio (7-7, MAC)
In my 2013 Preseason Collegiate RB Watch List, I called Ohio’s Beau Blankenship the Real Luke Cafferty. At the time, I meant that as a humorous slight to the 5’9” 23-year-old redshirt senior. Now, I think that comment might’ve inadvertently slighted the fictional Luke Cafferty.

East Carolina (9-3, C-USA)
I’m slightly intrigued by East Carolina’s lead RB, 22-year-old senior Vintavious Cooper. He’s only 5’9” and 200 lbs, but he’s had two straight seasons with over 1200 scrimmage yards, so (who knows?) maybe he could have some Andre Ellington potential, because those are the exact numbers Ellington submitted in his two final seasons. Here are Cooper’s 2012 and 2013 stats:

Year

Att

RuYds

RuAvg

RuTD

Rec

ReYds

ReAvg

ReTD

Total nQBDR

*2012

200

1049

5.2

7

26

229

8.8

1

0.56

2013

205

995

4.9

11

41

390

9.5

1

0.66

In case you’re wondering, the nQBDR metric is a tool I’ve created that measures the extent to which any non-QB rusher outproduces the other non-QB rushers on his team. For more on nQBDR, here’s my introduction to the metric. A list of my nQBDR-centric posts can be found in the New Mexico Bowl Preview.

Back to Coop: He has some good raw stats. What about his nQBDR? His 0.66 isn’t great—but neither was Ellington’s, who had scores of 0.70, 0.65, and 0.62 in his three years as Clemson’s starter—and when Chris Johnson was at ECU his highest nQBDR (in his great senior year) was only 0.67, so a low nQBDR in a small RB doesn’t necessarily doom that guy to a career of NFL futility.

I admit that I normally don’t like small RBs (especially those with a low nQBDR), and in my Potato Bowl Preview I suggested that San Diego State RB Adam Muema is likely to be misvalued in the draft because of his small size and low nQBDR—and then he submitted a 28-229-3 rushing performance in the game. And yet Muema is a tad bigger than Cooper. Am I being duplicitous in my stance toward these two potentially similar RBs? Perhaps—but the difference in my valuations of them results from the hype I anticipate they’ll receive in the next few months. At this point, without knowing anything about how they’ll perform in pre-draft workouts, I think Copper and Muema are roughly equivalent guys, but I expect Muema to be overvalued à la Ronnie Hillman and Cooper, at best, to be drafted in the fifth round. Keep an eye on him. He could be the next Andre Ellington—but probably not.

One other player to watch is ECU’s leading receiver, redshirt junior Justin Hardy. The 22-year-old WR is a little on the small side (6’0” and 186, according to his Pirates profile), but he’s had some solid production in the last two years:

Year

Rec

Yds

Avg

TD

DR Rec

DR Yds

DR TDs

Total DR

Games

*2012

88

1105

12.6

11

0.28

0.31

0.44

0.38

13

2013

105

1218

11.6

8

0.29

0.31

0.25

0.28

12

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere (here and here, for example), I really like WRs who record 1000-10 seasons in their final college seasons, so I’ll be curious to see whether Hardy can score 2 TDs in the bowl game—but I won’t be that curious because 1) he probably won’t declare for the draft this year anyway, 2) his year-over-year drop in DR is concerning, 3) he’s not likely to be drafted until the fifth round at the earliest, and so he’s probably not a WR I’d want to roster as a rookie anyway, and, 4) given his weight and likely draft position, his speed will be important in my final analysis of him—and my feeling is that he won’t be fast enough to earn a draftable grade according to the strictures of my WR projection system.

All of this is not to say that I’m not interested in him. It’s just to say that, right now, I think he’s likelier to become one of the Whalen brothers than Antonio Brown.

Interested in other Bowl Game Previews? Here are others for your perusal:

As the bowl season progresses, more previews (and other pieces) may be found at my RotoViz Author Page. Want to compare one college WR with another? Check out our College Career Graph WR App. Want to talk about other college prospects? Hit me up on Twitter. And, yes, my name is really Matt Freedman. No, I’m not nine years old.

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