Recently, Jon Moore offered several compelling visualizations to help explain the intersection between production and age. In separate research, I’ve found age-adjusted production to be easily the best predictor of NFL success. The new Box Score Scout offers a variety of different ways to look at this for yourself. I thought I would do such an experiment with Amari Cooper.
Cooper is an intriguing prospect because he has tremendous raw production but also sports extremely strong age-adjusted market share production. Many scouts are concerned that he doesn’t create his production by winning contested balls in the air, but I’ve found no evidence that certain receiver “styles” translate better than others to the NFL. Production and size/athleticism translate.
Regardless, I think Cooper should be evaluated based on qualities that are intrinsic to his own play (production) as opposed to qualities which are extrinsic to him (whatever label the scout wants to give his lack of highlights). We often hear that Cooper is going to go in the Top 10 this season, but he’s not the equal of previous Top 10 picks. Is this accurate? We’ll leave questions about size and athleticism until after the Combine. How does Cooper match up on production? We examine in Amari Cooper versus the World.
Amari Cooper Versus Sammy Watkins
Watkins was promoted as a big time athlete prior to the 2014 Combine, but he was outperformed by Odell Beckham and landed in the same range as players like Jordan Matthews and Marqise Lee. The biggest argument in favor of Watkins’ superstardom is his elite age-adjusted production. Like Cooper, he dominated as a young true freshman. Both Watkins and Cooper had ridiculous first year campaigns, an off year, and then impressive junior seasons. Fortunately for Cooper advocates, his final season numbers were far stronger in terms of both receiving and touchdown market share.
Amari Cooper Versus A.J. Green
A.J. Green is one of the Top 10 picks widely considered to be superior to Cooper, but his Combine weight/speed profile wasn’t as strong as many believe. He probably holds the edge due to height, but this is again a case where the better prospect should be decided by production. Green doesn’t have a poor season on his resume like Cooper, but the Crimson Tide product was better earlier (look at his 2012 versus Green’s 2008) and better in his final season.
Edge: Slight edge Cooper
Amari Cooper Versus Julio Jones
Julio Jones is an athletic marvel, and his elite Freak Score complicates the decision here. Jones also broke out early, posting his best season with a 39 percent receiving market share as a true freshman. Cooper still bested Jones in both first year and final year production.
Amari Cooper Versus Justin Blackmon
Justin Blackmon redshirted as a freshman, making this a little apples-to-oranges on age. Cooper’s initial season dwarfs Blackmon’s initial season, and Cooper’s final season bests Blackmon’s final season. Meanwhile, Blackmon owns a pretty decent touchdown-scoring edge when you compare the two players’ best seasons.
Amari Cooper Versus Dez Bryant
Dez Bryant wasn’t drafted in the Top 10, but he’s generally considered to be the No. 1 dynasty asset in the NFL currently. He fell in 2010 due to character concerns. Demaryius Thomas fell that same year due to an injury worry. Because they were far better prospects than Tavon Austin, Ted Ginn, or Darrius Heyward-Bey – the other three Top 10 picks from this time period – I’m also including them in this analysis.
Keep in mind that Bryant’s 2009 season consisted of only three games before he was suspended. It’s also again the case that Cooper was far better during his freshman year. Still, Bryant’s 2008 is the type of season you’re looking for from an uber-prospect (in contrast to the type that Watkins posted last year).
Amari Cooper Versus Demaryius Thomas
This battle is complicated by the unusual offense deployed by Georgia Tech. Cooper ends up with far better raw production but Demaryius Thomas with far better market share production. Thomas also owns one of the top Freak Scores, which suggests this isn’t a one-to-one comparison anyway.
Amari Cooper Versus Michael Crabtree
Michael Crabtree redshirted as a freshman, but then generated ridiculous raw touchdown numbers in Mike Leach’s Air Raid. Still Cooper’s final season was superior, and his overall market share yardage numbers easily trump those of Crabtree. (It’s easy to think of Crabtree and Blackmon as lesser players now due to their NFL paths, but we’re looking at them as prospects. They remain the only two double Biletnikoff winners.)
Amari Cooper Versus Calvin Johnson
Calvin Johnson is easily the best receiving prospect of the last decade and possibly ever.
Amari Cooper Versus The World
Here’s a look at where Cooper fits when we use the final college season of each of these elite prospects in combination with career market share yards.
Based on the current scuttlebutt, I think it’s going to be slightly easier to move into position to take Cooper than it was to move up for Watkins last year. Especially now that Watkins is stuck in Rex Ryan purgatory, I would strongly prefer Cooper unless his Combine performance falls into the Jarvis Landry range.