[W]ith the receiver depth chart entirely unsettled, early impressions are important. And so far, no rookie has made a better one than fourth-round slot receiver Pharoh Cooper.
Fellow receivers have praised him. Quarterbacks Case Keenum and Jared Goff described how much they enjoying throwing to him over the middle. Rams coach Jeff Fisher raved about how quickly he picked up the playbook. “I expect that he’ll be a household name at some point,” Fisher said.
Watch him run fearlessly across the middle of the field, and it’s not hard to see what could make Cooper a reliable weapon as early as this season. He is a compact, wrecking ball on short-to-intermediate routes. But how he fits with Austin, a receiver of similar stature and position, remains to be seen.
We’ve been banging the Pharoh Cooper drum for a while. Jon Moore touted him in March as a player who would help you win your rookie draft. In April, Anthony Amico tried to quiet the talk about Cooper’s “disappointing” pro day. And after the Rams drafted Cooper, Justin Winn explained why he was a good bet to produce on a run-heavy offense, à la Stefan Diggs. I may be late to the party, but when Jeff Fisher speaks, I listen.1
Cooper highlights the divide between those who value college production and those who value, well, anything else. He crushed the Phenom Index by producing 39.1 percent of South Carolina’s receiving yards in his final season — before turning 21.
But Cooper’s athletic profile is pretty gross. He’s basically Jarvis Landry. (Note that Cooper ran the forty-yard dash in 4.63 seconds at his pro day.)
And film analysts were less than impressed. Evan Silva calls Cooper a poor man’s version of Tavon Austin. Matt Harmon noted that Cooper had the lowest success rate against man coverage of the prospects he evaluated. And Matt Waldman ranked Cooper as his 47th-best wide receiver prospect in the 2016 class. Yikes!
It’s worth noting that while Cooper and Austin are both nominally slot receivers, Cooper is apparently a true slot guy, thriving in the middle of the field. Austin, on the other hand, is a true gadget player, and only 12 of his 87 targets in 2015 came in the middle of the field.
If you want to bet on production over everything, Cooper is at least a cheap bet.2 Per the Dynasty ADP App, Cooper’s June ADP in rookie drafts is 26 overall, an early third-round pick in most leagues. If you’re going to draft a WR in that range, Cooper is the one to target.