After a disappointing 3-9 season at South Carolina Pharoh Cooper will head to greener pastures following his junior season to the NFL. Cooper could’ve returned to Columbia for one more season but fear of injury and question marks at the QB position pointed him to declare for the 2016 NFL Draft.
As a sophomore Cooper emerged as one of the premier receivers in the league. With 1,136 yards receiving and 9 touchdowns in 2013 the Gamecock receiver put the SEC on notice as one of the premier playmakers in the conference. Against Tennessee he set the record for receiving yards when he blistered the Vols’ defense for 233 yards on 11 receptions. Cooper also ran the ball from time to time and threw four touchdown passes. Coming into his junior year he was poised to break out but injuries to all the QBs at South Carolina really put a damper on Cooper’s stats. The talented receiver still had 973 yards receiving but never could get going in the stagnant Gamecocks offense without a quarterback.
At 5’11 Cooper may get passed over in the 2016 NFL Draft in favor of guys who are taller. Ohio State’s Laquon Treadwell, Pitt’s Tyler Boyd and Josh Docton from TCU are 6’2. Michael Thomas from Ohio State is 6’3. When you look at most mock drafts on the internet they usually are the top guys taken. NFL GMs want a tall receiver who can go up and win a jump ball over a cornerback. Cooper isn’t small by any means but those three or four inches can be a big deal when teams are looking for a reason to pick one talented receiver over another.
But not all 5’11 receivers get passed over. Odell Beckham Jr. showed what a smaller receiver can still do in the NFL. Beckham is the same height as Cooper and when you watch the Carolina receiver you see that he has the style of play as the All-Pro Giant receiver. Cooper can make big-time catches in big games. He can also run the ball as well. Cooper showed he can throw the ball if a trick play is dialed up.
Cooper will get drafted in April. It is hard to peg just where NFL teams will project him. We have projected him to go in the fourth round. A team like the Steelers would be a good fit. Antwaan Randle El was a similar playmaker will big-play ability who was used to throw the ball occasionally. Pittsburgh could utilize him in the slot and coach him up. With Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant Cooper could learn the system and not have to be rushed into the starting lineup. Minnesota is also a good fit. Mike Wallace has been a bust for the Vikings and Cooper could come in be the third or fourth receiver until he got comfortable and learned the offense. Teddy Bridgewater is a promising young QB who needs guys who can catch the ball and make plays Cooper could be just what Minnesota needs to get over the hump.
We won’t really know until April where Cooper lands but it’s a safe bet he will get drafted and plenty of opportunities in the preseason to make an NFL roster.