In this piece, we take a look at a rookie fantasy profile that should be considered a prime target well ahead of where the player is being selected, and the reasons why.
WR Pharoh Cooper, a 4th round selection for the Los Angeles Rams. The reasons Cooper should be considered among the second tier WR’s and the 8th-9th WR off the rookie boards:
- Opportunity – The Rams’ wide receiver crew finished the 2015 fantasy season ranked dead last among 32 teams in yards receiving, second to last in receptions and ahead of just 3 teams in touchdowns scored. When the Carolina Panthers collection of “wide receivers” sans Kelvin Benjamin outscores your group by 99 fantasy points, you have to think wide receiver is bound to be an area of focus in the rookie draft. In order to jump up and claim Jared Goff as the future at QB, the Rams were devoid of picks in both the 2nd and 3rd rounds, leaving 2 picks available for pass catchers in the 4th round. With the other selection going to recently arraigned TE Tyler Higbee, Cooper stands virtually alone as the Curly Horned Hope for improvement in the receiving game in 2016. Tavon Austin resurfaced nicely in 2015 as the franchise began to use his skillset as God intended and Kenny Britt showed signs of life with chance number 12 being offered by his lifelong professional coach Jeff Fischer. However, a Steve-Smith-less Raven’s pass-catch game still outscored the Rams WR collection by 8 fantasy points per game, and therefore something needed to change in the going-forward seasons.
- Skillset and build – Pharoh Cooper is the son of a military father, and that has played out in his football life with respect to preparedness, hard work and attention to detail. While Cooper may not have shown as well at the NFL combine as others in the middle draft rounds, he is the personification of football skills that can’t be taught. His game-value showed up time and time again to NFL scouts on film, resulting in a much higher draft grade than the more impressive combine likes of Trevor Davis, Cody Core and Kolby Listenbee. Cooper is compact as far as WR’s go at 5’11 and 203 lbs, and is more staccato quick with his routes than straight-line speedy along the lines of, let’s say, NFL bust Darius Heyward-Bey. Picture the size of a Jarvis Landry with the approximate skillset of Anquan Boldin. Cooper is your anti-prima donna at a position filled with them, and exactly what Fisher and the Rams’ brass were looking to put alongside Goff, Gurley, Austin and company.
- History – The trend of bigger, heavier, more physical type receivers that became so prevalent as a result of the other-worldly success achieved by Terrell Owens, Randy Moss and Calvin Johnson has started to turn….as all things cyclically do in the world of sports, including the NFL. Let’s not forget that the greatest wide receivers in the history of the game, not named Randy Moss, are often considered to be Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison, Tim Brown and Steve Largent. These four share an average height of 6’0 and an average playing weight of 192. The explosive play focus we have witnessed in the age of the evolving spread is now slowly but surely being replaced by more of a possession, move-the-chains type mindset (see chart below), with athletes that are still plenty capable of adding yards after catch. Witness the successes of Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr, Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks, Amari Cooper, Emmanuel Sanders and Jarvis Landry to name a few. Talents like Pharoh Cooper are being sought out more and more to move the sticks and find the seam within the ever-present zone defenses that were implemented to slow the dink and dunk, spread running game styles that have achieved so much success in the past few years. Cooper is a great complement to the styles of the uber-fast Tavon Austin and the size-speed phenom Kenny Britt, allowing more offensive diversity to pair with Todd Gurley’s top-of-the-line running game.
In short, you have to feel pretty good if you are contemplating the likes of Cooper in the late second to early third round of your fantasy rookie draft as a wide out with every opportunity to break out and contribute to your dynasty fantasy starting line-up in the next few years. Given the opportunity and fit, I would rate Cooper above options like Leonte Carroo (MIA), Malcolm Mitchell (NE), Rashard Higgins (CLE) and Chris Moore (BAL) if you are stressing your decision.