Tuscaloosa to Oakland: Raiders draft Alabama WR Amari Cooper
Amari Cooper became the second SEC player selected in the 2015 draft Thursday night when the Oakland Raiders grabbed him with the fourth overall pick.
Cooper, a 6-foot-1, 211-pound receiver out of Alabama, entered the draft early after breaking every major single-game, single-season and career record for the Crimson Tide in 2014.
Many figured the Raiders would select a receiver, either Cooper or West Virginia’s Kevin White. Oakland drafted quarterback Derek Carr out of Fresno State last year in the second round. But the Raiders did not have a receiver with more than 700 yards last year, one of only two teams in the NFL that didn’t reach that benchmark.
The Raiders did sign receiver Michael Crabtree to a one-year deal in April. Oakland also signed former Alabama running back Trent Richardson to a two-year deal in March. Cooper is Alabama’s highest draft pick since Cleveland picked Richardson at No. 3 overall in 2012.
After putting together a 1,000-yard season in 2012, helping Alabama to a BCS National Championship, Cooper fought through injuries in ’13 before a monster ’14 season. Teaming with new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and surprise starting quarterback Blake Sims, Cooper caught 124 passes for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns, all school records.
Cooper took down the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s best receiver and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting as well.
Wearing No. 9, Cooper finished his career in Tuscaloosa with 228 catches, 3,463 yards and 31 touchdowns in just three seasons, the best numbers in school history.
Cooper represents the second receiver drafted in the Top 10 under head coach Nick Saban and the 17th first-round pick of Saban’s Alabama tenure. The receiver’s college production topped Julio Jones, whom the Atlanta Falcons drafted sixth overall in 2011. The two should be different players in the NFL. Whereas Jones, 6-foot-3 with even better leaping ability and explosion, is a huge downfield threat and one of the best blocking receivers in decades, Cooper is more of a technician.
The rookie excel with route-running on short and intermediate routes and should use good athleticism to gain some yards after the catch as well. He enters the NFL more fundamentally sound and polished and should be a high-volume target, but should average fewer yards per catch.