One of the hidden gems in the draft is WR Cooper Kupp. Kupp played at an FCS program at Eastern Washington, so we’re looking to see how well he handled the competition and playing tougher FBS schools. After a redshirt year in 2013, Kupp went on to break the NCAA record in receiving yards (6464) while setting FCS records in catches (428) and TD catches (73). He also won the Walter Peyton award as a Junior in 2015, which is the FCS version of the Heisman. Kupp has posted no fewer than 93 catches and 1400 yards in any season at EWU. Kupp posted 31 100+ yard games, he played in 52 games his college career.
Kupp isn’t just a great athlete, he’s also a very good technician. He runs his routes with excellent precision and timing to create separation. He’s equally a threat after the catch as he has enough speed to run past safeties in the open field, where one missed tackle turns into a score. I think against NFL CBs, the window of separation might be smaller and the players are must faster in pursuit. However, he’s got the fine points of playing WR already down and is an immediate plug and play WR.
Kupp got an invitation to the Senior Bowl and dominated there, getting potential first round buzz after the strong week. Here are some highlights from that week.
Out and up (Aaron Nagler twitter). This is actually good coverage by the CB on the double move, is able to get back in phase. However, good throw beats good coverage.
Cooper Kupp made some money this week pic.twitter.com/bjhmmvg8n2— Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler) January 28, 2017
Curl (Matt Caraccio twitter). Kupp drives his man up the field and forces the CB to turn his hips before being able to stop and turn with plenty of separation at the catch point. Textbook curl route.
In route vs. Jourdan Lewis in 1-on-1 drill (Noe Flores twitter). Sells the outside route with a head fake and jab step to create separation on the in-cut. Easily beats one of the top CB prospects in the draft.
Cooper Kupp beating top CB in the country pic.twitter.com/052rRWUi6C— Noé Flores (@NoeFlores3) January 26, 2017
Back shoulder throw vs. Desmond King (Scott Kennedy twitter). King does a good job of staying with Kupp, but once again beaten by the throw. Kupp high-points the ball and shows his athleticism.
Vs. Washington State 2016
Kupp dominated against Washington State, who had a pretty solid season in the Pac-12 conference season. Eastern Washington does a great job of getting him the ball, moving him all over the field and having him run every route in the tree. Kupp easily shredded apart Wazzu’s zone with shallow crosses and seams. On those plays, he showed great run after the catch ability, including taking a shallow cross all the way to the end zone. At the end of the day, Kupp compiled 12 catches on 16 targets for 206 yards and 3 TDs. One highlight was when he was matched up in the end zone and made a one-handed TD catch despite being interfered by the corner.
Patriots fit: Arguably the best WR fit in the draft for the Patriots because of his route running skills. I still can’t get over the fact the man wasn’t offered a scholarship at the FBS level. He’s the best route runner in the draft and has terrific run after the catch ability. Kupp can play anywhere and run every route, so you don’t have to pigeon-hole him into a X, Y, or Z category. That would give the Patriots 4 WRs (Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Hogan, Kupp) that can play inside and outside, allowing the team to be even more creative with their formations to create match-ups. The only issue for me is if he and Brady can get on the same page. Once that happens, the fun truly begins. I have Kupp as a fringe 1st round selection right now, but I could see the Patriots potentially pulling the trigger at 32 if they land another first round pick somewhere.
Pro Comp: Chris Hogan. There isn’t much difference in game or athletic ability between Kupp and Hogan, who had a solid first year with the Patriots. Kupp can line up anywhere in the formation and run any route in the tree. Like Hogan, Kupp has that sneaky-fast 5th gear that allows him to run away from defensive backs in the open field. His ability to win with his feet in route running will create separation from defensive backs in the NFL. He shows the ability to set up double moves and stem routes to get DBs off of him in man coverage. Combine that with the best QB to ever play football, and Kupp is a future superstar in the making. I just don’t think BB will spend a 1st on a WR because Brady can get a Day 3 WR to play like a star.