Nov 8, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper (89) and quarterback Derek Carr (4) celebrate after combining on a touchdown pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Outstanding Rookie: Amari Cooper, WR
This award should come as no surprise. Amari Cooper was a player who was almost unanimously regarded as the top offensive prospect in the draft, a can’t-miss wideout who can run every route, has speed and ball skills to be a deep threat, and has toughness and running ability to do damage underneath. He was a lock for the Raiders to select with the fourth overall pick very early on, and he was taken exactly where he was expected to.
Some people, including one very stupid JBB staff writer who shall not be named, thought Cooper would be a bad pick for the Raiders. That particular staff writer, a Los Angeles resident more familiar with PAC-12 players like USC’s Leonard Williams, thought Williams would be a better choice at fourth overall because of his incredible ability as both a rush end and run stuffer. That staff writer also might have suggested that West Virginia’s Kevin White would be a better NFL wideout because of his enormous physical talents and size. That staff writer was dead wrong.
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Cooper has done nothing less than act like a seasoned veteran almost the entire year to this point. After a rough first outing against Cincinnati that saw him get beaten up by Adam “Pacman” Jones, Cooper has emerged as one of the most dangerous receivers – period – in the entire league. He put together back to back 100-yard performances against Baltimore and Cleveland, helping the Raiders pick up back to back wins.
Cooper remained relatively silent in close losses to Chicago and Denver before re-emerging against the Chargers with a five catch, 133 yard performance that included an epic catch and run touchdown. He became the first rookie to record three 100-yard receiving games in his team’s first six games since some guy named Mike Ditka did it back during the Kennedy administration.
The Raiders first three victories were all on the back of 100-yard performances by Cooper. In the Raiders fourth victory, against the Jets, all-World corner Darrelle Revis and the Jets’ scheme held Cooper mostly in check, as he had five grabs for only 47 yards.
But the focus on Cooper allowed Derek Carr to find Michael Crabtree seven times for 102 yards and a score and also hit Andre Holmes twice for scores. Cooper had a solid game against Pittsburgh as well, catching 7 passes for 88 yards and a score, but Cooper was not a cornerback, so he couldn’t stop Antonio Brown from single-handedly destroying the Raiders defense.
Cooper has amassed 45 receptions for 653 yards and four touchdowns on the year, putting him on pace for a 90-catch, 1,300-yard season, which would completely smash Raider records by a rookie. In fact, he has already eclipsed the Raiders records for receptions and yards by a rookie (records held by some guy named Tim Brown), and in fact has more receptions and yards now than the great Fred Biletnikoff had in his first two seasons combined.
Cooper has elements of all the great Raider receivers of yesteryear: the home-run deep threat ability of Cliff Branch, the uncanny athletic ability of Tim Brown, and the great routes and sure hands of Freddy B. No question he’s the Raiders rookie of the year already.
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