Oakland Raiders: Five Bold Predictions for the 2015-16 Season

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#5 – Amari Cooper will outperform all of the 2014-15 rookie wide receivers on his way to his first Pro Bowl

Jun 9, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders receiver Amari Cooper (89) at minicamp at the Raiders practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The talk of the NFL following the 2014-15 season was just how much success the rookie class of wide receivers were able to achieve. Normally it takes a rookie at a skill position at least one year to round into form and reach their potential. Five rookies finished within the top 40 in receiving yards, four finished within the top 25, two within the top 20, and one within the top 10. That type of proficiency hasn’t be seen by rookie receivers in years.

Eagles’ receiver Jordan Matthews, Bills’ receiver Sammy Watkins, Panthers’ receiver Kelvin Benjamin, Buccaneers’ receiver Mike Evans and Giants’ receiver Odell Beckham Jr. are the five rookies who completed those feats — listed in descending order. Matthews and Watkins were the only receivers to not hit 1,000 yards, but Matthews did catch eight touch down passes, good for third best amongst this group and Watkins was only 18 yards away despite diminished quarterback play.

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The rest of the group carved out roles with their teams becoming number one receivers and jumping on the scene. Benjamin, Evans, and Beckham Jr. all caught for at least 1,000 yards and no less than nine touchdowns. Beckham Jr. played the best out of the five with 1,305 yards and 12 TDs. Regardless however, this group as a whole can be considered the greatest rookie receiving class of all time.

This season may provide the same sort of production with six receivers being taken in the first round. It is hard to imagine back to back seasons of incredible play by the NFL’s rookie receivers, but the player who can lead the charge is fourth overall pick Cooper.

The Alabama product was drafted into the perfect situation as the Raiders already have their quarterback in play in Carr and no other receivers topping Cooper on the depth chart. Looking at that opportunity alone, if there is one person in this best spot to outperform among receiving rookies, it is Cooper.

Opportunity is only what you make out of it, but Cooper has the stats to back it up. He played 40 games across three seasons for the Crimson Tide, in that time he was able to compile 228 receptions for 3463 yards and 31 TDs. He managed to rack up 1,000 yard seasons in his freshman and junior season when he played 14 games, and only didn’t get to 1,000 when he only played 12 games his sophomore year.

After catching less than 60 passes his first two seasons, Cooper saw that number balloon to 124 receptions his junior year. With a 15.2 career yard per catch averaged, being able to reel in 124 passes is key. Carr threw 599 passes last year, good for seventh in the league. If Cooper develops into the go-to target most think he will be, it isn’t out of the question that the 2014 Fred Biletnikoff winner can reel in 100 plus passes.

Stats aside, Cooper has very impressive athletic intangibles that will pay big dividends at the NFL level. He stands 6’1″ which isn’t other-worldly, but is comparable to Texans’ star wide receiver Deandre Hopkins. Cooper also ran a  4.42 at the combine, which is comparable to former All-Pro receiver Randy Moss who ran a 4.25. Cooper has above average height with elite wheels, meaning he will be able to not only burn corners but also out body them. NFL.com also gave him a Marvin Harrison comparison.

Looking at the success that the 2014 rookie receivers had it is hard to imagine Cooper surpassing them. Cooper has the physical traits, statistical background, and most importantly, a world of opportunity to make it happen. If he were to surpass Beckham Jr’s 1,305 yards and 12 TDs then not only would he have completed this bold prediction, but he would be taking his inaugural trip to the Pro Bowl as one of the best receivers in the league — a feat most think is well within his grasp.

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