Draft Daily: Pharoh Cooper, A Weapon For Wentz?
Between now and the draft, we’ll zero in on one prospect a day with an Eagles slant. We’ve already covered more than a dozen players, including Carson Wentz, Kenneth Dixon, Kolby Listenbee and Braxton Miller. If you have a player you think should be covered, shoot us an email ([email protected]).
THE BACK STORY
Pharoh Cooper began at South Carolina hoping to play in the secondary. Steve Spurrier preferred him to be on offense, but the freshman insisted that he wanted to try defensive back first.
For the first week and a half of camp, Cooper didn’t get many practice reps. He was on the third string and all he did was catch punts every day. Then, Spurrier approached him again.
“You probably won’t get no playing time this year,” Spurrier told Cooper. The next day, Cooper switched positions.
Three years later, while the receiver has a better idea of what his role on the football field is, he’s still a versatile weapon who played four different positions on offense in college. Scouts say you shouldn’t pigeonhole him because he’s not just a slot receiver, he’s a playmaker.
Cooper, who grew up a Percy Harvin fan before jumping on the Randall Cobb bandwagon in recent years, is now considered to be in the mold of both of those players.
“Scouts can’t worry about how a player like Cooper is going to be used because that is the (offensive coordinator)’s job,” an NFC South scout told Lance Zierlein. “Our job is to find good football players. He’s a good football player.”
In each of the last two seasons, Cooper was an All-SEC selection as both a wide receiver and an all-purpose back. A big part of his game is yards after the catch, as he scored five career touchdowns of at least 70 yards. Cooper told the media at the NFL Combine that his experience at several positions helps him create plays.
Because of that big play ability, Cooper is expected to be picked during the second day of the draft. Both ESPN and CBS Sports project him to be selected in the second or third round, and with the Eagles keeping one of their third-round picks, they could look to help out their future face of the franchise, who will likely be Carson Wentz.
Cooper has an unimpressive spider chart, to say the least. His 40-yard-dash at the South Carolina Pro Day didn’t really help him either, as he ran an underwhelming 4.63.
However, I enjoyed this exchange Cooper had on NFL Network with Steve Mariucci, after Cooper called the 40 “overrated.”
How about bench press or hand size or wing span?
“It don’t matter.”
“Playing football. Making plays. Helping your team win. That’s what matters.”
Given Cooper’s sub-par measurables, his big play ability is somewhat surprising. But Zierlein wrote about how Cooper reaches “top speed almost instantly,” while ESPN said he “shows a quick transition up-field after the catch.”
Those assessments are very apparent on film, including on this 78-yard touchdown catch against Vanderbilt.
“Cooper is explosive,” Greg Cosell said on the Eagles website. “There was an explosiveness to his movement. I know you saw a lot of these plays where he caught quick slants and then looked like he was shot out of a cannon. He almost reminded me of a little more explosive Golden Tate.”
One of the best examples of Cooper’s playmaking ability is his 27-yard touchdown run against Central Florida. The designed double pass didn’t unfold how South Carolina hoped it would, so Cooper tucked the ball and ran it into the end zone.
Scouts also praise Cooper’s hands. Here’s an excerpt from his ESPN evaluation:
Does a very good job tracking ball over his shoulder. Frequently shows the ability to make tough catches in traffic. Makes some spectacular diving catches. Shows excellent body control along the sideline. Will suffer occasional focus drop but was reliable overall (career 2.8 drop percentage was sixth best of top-15 WRs in this class).
One good example of that is Cooper’s 18-yard touchdown catch against Coastal Carolina.
Cooper also made an impressive 25-yard catch against Miami in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl, which set up a touchdown.
Evaluators rave about Cooper’s competitiveness, in addition to his strength and ability to play through contact. ESPN described him as a “disciplined and tough player” who has “no fear over the middle” and often “attacks the ball and sacrifices his body.”
Cooper displayed that on this 13-yard catch against Missouri when he knocked the corner in press man coverage to the ground.
However, the biggest knock on his game revolves around his measurables. ESPN calls his height, weight and speed “below average,” which contributes to his “smaller-than-ideal catching radius.”
Zierlein has a similar take:
Has neither height nor length for desired catch radius. Was unable to reach big-play throws downfield. Contested catches became a chore. Battled focus and concentration drops at one point. Hip tightness creates rounded routes and limited wiggle after catch. The more wrinkles in the route, the less effective Cooper becomes. Relies on straight line quickness over speed or agility in open field. Limited route exposure while at South Carolina.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Howie Roseman mentioned on Monday how Doug Pederson constantly reminds him that he wants more receivers, so it wouldn’t be surprising for the Eagles to add one. But with the Eagles now having just two picks in the first 150 selections, they may want to address the offensive line in the third round (No. 79 overall).
If the Eagles do want a receiver, I think Cooper would be a reasonable pick, although I like Braxton Miller more. Both, however, have shown the ability to do something the Eagles will emphasize in Doug Pederson’s West Coast offense: turning short passes into long gains.