The word “elite” is a dangerously tough line to toe for any professional athlete. While there are many players who you could make an argument belong in the category, not many actually do. For Oakland Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper, he’s tip-toeing that elite level, and slowly pushing his way over it and into the category where only the top-tier wide receivers belong.
It hasn’t always been easy, and just like every other NFL wide receiver, he’s had his down games. Fortunately, all that gets put to the side when you’re playing this type of a role in your team’s success.
In 2015, the Raiders’ first-round draft pick wound up catching 72 passes for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns. In terms of receptions and yardage, he’s on pace to completely smash that. If Cooper produces in the second half of the season the way he did in the first, then he’d be looking at 104 catches for 1,574 yards.
The only number that’s down is his touchdowns, where he currently sits with two, but he’s scored both in the past four games, showing that he’s likely figuring out how to beat opposing defenses there also.
While teams are looking to lockdown Cooper and, more specifically, keep him out of the end zone, he’s managed to consistently improve. After a run of mediocre games from Week’s 2-4, the Raiders’ star wideout has now totaled at least 129 receiving yards in three of the past four games, while catching 32 passes in that span as well. If there was ever a time that Cooper was having a coming out party, then it’s right now.
Even more importantly than Cooper’s specific numbers, is what they’ve meant to the success of the team. The Raiders haven’t made the playoffs since 2002, and have only hit the .500 mark twice over that stretch as well. This is an organization that so desperately wants a star, and wants to get back to the playoffs.
Fortunately, the Raiders have more than one star, including Cooper, and with a 6-2 record currently, they look well on their way to getting back to the postseason as well.
Cooper is only in his second season, and best of all, he’s only 22 years old. There’s literally nowhere for him to go but up from his incredible rookie season, and fans are seeing that in year two, as he’s been a matchup nightmare.
While certain lockdown cornerbacks have managed to slow him up, or defenses have adjusted to him early on, that’s slowly becoming a thing of the past.
At this point in Cooper’s career, Raiders fans should be more surprised to see him not hit the 100-yard mark in a game, than to hit the magic number. His growth is both impressive and exciting, and the duo of he and quarterback Derek Carr is one that could not only bring back a postseason berth to the Raiders but could wind up meaning much more than that.
While a Super Bowl in 2016-17 may be a lot to ask, it’s not going to be if the organization continues to make the right moves over the next season or two.