Before missing the Los Angeles Rams’ third preseason game due to a minor groin injury, rookie wide receiver Cooper Kupp was already well on his way to becoming one of QB Jared Goff’s favorite targets. Kupp, the 6’2″ receiver out of Eastern Washington University exploded out of the gates in his first preseason action, hauling in a Goff pass for 16 yards on the Rams’ second possession and then later recovering a Robert Woods fumble in the endzone for a touchdown. Cooper finished the week 1 preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys with two catches on three targets for 35 yards and the fumble recovery TD. Despite playing only two series together, you could see instant chemistry between Goff and Kupp.
Rams’ Head Coach Sean McVay seemed to be very impressed with Cupp’s performance, as he told Rotoworld’s Ray Summerlin. “I see a mature rookie,” McVay said of the 24-year-old. “[He’s] one of those receivers that sees the game through the quarterback’s eyes. He always has a plan at the line of scrimmage, understands coverages and route concepts, and I think that’s what enables him to be such a productive player and very advanced for a rookie.”
In the week two preseason matchup against the Oakland Raiders, Kupp was even more impressive. Playing extensively with Goff and the first-team offense, Cooper was targeted seven times, making six catches for 70 yards, including a 23 yard touchdown reception on the Rams’ opening possession. All this was accomplished even while new-comer Sammy Watkins was in the game. Watkins, a former #1 draft pick of the Buffalo Bills was acquired in an August 11th trade and figures to be the Rams’ primary receiver. Despite the presence of Watkins, Kupp led the Rams in targets and receptions. In fact, through the first two weeks of the NFL preseason, Cooper was the highest rated wide receiver in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus, averaging 3.18 Yards Per Route Run (YPRR).
This brings us to our fantasy projections for Kupp this season; First of all, by all accounts Kupp has picked up the Rams’ and Sean McVays’ offense extremely quick. Jared Goff, speaking to the Los Angeles media about his work with the new Rams’ receivers after a late August practice, had this to say; “It’s always different,” Goff said. “Some guys pick it up extremely fast. I think a good example would be Cooper Kupp. As a rookie, he picked things up really fast and it was really quick with him. … With other guys, it takes time, but for the most part it’s not ever a super-long deal. It takes a few weeks to a month. You start getting in the same rhythm and you start understanding how you fit together.” Even Sammy Watkins has commented on the level of understanding Cooper has in the offense. According to therams.com, when asked if anyone was helping him learn the ropes of the new scheme, Watkins singled out one guy; “Yeah, (WR) ‘Coop’ (Kupp) does a great job. If I don’t know anything, I definitely look to my right and he’ll signal something out to me. He’s definitely been helping me.”
In addition to his high-level football IQ (owed in part to his father and grandfather both playing in the NFL), at the 2017 NFL Draft Combine, Cooper ran a 4.62 second 40-yard dash, a 6.75 second 3-cone drill, good for 9th-best among wide receivers, and a 4.08-second 20 yard shuttle run (5th-best among wr’s). Kupp’s blend of speed and size (he’s 6’2″ and 204 lbs) helped him leave Eastern Washington University as the most prolific pass-catcher in Football Championship Subdivision history, setting all-time records in total receptions (428), receiving yards (6,464), and receiving touchdowns (73). While he will mostly be used out of the slot, Kupp’s speed and hands are good enough that he is able to line up outside as well.
With his incredible level of knowledge in the Rams’ offense, combined with the ability to read defenses and the athleticism to get open, big things are ahead for Kupp in year one. Once he returns to action, he should pick right back up where he left off with Goff. The addition of Watkins on the outside will only help to open up the middle of the field for Cooper, and expect Kupp to see a heavy workload with 7-9 targets and 4-5 receptions per game. 2017 prediction: 78 receptions for 881 yards and five touchdowns.