You can add fifth-round draft pick Riley Cooper to the list of signed rookies. The former Florida Gator agreed to a four-year contract earlier today.
During his collegiate career, Cooper made 28 starts in 51 games for the Gators. He ended his tenure with 81 receptions for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns. In his senior season, he was Tim Tebow’s go-to-guy with nine touchdowns on 961 yards receiving. Before his senior season, Cooper mainly flew under the radar and was mostly acknowledged for his “big play mentality”, catching nine touchdowns on only 30 receptions. That all changed during his senior season, especially with his performance against Cincinnati during the Sugar Bowl (7 catches for 151 yards and a touchdown) .
Cooper’s biggest advantage is his size. At 6-foot-3 and 222 pounds, he is able to out-muscle opposing cornerbacks. He is also recognized for his underrated speed off the ball and top-notch hands. His athletic ability has enabled him to rise to the next level and continue to improve throughout his collegiate career. He also played baseball at Florida, drafted by both the Phillies in the 15th round in 2006 and the Texas Rangers in the 25th round in 2009.
Here is what NFLDraftScout.com had to say about him before the 2010 draft:
Release: Good use of hands and lateral agility to gain a free release against man coverage. Isn’t an explosive runner out of his stance, and relies more on his physicality, route-running and size advantage to get open against man coverage. Normal acceleration downfield, but is faster than he looks and can eat up the cushion.
Hands: Generally reliable receiver who typically looks the ball in and secures it before moving upfield. Allows too many passes into his chest, especially on comebacks. Typically extends and plucks the ball out of the air. Improved his concentration as a senior in catching passes in traffic. Doesn’t back down from the physical challenge of jump-ball situations. Times his leaps well and has an obvious size advantage. Good body control to contort to the poorly thrown pass. Can snatch the ball out of the air and keep his feet in bounds to make the spectacular reception. Has improved his vision in tracking balls over his shoulder, but has inconsistent in this area over his career.
Route running: Deceptive straight-line speed to get over the top. Moderate burst out of his breaks to create separation. Good use of hands and body lean to create space.
After the catch: Deceptive speed to run away from defenders when he’s hit in stride, but lacks the instant acceleration or agility to be a consistent threat to gain much yardage after the catch.
Blocking: Good size, strength and physicality to help his teammates as a downfield blocker. Improved as a blocker in 2009, but isn’t as consistent as you’d like for a player of his size. Provides a good initial pop, but has to sustain better.
For a complete player profile on Riley Cooper, click here.
Personally, I think Cooper has what it takes to get some playing time as the No. 4 receiver. Until he develops and gets some playing time in the NFL, I can’t see him competing with Jason Avant for the No. 3 position. He has the same physical stature as Hank Baskett, who will most likely be his main competition at training camp. Based on what I’ve been reading about his work ethic, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him making moves early on the depth chart come July 26th.
Notes: The only two rookies yet to sign contracts are first and second round draft picks Brandon Graham and Nate Allen.